Programme watch: 1985/86

I’ve been inspired to do another instalment of my programme series, not because many of you actually read it, but to feed my own insatiable appetite for a match day magazine.

In the last four weeks I’ve taken delivery of ten boxes of programmes, thanks to Roger Bates, Terry Brown and Sally Hankin. I now need just 21 to complete every home from 1967 until the present day. One day my partner may move out and I may be found starved under a huge pile of duplicates, but it’ll be worth it. Unless she reads this, then may I tentatively suggest an extension?

One year I’m focusing on at the moment is 1985/86, the penultimate season we spent in the Third Tier. We were back, briefly, in 1998/99 and hopefully we can get there again, but when we dropped out in 1986 few could have imagined we’d only grace that level once more in 32 years.

Very few bold steps were being taken that season, big players such as Steve Thompson and Gordon Hobson left, whilst the new recruits struggled to have a big impact. However, it was the first season we introduced a programme with a full colour photo on the front. Swings and roundabouts, right?

As many of you know I consider myself something of a collector and connoisseur of Imps’ programmes and this season causes me concern as I still need two to complete it. There’s a reason for this, crowds were down and the print run tumbled to much lower than several seasons before. People bring out programme from 1976, 1981 or 1983 proudly because we were doing well, but there are far more copies about.

It’s a shame this programme represents such a bad time for City because it is actually quite groundbreaking. It’s full colour throughout and whilst the 1984/85 season had more colour, it was a large leap forward for the publication. The cover price jumped 10p as a consequence, having been 40p for a couple of seasons.

Inside there’s the usual fare. the use of full colour means that this season is really brought alive, the first to have that touch. if, like me, you missed these iconic eras, then it’s nice to have it recreated as vividly as possible. Sadly, almost everything prior to this season is in black and white, meaning instead of George Shipley and Glenn Cockerill jumping out of the page, it’s Gordon Mair and Bob Latchford.

The first page has the interview from the manager, starting with John Pickering and ending with George Kerr. From there we have the ‘Sincil Scene’ article, usually penned by a director. This season was dogged by the membership card scheme and closed areas of the ground after the Bradford Fire, so the reading is uncomfortable at times.

The use of colour doesn’t extend to the away team, not in their photo anyway. The programme still honours the tradition of printing the opposition team photo, something sadly missing from today’s match day programmes. the design looks very basic now with the blocks of colour, but back in the day it would have been eye-catching.

There’s plenty of the usual stats and previous meeting stuff filling the pages, just as we have in the programme today.

If you peruse a programme today you’ll find two or three glossy interviews, but the closest that came to having an eighties alternative was the ‘player profile’. It wasn’t a regular feature this season, sometimes a guest writer would pen a bit about a past player or even write a profile on a current one. I’ve spared Warren Ward the embarrassment of picking the picture of him and his profile. I’m sure he’ll thank me for it!

Oddly, with all the colours available, the adverts seem to favour green and yellow. Fossitt and Thorne and Manns Brewery both roll with the garish combination, those being two of a typical 16 adverts dotted throughout the programme, five of which are full page.

The articles featured in the second half of the programme vary from week to week. One had FA Cup giant killing acts featured, another had an article on the great escape of 1957/58 and a third, oddly, featured updates from St Andrews under 14 side. It seems that the programme was being cobbled together with a largely random element to much of the features. 

One article simply had the main news stories from the world of football from the previous two years, nothing related to Lincoln at all!

There was a list of fixtures, scorers, results and the like, again something that remains to this day, but it didn’t make great reading. Two managers, lots of players and no consistency led to our eventual relegation.


The back cover used more of that yellow ink, probably on some sort of offer, but it once again named a probable team. In 1967, when clubs had fewer players, the team almost picked itself, but by the time we reached the nineties it was easier to print a squad.

For the programme we printed here, Alan Judge played in goal and Warren Ward played at 11. The rest of the team was spot on. For the record, we drew that game 1-1.

Although rare, these programmes are not worth huge money. The only real value comes in having much older copies, so for these you can expect to pay anywhere from 99p upwards on eBay. Don’t be fooled though, you know the auction site isn’t your friend and you can have them listed for ages before you got a bite at that. With collecting I always stress to you the value is with the buyers needs, not the matches themselves.

Important maybe to note that Plymouth on February 5th was cancelled and played on April 16th. If you have the original programme, it should come with an insert. There was never going to be a situation where a cash-strapped club ditched 2,000 copies, so keep an eye out for that.

It’s also worth pointing out that the Scunthorpe game for the Freight Rover Trophy was a single sheet folded, selling for just 5pm on the evening and attracting 1250 fans. That might seem low, but the previous week’s home match with Bury only brought 2226 fans out.

Lets hope that if we do go up, our crowds remain a little stronger than that!

If you have either of the programmes I’m after for this season, or you’re a collector looking to see what duplicates I have for the season, please get in touch gazhutch78@gmail.com.

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