Programme Watch: 1948/49

I have now started to do my programme articles chronologically, starting with the first two post-war seasons

After winning the Third Division North, City were elevated to the Second Division, and that called for a new programme. Our first game of the season at the Bank was against Bury, which came on the back of a 2-2- opening day draw with West Ham United. “Few people thought our boys would come back from West Ham on Saturday with a point,” wrote Bill Anderson in that programme. “Their display at Upton Park has probably caused a complete revision of opinion in many quarters.” He went on to add; “A repetition of that form will keep us well in the running, and if there can be any judicious strengthening in these days of sky-high transfer fees, we can be sure of success.”

Bold words indeed, but by February 5th, that had changed. Leeds visited the Bank on that Saturday, with City rock bottom of the division and on our way to relegation. Still, it’s a nice programme to pick up on, nonetheless.

The previous year’s programme has been 12 pages and still steeped in post-war adverts suggesting a shortage of goods and a struggle to move out of the shadow of the conflict. For the promotion, we upped the programme by two pages to 14 and had a new design on the front too. It is the first post-war programme to feature the Imp on the front, but the cost remained the same at 2d.

The first double-paged spread laid bare the Imps’ current season, rock bottom with just 18 points at Christmas. We didn’t rally either; we finished bottom, adrift of Nottingham Forest, although we did draw the game with Leeds 0-0. On the opposite page were our fixtures, proudly showing a 2-1 win at Spurs on New Year’s Day, futile but nice nonetheless.

The adverts always intrigue me on older programmes, and I love Simons’s Refrigeration advert from Tealby Street, a premises I think has since been demolished.

Flicking through this programme, you can’t help but feel the extra pages were taken up by adverts, rather than content. The manager’s notes are next, and Bill Anderson has a bit to say about the game, sandwiched in between plenty of local business adverts. Maybe the country was finally shrugging off the war because non made reference to a shortage of goods or new ‘post-war’ stock.

The advert on the next page, for RM Wright Austin, was rather lavish and creative. It sat above a look at the visitors, Leeds United, who had only been formed for 29 years when this game took place. Opposite, there was the programme staple of a quiz, and adverts for J Crawford tailors (also of Regent Street in London and Deansgate in Manchester), as well as Gunson’s Taxis. I wonder if they were easier to get hold of than today’s cab firms?

It seems that the world of ‘sky-high’ transfer fees was driving the club to tap up as many local companies as they could because all around the expected teams there were adverts. Both sides lined up 2-3-5, pretty much standard back then, but if your eyes were averted from the teams you could find adverts for the Territorial Army, Pennells Garden Centre, Higgs Cigs, and British Railways running matchday trains to Louth, Horncastle and Woodhall Spa. Damn you, Beechings.

More adverts, including one for a high-class ladies hair salon and the brilliantly named Fullalove Bros joiners and builders. The quiz answers are there too, with Grimsby’s ground not being in Grimsby as popular back then as it is now! The fixtures for our ‘A’ team are also included, although a defeat at home to City School Old Boys, 7-1, suggests they were doing about as well as the first team.

I can almost hear an old guy in the crowd saying ‘I’m not buying this again, it’s full of bloody adverts’ as he flicked through the programme. The Midland League fixtures are spread across two pages here, with no fewer than 15 different adverts – more than the entire 1947/48 programme. Musgrave Tools are here, they’re still active in the city today, whilst John Scott is still proclaiming to be worth a try in peacetime, wartime or anytime. Why ditch a catchy slogan, right?

Wait, is that an actual feature? Something to read? It might be three paragraphs stuffed in at the end of the programme, but the last double-paged spread does indeed have a feature titled ‘Shots from Soccerdom’. I find the use of the word soccer amusing – if you call it that these days, you get accused of being American, but it was the common name for the game once. I love the warning here about anonymous correspondence too, claiming it wastes the club’s time, and yours. If only that were true in this anonymous world of social media we live in today.

There are a couple more adverts, obviously, one for Stokes Cafe, which still exists today.

Including the front and back cover, there are 62 adverts in this 14-page programme, up from 11 in 12 pages the season before. That’s a huge increase and perhaps points to the extra profitability of the club having earned promotion. Our first game of the 1947/48 season saw an attendance of 11116, which rose to 17,627 a year later. There was an increased thirst for the Imps, and maybe the increase in adverts showed that.

These programmes are not impossible to find, and depending on the seller you can expect to pay anywhere from £10 to £50. Much does depend on the opposition too; the likes of West Ham and Leeds tend to draw better prices than Bury or Sheffield Wednesday. I was lucky enough to grab a copy of the Leicester City programme for this season for £4.50 the other day, albeit with puncture holes where it had been stored in a folder.