Tuesday, 20 December 2011

John Bedford passes away after long illness

Sad news from yesterday, that 1960s and 70s South stalwart John Bedford passed away after a long illness. Australian football historian Roy Hay was kind enough to provide this overview of Bedford's career, along with the accompanying photos.

The only notable thing omitted from this obituary is his status as a South Melbourne Hellas Team of the Century squad member. 

John Bedford (7 August 1941–18 December 2011), by Roy Hay

Springheeled John Bedford leaps to control a high ball. Source: Les Shorrock collection. Deakin University Library.
John Bedford was part of the South Melbourne Hellas team which won the first State League championship under the auspices of the Victorian Soccer Federation in 1962.

John died this week at the age of 70 in Wodonga. He was born and brought up in Box Hill and Bill Stewart persuaded him to start playing soccer at the age of seven. After heavy defeats in the early years, the Box Hill juniors won their leagues from under-9 to under-11 and by the age of 15 John Bedford was making his debut for the Box Hill seniors. He won the club’s best and fairest award twice in four years. Unfortunately the glory days of Box Hill were behind them and in 1961 the team was relegated from the State League.

In the match against Hellas that year, however, the young Bedford played and scored, and coach Manny Poulakakis moved quickly to sign him. Box Hill did not want to let him go, but eventually the transfer went through. His first game for Hellas was against Sydney powerhouse Pan Hellenic and he scored twice in a 3–1 win. But as John tells it, the details of his move to Hellas had not been settled when he went along to watch an Ampol Cup night game between Hellas and Polonia. Someone grabbed him from behind and told him he was playing. So he took the field and scored. Not a bad start to a career at Hellas which lasted until 1974. He was ever present as Hellas won the State League title in 1962.

Some weeks into the 1964 season, Hellas signed some new players and John was told that he would be on the bench. ‘No, I won’t’, he replied and went off to play footy with his mates at Box Hill Pioneers, winning a premiership in the process. Next year new coach John Margaritis came back for Bedford and he resumed his soccer career. A tendon injury and a bout of hepatitis kept him out of a number of games in 1963, but he contributed to the 1964-66 seasons when Hellas completed three in a row.

His form with Hellas saw him selected for Victoria 28 times and he was on the fringes of Australian selection but unfortunately never received his full international cap, though he had a couple of games for the Australia B team. The only two games he remembers missing for Victoria were against AS Roma in 1966 and Manchester United in 1975.

John Bedford (right) of South Melbourne Hellas and Eddie Sacco of George Cross at Olympic Park in 1962. Photo: Uwe Kuessner.
In his 18-year career he played 553 games and took part in 6 championship victories. Hellas also won the State League in 1972 and 1974 when John had reached the veteran stage. In the 1960s he represented Australia in the Laidlaw World Cup for local ‘national’ teams. He had a very strong left foot and began as goalscoring winger, though often moving back to a midfield role as his experience grew.

A signwriter to trade he retired in 2007 but still kept his eye in, helping out with the firm when necessary. He was as enthusiastic about the game and his part in it as he was when he was playing. He played for some of the great coaches, including Manny Poulakakis, John Margaritis, Bill Curran and Les Scheinflug. ‘The teams in New South Wales thought they were the best. We went up to play against Prague in the Australian Cup one year and were told we would be hammered, but we beat them 5–1. The only team which beat us was Hakoah,’ he said. A Soccer Weekly writer said John Bedford was ‘a fast, brainy and determined player, who is never beaten till the final whistle’.

John Bedford is survived by his wife, Margaret, his two sons, Darren and Andrew and four sisters, Anita, Sue, Catherine and Julie. His funeral is in Wodonga on Thursday, 22 December.

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