Cliff’s program collection is a piece of history

Cliff Hague with some of his extensive collection of programs. Programs! Programs! Cliff Hague’s Football and Life from Wartime to Lockdown is published by Pitch Publishing as a 384-page hardcover and e-book with 15 action photos and 63 program photos. Available in all good bookstores and online booksellers.

‘Programs! Programs! Get your program here! ‘

For generations, those screams have prompted fans to speed up their steps towards the turnstiles, tunnel and terraces, anticipating the excitement of that first sight of the pitch and the crowd that gathered.

Unfortunately, in the age of the mobile phone, the program vendor seems likely to become an endangered species. The County of Derby, Blackburn Rovers, Reading and Bristol City, as well as Hibernian in Scotland, have stopped producing print programs. Others will follow.

Commercial viability seems likely to return programs to history, but programs belong to history.

They endure long after the stadium empties, still telling stories of games frozen in time. They record the development of football itself, as well as the lives of players and fans.

The programs leave footprints that we can follow to trace how lives and places have changed from generation to generation.

When I was a kid in the 1950s wolves were feared all over England.

On a Wednesday evening in November 1955, they hosted Dynamo Moscow in a glamorous atmosphere in the spotlight.

The program for the match is in my book. He captures the occasion and the times: the article in “Wanderer” on page 3 began with “The story is made tonight”.

Although the clubs installed floodlights, they were not allowed to use them for League matches. Instead, midweek friendlies were held, preferably against exotic opponents.

Part of Cliff Hague’s extensive collection of programs

Like millions of others, I watched wolves take on Russians live on TV. Black and white, of course, and only a 12-inch screen, while televisions were still new and live football was rarely shown.

Bill Slater opened the scoring after 15 minutes, with left winger pace Jimmy Mullen extending the lead in the second half, before Vladimir Ilyin pulling one out.

Tall, blond and a good passer, Slater had joined the Brentford Wolves, but only because he had landed a post as a professor of physical education at the University of Birmingham. He approached legendary manager Stan Cullis to see if he could get a game for one of Wolves’ sides, aside from his main job. He was a man who had played in an FA Cup final (for Blackpool in 1951), the last amateur to do so. In the summer he played cricket for Warwickshire Seconds. None of this could happen today.

In theory, the Moscow men were amateurs too. In reality, they were the club of the Soviet internal security service. Levrenti Beria, the notorious head of Stalin’s secret police, was their boss, until his own execution in 1953.

Signing for Dynamo could hardly have been more different than how Slater joined Wolves; it was an offer that could not be refused! The program told Black Country readers how, during a Dynamo-lit home game, “lights shine on two huge images of Lenin and Stalin.”

The Russians also played a different game on the pitch. Stan Cullis was quoted in the program as saying that every player is “a football technician”. They were described as “lively, spirited and mobile players” who had been trained to play in “almost any position”. Their emphasis was on “fluid movement, positional play and ball distribution”, and “the knack of mixing short and long passing play”. Such qualities were not common in England at this time.

The team compositions in the central pages are revealing.

For the Wolves, it was Bert Williams in the goal; then numbers two and three, Stuart and Shorthouse as full-backs behind the formidable trio of half-backs that would represent England in the 1958 World Cup final, Slater, skipper Billy Wright and Eddie Clamp. Then the front row, numbered seven through 11, read Hancocks, Broadbent, Murray, Wilshaw and Mullen.

In contrast, Dynamo had the great Lev Yashin in goal, then a fullback three, behind numbers five and six, Boykov and Sokolov, then again five forwards.

Wolves had played in Moscow before, so more than most British teams knew Mainlanders generally played and were numbered with a back three.

Britain has been slow to adapt. Journalist Ivan Sharpe wrote in the program, “chess-like football, which some have said would not be suitable for our crowds, has been developed overseas with a revealing effect.”

Albion were a formidable team in the mid-1950s as well. In 1953/54 they nearly scored a double in the league and the cup, a staggering feat at the time. It was the Wolves who thwarted them, crowned champions with 57 points in 42 games, with Albion second just four points behind. It was two points for a win at the time, and Albion had only collected three points in his last seven games.

The crash came immediately after the FA Cup semi-final, in which they beat giant slayers Port Vale 2-1 at Villa Park.

A 1974 reissue of Villa’s very first 1906 program

The schedule of the 3-2 Cup final victory over Preston North End in what was still called “Empire Stadium” described how their progress in the league and in the Cups had earned them the nickname “Team of the Century.” Another indication of the exception their achievements were seen as such.

While England captain Billy Wright was married to one of the Beverley Sisters – the closest thing to the Spice Girls in the mid-1950s – the Albion Cup winners achieved success without the international celebrities.

The pen portraits in the Wembley program capture it well.

Left-back Len Millard was captain. He had joined the club in 1937 from the Sunbeam Works team and made his debut in 1942. Right winger Frank Griffin was “quick, lightly built … a team player in the truest sense.” On the other hand, George Lee had “developed his looks during his military service”.

Team star center forward Ronnie Allen (whose autograph I still have) was “one of the smallest leaders in the game,” and had signed from Port Vale as a winger. At five feet eight inches (1.73 meters) and just 10 stones (63.5 kg), he was quite different from the typical number nine. “Quick thinking and quick turnaround” were what made him an England international and a player ahead of his time.

Allen has had an interesting managerial career, as I mention in my book. After taking Wolves out of the Second Division in 1967, he broke new ground and took over at Bilbao.

In 1972, he managed Sporting Lisbon in a European Cup Winners’ Cup match against Hibernian. At a time when British clubs were almost entirely made up of British-born whites, the match schedule shows that Sporting included Brazilians, Angolan players and black Portuguese players in their squad.

At the end of that season, Allen traded the sun of Portugal for the more bracing weather of Walsall and briefly led Albion, before moving overseas again.

One more match than any other marked the arrival of black players at the highest level in this country. I was there and I have the program, which in its own way marks a milestone in black history. On December 30, 1978, I took my seven year old son to Old Trafford for a visit to the Baggies.

Albion’s squad photo included three black players who would rise to fame at the final whistle.

The program notes highlighted “the exciting attacking skills of their colored forwards”, which inspired the visitors to a 5-3 victory. The fact that their skin color was referenced says a lot about the company and football at the time.

Although they were constantly booed when they had the ball, Brendon Batson, Cyrille Regis and Laurie Cunningham put on a show of skill and power.

Without taking anything away from the two goals of Tony ‘Bomber’ Brown, the dynamic Brian Robson or the others on Albion’s side, the lasting memory is the silky rhythm of Cunningham and the power of Regis, never more than when he smashed the final. goal.

Respect may have been grudgingly granted, but it could no longer be denied.

Cliff Hague’s book, Programs! Programs!

Programs! Programs! Cliff Hague’s Football and Life from Wartime to Lockdown is published by Pitch Publishing as a 384-page hardcover and e-book with 15 action photos and 63 program photos. Available in all good bookstores and online booksellers.

Villa produced their first program for their meeting with the Blackburn Rovers on September 1, 1906, a match they won 4-2. It cost a dime.

The cover advertisement for Rover cycles is a good illustration of the social distinctions of the time. “When you see a cyclist on a ‘ROVER’ you can be sure they’ve paid for their bike. We don’t ‘get’ a dime or two pence a day. “

The back cover carried an advertisement for the McGregor soccer shoe. You only need to look at the illustration to frighten everyone except the bravest. The 12 pairs of lace eyes extended from the tip to the halfway point of the shin. The mouthpiece itself amounted to a warning to any opponent unwilling to tolerate permanent lameness for the rest of their life.

The program provided insight into the finances of football during this time. With the current controversy over the Saudi takeover of Newcastle United, it is fascinating to read that Newcastle had been the most financially successful club of 1905, recording a profit of £ 4,399, equivalent to something over a half -million today.

In contrast, Chelsea’s loss of some £ 5,000 was “a little less than staggering”. They had spent a lot to try, without success, to obtain a promotion in the first division. Despite threats to their fortunes during the Russian Revolution of 1905, no oligarch came to the London club’s rescue.

The program also explained how Villa had built a gymnasium under the grandstand and provided its employees with a reading room and a “well-equipped” library, “containing everything that could reasonably be required for the well-being and edification of the players. “. Could the prospect of “edification” still appeal in a world of Instagram and Tik Tok? Maybe not.

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