BY PAUL McPARLAN – @pmaccap
Derek Hammond and Gary Silke have already achieved critical praise and impressive sale figures for their excellent “Got Not Got” and “The Lost World of” series of books on footballing nostalgia. Their regular articles are also featured in BackPass magazine. This book represents another worthy addition to their collection.
To some people, programme collecting as a hobby is on a par with train spotting. It is considered to be the preserve of males still living at home with their mothers and is a peculiarly British tradition. Nothing could be further from the truth- programme collecting has always been cool.
The book delves into the world of football programmes from the Football League days of the 60s , 70s, 80s and 90s and also includes a small selection from the Scottish Leagues. Encouragingly, there is no mention of the match day programmes of the Premier League era. Regardless of their current league positions, all the programmes of the clubs featured merit one or two pages of analysis, so that Portsmouth are covered in as much detail as Manchester United. All the teams are listed alphabetically, so there is no hierarchy involved.
The cover is certainly colourful and eye-catching. A kaleidoscope of visual images grab your attention and I dare anyone not to automatically check the programmes featured to see if any of them are in your collection. Lost treasures such as Bradford Park Avenue, The Villan meets Beaunanaza and the Watney Cup entice you to open inside.
The introductory pages feature a rant by Brian Clough in his first ever programme notes for Nottingham Forest in January 1975, in which he criticises Forest’s hooligan element and tells supporters: “If you want……………big signings and glamour football in the near future…. forget it!”. Can you imagine any Premier League manager apart from Sam Allardyce saying that today?
The authors try to include a cover of a programme for each team from at least three different decades, in which they highlight the good, the bad and the ugly. The attention to detail is painstaking but their opinions are difficult to contest, although they do admit to bias regarding their personal favourites. These include any programme cover which features a circle motif e.g Arsenal, a highly visual club mascot (Bristol City), a photo film strip (Barnsley), a shirt design (Celtic), “the” in the title e.g. (The Canaries of Norwich City) or a reference to local culture as in Swindon Town calling their programme “The Moonraker” in honour of local smugglers.
There are certain programme titles they really like such as “The Ceramic City Clipper” from Stoke City and “GO GO County” from Stockport County, although they are not too impressed with the “Score With The Cherries” offering from Bournemouth, with its implied 1970s sexual innuendo.
Many different programme themes are analysed in detail as well. Who can forget such competitions such as the “Face in the Crowd” where you desperately tried to recognise yourself in the hope of securing the prize of a free ticket for the next home game? Maybe this is where Google Earth got their idea from? Who can forget the joy of the half time scoreboard and try explaining how this worked to any bemused teenager.
The Football League review which was a staple of programmes form the 60’s and 70’s is given due credit here, especially for giving clubs such as Workington and Barrow as much prominence as teams such as Arsenal. Although I am not too sure of the accuracy of the statement that the Football League “was run from the back of Alan Hardaker’s bungalow”. Still, this illustrates the type of tongue-in–cheek comments that often surface in the book.
I am sure that many a modern art student would enjoy the importance of clip art, font, graphics, icons and typeface in creating a programme cover. The Leeds programme of the seventies was indebted to the pop-art collage of Peter Blake and the Edwardiana meets the 70s design of the West Brom programme stands out. However, Millwall’s Lion playing netball did leave something to be desired as did the Chesterfield programme with its ”grim church spire”
There some opportunities missed here – teams who lost their league status in the 70s such as Barrow, Southport and Workington could have been covered and perhaps some consideration of how the cost of match programmes increased over the years and whether this effected sales. Was there a golden decade of programme sales and which clubs consistently sold the most?
So, if you were not at all interested in football programmes, why would you want to buy this book? As a social history of how Britain has changed through the decades, this is fascinating. The cover of the Manchester United programme shows how acceptable fan attire changed from the suit and tie of the 60s to the Farah slacks and Armani jumpers of the 80’s. The blatant sexism of the Coventry City programme’s full page colour photographs of the “Sky Blue Girl of the Match” give the early indications of how the media uses sex to sell their products. As the authors note ,”Dad might be more likely to shell out his 40p if there was a bubble perm and tight shorts on the cover”. Finally , the “at home with ..” articles with photographs of players and their perfect nuclear families, do remind you that there was a time when players stayed with their wives, who were invariably local girls.
This is the type of book ,that you will come back to time and time again, discovering different gems from a bygone era. My advice is, take this book, lock yourself in a quiet room and let yourself be transported to the past by reading through that long forgotten programme collection.