Programme Watch: 1996/97

It’s the latest instalment of our look at programmes of yesteryear and this time we’re coming forward in time to the 1996/97 season. John Beck, Gareth Ainsworth and Manchester City.

For me, these were very special days. 1996 was my ‘summer of love’ so to speak, Euro 96, 18th birthday and carefree nights supping beer from cans down the local park, scraping a few quid together to occasionally drop into the Adam in Wragby. Britpop, California new wave punk and leaving school.

I’m getting a little teary eyed hear, but as a result of the times I needed to buy 95% of this season retrospectively because although football was an essential, a programme was not With a £1.50 cover price, you could nearly get a pint (£1.65 in the Adam).

These programmes don’t pop up all that much, crowds weren’t too bad but we tend to see these less often than some from the early 1980s. it doesn’t add a huge amount to the value but there are one or two that might fetch you enough for a pint these days.

By the 1990s we’d got lots of colour and style to the publication, but this one deviated from others of the era by having pretty much the same cover every week. The preceding seasons had a match photo on the front, but there was clearly expense being spared here with simple reproduction of the home and away kit, both classics by the way.

We’d got up to 32 pages and the usual stuff was in there. You’d got the managers notes within the first page or two, a programme staple of course. John Beck never was one for too much insight, although he does open the Hereford programme in February with some words from the Poet W M Thackery.

There’s a deviation from having the teams on the cover too, with the squad listed inside six and seven, with the discerning fan doubtless encouraged to tick off the players who played. It perhaps reflects the deepening squad depth of the mid nineties, not just at City but across football. Ten years before we’d struggle on squads of 15 or so, which is precisely how many players are listed for us against Wigan.

In terms of being useful for the likes of me, the wannabe historian, 1996/97 was a great year in terms of content. There’s a look around the third division, there’s match reports from previous games and a nice full-colour breakdown of the opposition in a style identifiable as ’90s’ without doubt.

There’s plenty of adverts too, 34 different companies are included and eight of the pages are consisted entirely of adverts, as well as others dotted about. Whilst the companies offer insight in older issues, most of those in the mid nineties are still going today, with my good friend Running Imp International, now just Running Imp, featuring inside the front cover.

There’s also much more commercial stuff from the club, the page full of players faces and sponsors, as well as other promotional stuff. This is a true ‘modern’ programme and when compared to the mid 80s the difference is striking. Comparing today’s with the mid nineties in terms of content reveals only development but nothing strikingly different.

Seeing the full colour pictures is also very good, it was (oddly) a relatively new thing in the mid nineties, with colour photography only becoming affordable by the look of things when oasis topped the charts! It’s been useful for me doing the quizzes, but also it’s fun for older fans trying to spot themselves in the crowd.

As yet, I have only seen myself once in a lumberjack shirt and ginger curtains. Class.

So that’s the programme itself, uninspiring from the front but packed full of plenty for the fan that likes to take a trip down memory lane. Personal highlights for me in the season have included match reports from the Coca Cola Cup and some cracking player interviews too, Carl Cort being one of which.

In terms of value, we’re back in the same territory as before. The well-used auction site is not your friend in terms of valuing a whole collection, but do expect to pay £1.50 upwards for copies on there. Collectors will pay around 30p a copy for a full collection, if you’re lucky.

There are a couple from this season that will draw a collectors attention, in some circumstances. Firstly, Alan Shearers debut is a good one to have and tends to fetch a little more, maybe £3-£5. If you managed to get a signature from the £15m man and world record signing, you might even get a tenner. In my collection, oddly, I have the Newcastle programme signed by Paul Palmer, Olympic swimmer.

Usually, the EFL Trophy or it’s incarnation can be rare and worth a bit, but we were beaten in our only game away at Blackpool, so no go there. Also, to buck the trend, well attended games tend to be easy to come across. Instead, this season finds the second best attended game as a rare programme to find. We beat Manchester City 4-1 in the Coca Cola Cup in front of 7,599 and yet the programme is harder to find than many of the league games with less than 3,500 supporters. (I’m told since publication this programme has fetched £25 before, some even say maybe £40)

The Southampton replay, with 10,000 fans, is not that hard to come by. I have one with ‘David Coulthard’ written on the front in felt tip pen in a five-year old’s handwriting which I think, possibly, is a fake.

If you have a season you’d like me to cover, let me know.

If you need a programme, Steven Harding is a wel-known Imps collector and dealer with an extensive catalogue. get in touch for his details and he’ll be looking after readers of the Stacey West with good prices.

Plus, I have a big carrier bag full of duplicates and a wants list that runs to 135 over fifty years. If you’re up for a swap, get in touch too.