THE Padbury United dream is over.
The club, which had ambitions to play in prestigious competitions like the FA Vase and FA Cup, has been forced to drop out of the South Midlands Football League, with its best players and managers heading off to rivals Ampthill United.
Things were looking rosy just two months ago when they won promotion into the South Midlands Division One after winning Division Two at a canter.
But the club was thrown into turmoil at the start of this month when Buckingham Town were forced out of their Ford Meadow home by landowners, The Sherm Group.
Padbury United, which was formed in 1964, had been sharing the ground and the move left both sides homeless.
The club were immediately unable to play in their new league without the high quality facilities Buckingham had offered.
And when the league this week published a list of its member teams for the upcoming season, Padbury’s name was conspicuous by its absence.
Padbury had been given four weeks to find a new groundshare and had approached Ampthill with the aim of sharing their pitch, but when that hope was dashed the club withdrew from the league.
Shortly after that manager Craig Bicknell and a number of his players took the decision to join Ampthill.
Padbury chairman Phil Smith said: “Four weeks wasn’t enough time to find a new groundshare.
“I spent a great deal of time talking to local clubs, but they found it difficult to accommodate us. Many have second teams who use their grounds for matchplay in addition to their first teams.
“We looked at several alternatives including returning to the existing Padbury ground, but felt we had achieved so much to gain promotion last season, it wasn’t a realistic proposition to return to Padbury.
“The manager and players didn’t want to play in division two again.”
Chairman of Ampthill FC, Bernie Suttard confirmed the situation.
He said: “To start with there was contact to see if they could groundshare, which wasn’t feasible.
“I met with Phil Smith, who wanted to get involved here and bring his team. We weren’t really comfortable with that. He was offering to put some money our way, but it is not the way we do business.
“We were already talking to Craig (Bicknell) and with the agreement of Phil Smith we will be bringing him here as joint manager along with six to eight of his players.
“We didn’t want the whole team as we have a lot of history and didn’t want to lose that by taking on Padbury. There is no merger and no money from Mr Smith, but he will be welcome here whenever he wants.”
The developments are bound to be a massive disappointment to Milton Keynes businessman and Padbury resident Mr Smith, who would have celebrated 25 years as Padbury chairman during the 2011/12 season.
At the end of last year he told our sports reporter Mark Pendred that he hoped to see United become the number two side in the Milton Keynes area – behind only League One outfit MK Dons.
During that interview in December he said: “The groundsharing with Buckingham has given us a passport to move up and up.”
Those words have come back to bite him now and he has now admitted he will be retiring from football.
“We have to put a positive slant on what’s happened,” he said.
“It’s sad we have lost the Padbury United name but we have managed to retain the team in the interests of football. These last few weeks have been quite fraught. I have put a lot of time, effort and money into this club, but feel it’s time to step back from things.
“I have decided to retire from football temporarily and will not join the new set-up at Ampthill, although I will continue to support the team and follow their fortunes.
“Buckingham Town thought their lease was renewable, but I’ve spoken to the landlord and he has made it quite clear it was a one-year deal and the club had to find somewhere else within that time.”
> There will be a team playing football in Padbury next season.
A new side called Real Padbury United has been formed to play in North Bucks Division Two on Padbury playing fields.
One of the founders Mark Ayers said: “We had planned to do it anyway. Most of the players at Padbury United were from Milton Keynes. We wanted to return a team to the village of Padbury.
“It is very important to have local players. The reason we started was Padbury United were no longer a Padbury team. They were a team from MK playing at Buckingham and the village pitch wasn’t getting used.”
Training sessions at the new club start on July 13 at the playing fields and anyone interested in playing should contact Mr Ayers on 07900 692435.