Blackburn Rovers

Blackburn Rovers

In this series of articles, Steve McGhee takes a look at some of the programmes issued covering matches between Derby and those who, back in 1888, along with the Rams, were founder members of the Football League.

1933/34 Blackburn Rovers v Derby County

January 6th 1934, saw Derby, on a run of only one league defeat in 12 games, make the potentially tricky visit to Ewood Park to take on a Blackburn side that had, 5 days earlier, ended a run of six games without a win by beating Tottenham 1-0. The Rams lay second in the table, just two points behind leaders Arsenal, but were without two key players due to injury – centre-half Jack Barker and inside-left Peter Ramage. This meant a rare start for reserve team regulars Archie Scott and Sid Wileman. For the match, Rovers issued a rather quirky 20 page programme costing 2d. The ornate nature of the front cover seems to belong more to the previous decade and on page 3, where the editorial begins, resides an even more ornate piece of artwork depicting the club’s (very impressive) list of honours up to that point.

There is no lack of reading within, full coverage of the previous game with Spurs (attendance 23,000, gross receipts £1,168) followed by details of how the reader can subscribe to the Rovers programme for the remainder of the season (at a cost of 2/6d!!). There follows a very lengthy and insightful discourse on Derby including a reproduction of “Liverpool Bee’s” match report on the Rams’ 3-0 win at Everton on New Year’s Day. “Sparklets” covers the more offbeat events involving Rovers leading the reader to the centre pages. Rather than the team line-ups, however, we find a full page line drawing of Rovers’ goalkeeper Clifford Binns. Said line-ups are, unusually, on page 15 and include Ted Harper at centre-forward for the home team. Odd that as, earlier in the programme, it is stated he will miss this match as he’s down with the ‘flu! The usual statistics, tables and H/T scoreboard are all to be found in the programme – just not in the obvious places. I really like this issue, if only for the quality of writing and its cobbled-together look. Advertising isn’t too prevalent but the one that did catch my eye was the full page ad for what was on at the Theatre Royal, Blackburn that week. “Peg O’ My Heart” starred Marion Davies – the wife of William Randolph Hearst who Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane movie was (probably) based upon.

As for the match itself, it was Blackburn who ran out 2-1 winners, Sammy Crooks scoring for Derby in front of a crowd of 16,965.

1934/35 Derby County v Blackburn Rovers

To put this particular match into perspective, the last home match of the season, we first need to change our mindset. It’s the end of what is, ultimately, a disappointing season for the Rams. The anticipated title challenge hadn’t ever seriously materialised (due, in part, to Jack Bowers’ season-ending injury in September) and the club had been eliminated from the FA Cup in Round Five. Blackburn were in town. The same Blackburn whose 6-2 demolition of Everton a week earlier had guaranteed them First Division football for another season. A typical end-of-season fixture for the time – with one notable exception. That same day, at Wembley, the centrepiece of the season, the FA Cup Final, was taking place. Derby-based fans had the choice of one final visit to the Baseball Ground for the season or stay at home and listen to the Cup Final on the radio. But more of the ramifications of that later.

For the match, Derby issued their standard 16 page programme costing 2d. The line-ups on the front cover showed Webb and Reid given an outing at full-back (Udall and Collin rested). The Rovers lineup was much changed from that of January 1934, just three players remaining from 15 months earlier (Binns, Gorman and Bruton). The editorial sums the season up as “one which, again, has left us with thoughts of what might have been” before going on to emphasise the importance of Bowers’ absence (despite Hughie Gallacher’s best efforts to minimise that).

“Here and There” and “Matters of the Moment” look around the leagues but, again, the emphasis on this, as opposed to “club news”, is quite frustrating for Rams historians, especially when compared to the programmes of their contemporaries. “Now the days are dark and dreary, electricity will make you cheery!” states an ad from the Derby Corporation Electricity Dept on page 6.

I suspect they had written this one in November and booked it for the season. After all, it was now April! One advert did intrigue me – “fruit or ham teas for one shilling” as offered by the Shaftesbury Dining Rooms in Osmaston Road. Times have, indeed, changed but I can’t imagine what a “fruit tea” was as opposed to the alternative which was, presumably, ham sandwiches and cake.

Anyway, it would appear that many Derbeians decided to stay home and listen to Sheffield Wednesday beat West Brom in the Cup Final as the lowest Baseball Ground crowd of the season – 8,336 – were in attendance to witness Arthur Groves net a late equaliser to earn the Rams a 1-1 draw.

1946/47 Blackburn Rovers v Derby County

The final season before the war had seen Rovers gain promotion back to the First Division and, after a 7 year wait, they had found it tough going. When Derby arrived at Ewood Park in February, the two clubs were in very contrasting form. 7 wins in 10 had seen Derby rise from 19th to 13th in the table whereas Rovers’ run of 7 without a win had seen them drop from 12th to 18th, just two points outside the relegation zone.

The 8 page programme issued by Blackburn cost 2d but only featured the date on the front cover, not the opposition though, as was the case in 1934, outfitter John Forbes maintains his prominent advertising position. Page 2 has copious notes on club affairs, highlighting their recent signings as well as describing the treacherous conditions underfoot during their recent FA Cup tie against Charlton. The winter of 46/47 was the worst for some time and wouldn’t be matched in severity for another 16 years. Other than the lineups on page 5 there is no mention of Derby and not a lot else to read apart from the usual H/T scoreboard and adverts for cough syrup and razor blades. At the Grand Theatre that week was the twice nightly Ralph Reader presenting “Girls Out Of Uniform – an all-girl show” which was probably a lot more innocent than the title implied but may have had the menfolk of Blackburn queuing outside for entry!

A very basic programme though quite hard to find nowadays. The match finished in a 1-1 draw, Frank Broome on target for the Rams in front of a very healthy attendance of 31,509.

1947/48 Derby County v Blackburn Rovers

Blackburn had escaped relegation the previous season but, just as in the previously described match, both clubs were in contrasting runs of form going into this Christmas fixture. Derby had won 4-3 at Ewood Park on Christmas Day to rise to 4th in the table whilst the defeat for Rovers was their seventh match without a win and left them in 20th place, just outside the relegation zone on goal average.

Derby named an unchanged side with Jack Stamps playing his first home game since August following his return from injury and Jack Parr continuing to deputise for Jack Howe at left back. This particular programme however, at 2d for the standard 8 pages, is unusual in that it includes neither editorial nor fixture lists. Instead, this is replaced by two pages covering ticket allocation arrangements for the upcoming FA Cup tie with Chesterfield. Though the diagram of the Baseball Ground is interesting to peruse nowadays, for those attending the Blackburn match, the feeling that they’d wasted their 2d is hard to refute! Demand for these tickets (priced from 9d to 6/-) must have been high as the club stated “in the exceptional circumstances, it will be impossible to entertain postal applications”. They were only available at the ground with the office hours extended until 9pm on December 29th and 30th.

Derby continued their good form here, hammering Rovers 5-0 in front of a crowd of 25,366. On target for the Rams were Raich Carter and Reg Harrison, with a brace each, and Angus Morrison. For Rovers, this season did end in relegation.

1954/55 Derby County v Blackburn Rovers

Six years on and both clubs were, by now, experiencing Second Division football. Blackburn’s visit to the Baseball Ground was the sixth game of the season for each club. Between them, their ten games had yielded no fewer than 63 goals so an open and entertaining contest was anticipated.

The 16 page programme is a considerable improvement on the 47/8 issue. Blackburn Rovers are introduced, both as a club and individually, and page 5 includes a “Do You Know?” quiz feature (including the intriguing question “Who is the only Football League player to be christened after a public house?”. The club notes, set in the centre pages alongside the line-ups, begin by bemoaning the Rams’ lengthy injury list as hardly the ideal way to start a season which “seemed to be set fair for a general revival in the team’s fortunes”. Unavailable for selection at various times since August were skipper Bert Mozley along with Albert Mays, Geoff Barrowcliffe, Jimmy Dunn, Ray Young and Colin Walker. Page 14 introduces readers to the club’s new goalkeeper George Hunter, signed from Glasgow Celtic along with a photograph of him catching a ball (no gloves, of course, as they didn’t use them back then). There follows a full list of all professionals on the Rams staff that season – no fewer than 36 players!

As this was a midweek game, the kick-off time was brought forward to 6pm which might explain the attendance figure of 15,936, some 3,000 down on the opening two home games of the season. Those who stayed away (and went home for their supper instead?) missed what was described as a “masterly” performance from Rovers’ inside-left Eddie Quigley who scored two of their three goals in the 3-0 victory which raised Rovers to 6th in the table and dropped Derby to 18th.

1962/63 Blackburn Rovers v Derby County (Football League Cup)

The Football League Cup entered its third season still being criticised by clubs for cluttering up the calendar, despite the reward on offer of a place in the old Fairs Cup for the winner. Indeed, it wouldn’t be until the Final was moved to Wembley in 1967 that it would become firmly established. Exempt from entering the competition at the First Round stage, Derby were drawn at home to Blackburn Rovers in the Second Round. At the time, Rovers were in the lower half of the First Division and the Rams fifth from the foot of the Second Division. A hard-fought 1-1 draw in front of 9,904 at the Baseball Ground on September 26th meant a replay at Ewood Park a week later (both games, of course, held under floodlights).

For the replay, Rovers issued their usual 16 page programme costing 3d. The attractive front cover, however, belies a publication sparse on reading material. The manager’s notes penned by Mr Marshall must have taken him all of 30 seconds to compose, simply welcoming Derby and stating that the first tie “could have gone either way”. Hidden amongst all the advertising are the usual statistics plus brief pen-pictures on the Rams players (for some reason, the middle names of Messrs Stephenson, Buxton and Curry are included but not any of the other players). Much of the advertising reflects the area’s industrial heritage (heavy precision engineering mentioned twice) but, on page 12, we find a full page advert for none other than John Forbes outfitters (the same company as in the programme from 1934) so no one can complain about their commitment to the club! The advert has, however, been updated with a very suave gentleman, cigarette in hand, wearing one of their “Tern poplin shirts” – yours for just 39/6d.

As for the match itself, it was Rovers who progressed to meet (and beat) Leeds United  in the next round with a 3-1 win, John Bowers on target for the Rams in front of a crowd of just 6,528.

This article was first printed in issue 11 of Derby County Memories (December 2015). If you enjoyed reading it, why not buy copies of the magazine? See the About section for further details.