Programme Watch: 1949/50 & 1950/51

Today, you can thank Roger Brown for the late article. 

I met Roger this afternoon at Gibraltar Point, where he generously gave me a selection of older programmes for my collection. It was great, chatting football with someone I’d not met before, and I felt energised to come home and go through the programmes he’d given me. A couple of them came from the next season on my programme watch series, and as it’s been six weeks since the last one, I thought I’d drop an article.

This was another programme that featured for two seasons, namely 1949.50 and 1950/51. These were decent seasons for the Imps; We’d been relegated in May 1949 out of the Second Division but were a strong force in the Third. Jock Dodds had signed for us the previous season, and he bagged on the opening day of 49/50, helping us beat Oldham 1-0 at the Bank. A few weeks later, Accrington were the visitors, which is our featured programme.

Incidentally, the programme cost two pence, which would be around 26p today. Mind you, Liam Scully would have been chuffed with the circulation; they’re all numbered and the highest number I have from this period is 4325. That was around a third of the attendance at the time, or 35% uptake, give or take.

The cover design features the Imp, the second edition to do so after the war, but it is the first from the period to feature the cathedral and an image of the ground. I have seen covers from earlier years and it may be the first to have a ground image. although I couldn’t be sure. It’s printed in three colours, red, white and black, but as you’ll see at the end of the piece, that wasn’t always the case.

Whilst we have a different cover, much of the content is very similar from the season before. In fact, the opening double-page spread is identical to the 1948/49 season, in which we were relegated.

The next page is the same as well, although Youngs Garage clearly didn’t fancy being associated with a relegated club; they binned off their advert, leaving an empty space. I’ve checked in my latest copy from this season, and it was still blank. Sack the commercial team!

The manager’s notes are very brief, but in the absence of social media, it would be one of the few avenues of communication open to the club. Sadly, Bill writes that injuries have been a great handicap going into the Accrington match. Some things never change, although we did win it 1-0 thanks to another Jock Dodds goal.

Once again, the template is the same as the year before, but we’ve lost another advertiser – this time Gunson’s Taxi’s have opted not to fill in the black. Usually, there was a bit about the opposition n the space on the left, but we chose to advertise the reserves’ clash with Hull instead. This wasn’t unusual; the reserve matches often attracted huge crowds and even had a programme printed for them. Throughout the season, we seemingly didn’t bother with information about the opposition, perhaps a labour cutback?

There’s a quiz too, a staple of the programme for many years, and the answers are on ‘another page’. Luckily, with only 14 pages, you won’t struggle to find them.

It must have been a tough time for vehicles post-war, as Newark Road Garage dropped their advert too. The middle pages usually gave you an indication of who was playing, like today’s teamsheet. Were they accurate? In this instance, yes, even down to the return of keeper Arthur Jepson, who missed the opening four games of the season. Given the previous game was on the Tuesday before, that’s not bad at all.

If you’ve been panicking as to the whereabouts of the quiz answers, panic no more; they’re right here after the teams. Lawton’s Garage must be doing alright; they kept their advert from the year before, but Fullalove Bros Joiner and Builders didn’t – they must not have been full of love for the Imps after the relegation! (Sorry).

There was a bit of a change to the year before with the ‘Shots From Soccerdom’ feature, which gave you four little facts about football clubs, Sunderland had never been relegated out of the First Division at this point, painful reading now I guess.

A couple more advertisers had gone, but this page remained the same as well. The Midland League was a big thing back then, and offered games we weren’t used to with the first team, such as Scunthorpe. In a way, it was a bit like having B teams in the pyramid, wasn’t it? We stuck our reserves in the Midland League, but had played there ourselves as recently as 1920/21, which sounds a lot, but would be a bit like us having our reserve team in the National League now, having played there ourselves in 1987/88. However, there was no promotion and relegation from the non-league scene remember, only elections.

Broadgate Fish Restuarant would have lost my business in 1949, as they had pulled their advert from the programme, as had F Ward Hairdressers. Pah, plastics. Mind you, by the end of the season, the Fish plaice (!) was back, so they must have had a rethink. Big shout out to RH Kelsey Hairdressers and Fred Hunt Removals, who filled spaces by the end of the season. Fullalove and Gunson’s Taxis were back too; was it because we were back to winning ways, finishing 4th?

Anonymous correspondence was again on the agenda, as was a plea for the correct change when entering the ground. Queues and some people hiding behind Twitter handles to criticise the club; a problem in 2021, and something not uncommon in 1949, albeit without Twitter. Obviously.

Another page, another lost advertiser; C Smart Landscape Gardeners. Other than that, no change. There’s a list of the matches, and a code so they could display the halftime scores using boards for you to keep an eye on. Other than the cover, it’s basically last season’s programme. Now, for the curious bits.

Firstly, two from that season seem to have different covers. On Christmas Day we played Rochdale and Roger kindly gave me this programme; it’s got a much plainer cover. There’s also one from our encounter with Halifax in October pictured below, with a green cover. I’d love to tell you why, but I can’t. Maybe a shortage of red ink?

The following season was almost identical in every way; we even had a similar league finish, 5th, albeit with more points. In fact, we got 58, which would have won Division Three (North) in 1950. Tough times.

The pictures below come from a Midland League game, to show how the programme remained the same for both senior and reserve teams. The reserves played at home when the first team were away, so on this occasion we played Posh, but lost away at Carlisle the same day. Note the number on the front; one would image we had several thousand watching the game, and maybe sold more programmes for a second-string match than we do now at home.