Bolton Wanderers

Bolton Wanderers

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.

1938/39 Derby County v Bolton Wanderers

If the turn of the century had seen Derby as one of the most consistent FA Cup performers without ever managing to win the trophy, the same could be said about the club’s league form in the 1930s. Between 1927 and 1938, they had only twice finished outside the top ten and, by the time Bolton visited the Baseball Ground in November of 1938, ten wins in their opening fifteen games saw the Rams top of the table, two points ahead of Everton. Bolton, however, were without a win in four and had dropped to 6th place.

The familiar pre-war 16 page programme was issued for the game, costing 2d and numbered Volume 10 number 15. The “Here and There” feature is scattered throughout the programme, giving brief summaries of the first team’s previous game at Charlton and the reserves’ home match with Liverpool, noting that “Sport in the Midlands” on Midland Regional radio that evening at 7pm would include an eye-witness report on the game from E.A. Eden and including a few stories from around the League (including the news that Blackpool winger “Dynamite” Dawson had returned to Falkirk after only 3 months at the club. A bit of a damp squib, perhaps?). On page 11, however, is a small paragraph which highlights what a different world it was back then. “One prediction in London is that we shall soon be seeing a coloured player again in first class football”, the author adding that the player in question was Lancashire-born James Hanley, who had signed a contract with Chelsea. I wonder if he ever made the first team?

I always enjoy reading the advertising in old programmes. Many footballers became publicans once their careers ended and, here, no fewer than three former Rams have taken out an advert in the programme. Harry Bedford ran The Grapes Inn in Green Lane (with bed & breakfast at 6/6d available if you’d had one too many in the saloon bar!), Tommy Davidson ran The Nottingham Arms on London Road and Tom Crilly managed The Hilton Arms on Osmaston Road. For fans who wanted to watch the Rams’ next game, away at Leeds, a day return ticket for 4/9d was being offered by LMS arriving in Leeds at 1.20pm and departing again at 7pm (returning in time for a pint or two at one of the aforementioned pubs!).

On the day, the Rams were well on top, 26,062 in attendance to watch Ronnie Dix and Dai Astley put Derby two goals ahead before a late Harry Hubbick own goal sealed the victory.

1946/47 Bolton Wanderers v Derby County

Though the war accounted for the best years of many players’ careers, no fewer than five of the Bolton team who played at the Baseball Ground in November 1938 were also to feature in this game. For the Rams, the only equivalent was left back Jack Howe. Both sides had had an indifferent start to the first post-war season. Bolton lay 15th in the table but Derby, despite having one of the most effective forward lines of the day, found keeping the opposition at bay somewhat problematic and, having conceded 8 goals in their previous 2 games, had slipped to 18th. Unfortunately, this particular match only served to further highlight that particular problem.

The Bolton programme of the time was an unusual design, being square in shape but, similar to Portsmouth and Sheffield United issues of the 40s, opening out to make, essentially a 6 page publication. Page 2 features the editorial, entitled “Our Message”, which waxes lyrical on the team’s display at Villa Park a week earlier when they held on for a draw despite injury having reducing them to ten men. Coverage of the visiting team is limited to one very short paragraph, most of which is taken up in praise of Raich Carter and Peter Doherty. The remainder of the programme is the basic fixture lists, league tables and lineups. Within the fixture lists, however, is a quite remarkable statistic. A final score of 9-5 would be unusual enough in any era and at any level, however Bolton’s third XI, having beaten Moss Rovers 9-5 on September 4th, promptly went and beat Whittingham by the very same score just three days later! Advertising is very limited but one includes the intriguing line “If you cannot buy it, try Rutland Mills”. What “it” is isn’t specified, however I suspect may have something to do with the rationing of the time.

The least said about the match the better, perhaps, as Bolton ran out 5-1 winners in front of a crowd of 28,127. Frank Broome scored the Rams’ only goal. There may have been harsh words afterwards as Derby promptly went on a run of 6 wins in 7 games to reach mid-table by the time Christmas came along.

1951/52 Derby County v Bolton Wanderers

After featuring a heavy defeat for Derby, I suppose it’s only right to now feature a healthy win for the Rams. When Bolton arrived at the Baseball Ground in December of 1951, they had already been top of the table for almost half the season and had only slipped to 3rd following a run of 1 win in 4. For Derby, after a bad start to the season, a run of just 1 defeat in 8 games had seen them rise ten places to 11th and were hoping to secure a fifth straight home victory that day.

The 8 page programme issued for the match features the distinctive “Man-Ram” on the front cover. There is no editorial as such – instead, there are detailed match reports from the previous week’s games for the first team (at Newcastle), the reserves (at home to Everton) and the Colts (at home to Notts County). Lineups, fixture lists and league tables are included, along with a list of the top scorers for all four divisions at that time. Advertising is mostly limited to the back page but, on page 6, there is a small box ad for “Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly”, the first issue of which had only been issued a few weeks earlier but which would become the most popular football magazine in the country for the next 20 years.

Attendances at home games were gradually increasing and the crowd of 23,838 would certainly have gone home ready for more as goals from Reg Harrison, Hugh McLaren, Ray Wilkins and a brace from Johnny Morris saw the Rams romp home with a 5-2 victory.

1968/69 Bolton Wanderers v Derby County

The promotion season 68/69 had started off slowly but, by the time the Rams visited Burnden Park in late September, and on a run of 4 wins in 5 games, there were signs that momentum was growing. That had lifted Derby to 5th in the table, three places ahead of their hosts.

For the match, Bolton issued an 8 page programme, costing 9d, whose content didn’t really match the rather striking front cover. The editorial on page 3 discusses the team’s recent defeat at Blackpool, introduces the reader to the “Derby County Personalities” and notes that, with just 5 points separating leaders Charlton from 15th placed Oxford, “no one team seems to be really outstanding”. That would certainly change over the next few months! Other than the usual statistics, there is no other reading material included.

Lineups are located on the back page, each team’s substitute referred to, rather unusually, as “12th Man”. The rather copious advertising highlights the industrial nature of the area. Anyone with an interest in machinery dismantling, car batteries, fabricated metals or civil engineering was well served. Hidden within the advertising, however, are a couple of little gems. Manfredi boasts of his “first class ice lollies”, the advert for Warburton bread is very “sixties” in design and, rather poignantly, the Aspin Cabaret Club and Casino proudly states that it operates “the biggest game of Brag in town”. In these days of video poker machines, online roulette wheels and a myriad of fixed odds betting companies, a game of brag seems quite innocent.

On the pitch, the Rams, playing in red shirts and white shorts, maintained their winning run with a 2-1 victory in front of a crowd of 15,202. Jim Walker opened the scoring for Derby before Freddie Hill equalised for the home team. It was Richie Barker, deputising for the injured John O’Hare, who netted the winner.

1970/71 Bolton Wanderers v Derby County (Reserves)

To Boxing Day 1970 and, as the first team fought out a thrilling 4-4 draw with Manchester United at the Baseball Ground, the reserves headed north to a snowy Burnden Park for a Central League fixture. A remarkable run of 17 games without defeat had seen them rise to 2nd place in the table, just 3 points behind leaders Liverpool. Bolton lay 5th in the table and were on a good run of results themselves.

For the match, Bolton issued a salmon-coloured single-sheet which, with nothing printed on the reverse, was somewhat overpriced even at 3d. The clubs in the Central League, for the period 1945 to 1975, tend to fall into two categories when it comes to acquiring programmes. There are those, such as Aston Villa, Sheffield United and Derby themselves, who turn up on eBay and dealers’ catalogues quite commonly whereas there are others, such as Leeds, Blackburn, Bury and Bolton, who, for whatever reason, are very thin on the ground.

The Rams continued their winning run here, Barry Butlin and Ricky Marlowe on target in a 2-1 win.  As the season progressed, though, they could never quite catch Liverpool and would finish runners-up to the Anfield club. The next season, however, the Rams would go one better!

This article was first printed in issue 12 of Derby County Memories (March 2016). If you enjoyed reading it, why not buy copies of the magazine? See the About section for further details.