Best helps Blues’ history click into place
Dunstable Town Football Club’s home is heaped in history linking the club with the current English champions, our much-loved national stadium and one of the greatest footballers that ever lived.
Before its modernisation in 2010, Creasey Park was a Frankenstein’s Monster of English football, with puzzle pieces of iconic top-flight stadia sewn together in Dunstable.
When Manchester City moved from Maine Road – their Moss Side home of 80 years – in 2003, they presented the Dunstable club, known as the Blues, with a turnstile.
Club secretary Paul Harris told the Gazette: “It never worked well and I used to joke with spectators that it came from Man City and ‘has not seen much use’.”
Insignia on the turnstile identifies its manufacturers as WT Ellison & Co of Salford, who made gates for the majority of British stadia from the mid-1890s.
Three of the 13 Ellison turnstiles that Manchester City relinquished in 2003 were built in 189. But because developers destroyed Dunstable’s when renovating the ground, we’ll never know if the one at Creasey Park was one of them.
When the iconic old Wembley Stadium closed in 2000, many of its seats were donated to non-league teams’ stadiums, including Creasey Park.
Those seats had bums on the edge of them when Eric Cantona scored a late winner against Liverpool in 1996, when Paul Gascoigne broke Scottish hearts that same summer and when Nelson Mandela addressed the world at a concert in his honour in 1990.
Also, Dunstable Town’s current large kit box originally came from Arsenal’s former home Highbury!
Creasey Park’s previous turnstile was built in 1974, in part by manager Barry Fry, who rolled up his sleeves to help with preparations ahead of George Best’s debut and the inevitable record crowd it would attract.
It’s well known in these parts that Manchester United legend Best turned out for Dunstable Town that year, and that he later helped the club during times of financial turmoil by donating a set of nets.
Good friends with Best from his Manchester United days, Dunstable Town player-manager Fry made the Northern Irishman the spearhead of his promotion project when he was handed a blank cheque by chairman Keith Cheeseman.
He said in his autobiograhy Big Fry: “He was a genius. I loved him. When I was appointed player-manager, George was one of the first people I contacted. I went up to his club, Slack Alice’s, in Manchester and told him my glad tidings.
“He had no idea where Dunstable was and seemed no wiser when I told him it was near Luton.”
In true rock star fashion – he was known as ‘the fifth Beatle’ – a tardy Best caused kick-off to be delayed on his debut for Dunstable – an exhibition match at Creasey Park against Manchester United.
According to Fry, a huge crowd of 10,000 spectators saw lowly Dunstable Town FC vanquish the mighty Manchester United 3-2.
Fry said: “The streets of the town were like millenium parties. It was like a fairytale.”
Almost 40 years on, the humble football ground is now part of an ultra-modern sports complex that boasts an all-weather pitch and a national-standard BMX track.
No longer featuring seats from Wembley, turnstiles from Manchester City or Ballon D’Or-winning European Champion footballers, Dunstable Town’s Creasey Park is poised to create a new wave of history in years to come.
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