Steve McGhee takes a look at some of the programmes issued covering matches between Derby and Liverpool.

Formed in 1892 following a rent dispute between Everton FC and the owner of the land at Anfield, the club entered the Football League a year later following Accrington’s resignation. Their first season in the League ended in promotion and it was in January 1895 that they met Derby for the very first time.

1937/38 Derby County v Liverpool

Nominally, this was a late-season meeting between two mid-table clubs but, with just 15 points separating league leaders Arsenal from bottom-placed Grimsby, a decent (or indeed poor) run of results could propel a team up or down the table in dramatic fashion. After three successive victories, the Rams had lost 1-4 at Preston but Liverpool were having to play their second game in just 24 hours (having drawn at Middlesbrough on the 15th) and, as can be seen from the changes pencilled in by the original owner of the programme to the published team, the Reds made a number of changes.

The standard 16 page programme was issued, editorial notes welcoming back former Rams full back Tommy Cooper who had joined the Anfield club in 1934. Unfortunately for the home crowd, he was one of the six changes made to the published line-up. Also absent from the Reds team was Matt Busby though future Liverpool legend Phil Taylor, who would go on to play for the club till 1954, was included as one of the changes. The editor also, rather cryptically, notes that one of the clubs in the Third Division (South) would “be out of the Football League” the next season. This informed opinion was proved to be most accurate when bottom club Gillingham failed re-election, being replaced by Ipswich Town. Page 11 of the programme gives some detail of the Rams’ visit to Edinburgh to play Hearts in a testimonial match for the home club’s Tommy Walker. 25,000 were in attendance to witness a 2-1 victory for the hosts, whose fans were said to be “delighted by the team work and individual play of the visitors”. The only other reading material covers league tables, fixtures and a half-time scoreboard but there are, as ever with pre-war programmes, some fascinating advertisements. The one that really stands out is from Informal Travels Ltd who, for under £20, offer a trip to Germany to see England meet the hosts on May 14th and a German Reserve XI play Aston Villa the next day. The price included sea and land travel, hotels, meals, excursions, match tickets and tips. I wonder how many people took them up on the offer given the political situation at that time.

On the day, a strong Rams team beat a patchwork Liverpool side 4-1, Jack Nicholas, Sammy Crooks, Ronnie Dix and Dai Astley on target in front of a crowd of 16,524 though Alf Hanson had given the visitors a third minute lead. One wonders what it was about Liverpool that Jack Nicholas found so conducive. Never a regular goalscorer, he had also found the net against the same opposition the previous season – coincidentally, another 4-1 Rams win in the month of April!

1946/47 Liverpool v Derby County (FAC)

A rather historic match in that, as at the time of writing, it’s still the only FA Cup tie the Rams have ever lost whilst holders of the famous old trophy. Having beaten Bournemouth and, after a replay, Chelsea, the fifth round draw sent the Rams to Anfield for a tricky tie against a side lying 7 places above them in the league table. The Reds had accounted for Walsall and Grimsby and included in their line-up future manager Bob Paisley as well as the legendary Billy Liddell. The Rams fielded 7 of the team who had lifted the Cup 9 months earlier so a fine match was anticipated.

Both teams lined up as per the match programme which was priced at 1d for 8 pages. The red typeface was not as unusual as might, at first, appear as a number of clubs whose club colours were red and white followed suit. Pages 2 and 3 are rather topical (given the fuss made over the ridiculous VAR novelty) in that they discuss the role of the referee and his linesmen in the smooth running of a professional football match – and what it might be like were they not there. Perhaps one day in the not too distant future, matches will, indeed, be refereed from a studio miles from the stadium. Who knows. Not me.

Page 4’s “From the Board Room” welcomes the Rams to Anfield, notes that Raymond Glendinning was present that day in his role as BBC Sports Commentator and, finally, requests that the lads in the Boys’ Pen desist from throwing oranges and other missiles at opposing players! And here’s me thinking that such fruit was a rationed luxury in post-war England. Line-ups were on page 5, followed by a half-time scoreboard and the usual club statistics. Advertising is limited to beer, tobacco, confectionery and the local press.

The weather on the day was rather wretched and may have contributed to a lower-than-expected attendance of 44,493. Derby exited the competition, Jack Balmer scoring after 75 minutes to send the Reds through to a quarter-final tie at home to Birmingham City.

1952/53 Derby County v Liverpool

Fast forward 5 years and, though it may not have been apparent at the time, for each club their tenure in the First Division was drawing to a close. Though lying in a healthy 7th place in the table, Liverpool arrived at the Baseball Ground having lost four of their previous five matches and having conceded 14 goals in doing so. Though much more solid defensively, the Rams’ record of six matches without a win (and 20th place in the table) suggested this was a meeting of two sides low on confidence.

Derby issued their standard 16 page programme for the fixture, pages 3 and 4 introducing a Liverpool side which included not just one but two future Anfield managers in left-half Bob Paisley and left-back Ronnie Moran. Page 5 introduces the Rams’ new signing Jimmy Dunn as well as a comprehensive match report on the previous week’s match at Middlesbrough. “Know the FA Laws” on page 7 discusses ‘Fouls and Misconduct’ and the subtle difference between a fair and an unfair shoulder charge (nowadays, both would end up in a yellow card for the miscreant). Another match review of the reserves’ home tie with West Brom is shoehorned in between the usual club statistics. Unlike in the Liverpool programme, the advertising is highly utilitarian with local industry prominent.

Both defences struggled on the day, two goals from Hugh McLaren were cancelled out by late goals from Billy Liddell (from the penalty spot) and Jack Smith before debutant Dunn earned the Rams both points in front of a crowd of 20,758 to keep them two points clear of 21st-placed Stoke City. Of course, at the end of this season, the Rams did drop down to the Second Division but Liverpool’s relegation was just a year hence. After this match at the Baseball Ground, they would keep just 3 clean sheets in the 25 remaining league games – a sign of struggles to come for the Anfield club in season 53/54.

1954/55 Liverpool v Derby County

New Year’s Day, 1955, and two clubs facing one another each of whom were probably glad to see the back of a very disappointing 1954. What had been a regular top-flight fixture was now a Second Division relegation battle. The Rams, having won just two of their previous 14 matches, had slipped to 20th place, two points outside the drop zone. Liverpool were 6 points better off in 15th place but were on as eccentric a run of form as has probably ever been seen in the sport. Their previous four games included a 6-2 win over Ipswich, just two weeks after suffering the heaviest defeat in their history, a 1-9 reverse at Birmingham City.

For the match, the home club issued a very readable 16 page programme priced at 3d. It’s notable that the fixture list on the back page doesn’t print the results to date, just the remaining fixtures for the rest of the season. Quite clever – that way that 1-9 defeat can be exorcised! The editorial notes bemoan the club’s inconsistencies at the same time as lauding long-serving Billy Liddell, who was playing his 350th game for the club that day, some 15 years after making his debut. Page 3 details prices being charged by Lincoln City for the upcoming FA Cup tie, reserved stand tickets cost 6/- and terracing entry was either 1/9d or 2/3d. There follows four pages of highly comprehensive coverage of the Rams players and the club’s history, though the latter article includes several rather sloppy spelling errors which is unusual for those days when sub-editors were still in existence. Line-ups are in the centre pages, followed by “Potted Pars” covering assorted Second Division players. I especially appreciate the up-to-date league tables from all four divisions being published in the programme. League leaders were Sunderland, Blackburn, Scunthorpe and Bristol City whilst, at the other ends of the respective divisions, for Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich, Wrexham and Colchester, the only way was up.

On the day, in front of a crowd of 34,237, second-half goals from Brian Jackson and Liddell (his 122nd for the Reds) earned Liverpool a 2-0 victory, though the result may well have been affected by a concussion suffered by Rams keeper Terry Webster. Derby manager Jack Barker gave right-half Ben Clark his debut in this game following a season-ending injury to Albert Mays. He must have played quite well as he retained his place in the side for the next eight games.

1958/59 Derby County v Liverpool (Reserves)

I thought I would include this one as an excellent example of how a winning run can instil confidence which, in turn, increases the chance of extending that winning run. As valid a principle today as 60 years ago. Derby’s reserves had won their previous two games (against struggling Man United and Newcastle) but Liverpool, lying in third place in the Central League table, were a far tougher task. The visitors included experienced players in centre-forward Alan Arnell, wing half Roy Saunders as well as future Everton legend Johnny Morrissey, who would spend over a decade at Goodison Park. A relatively settled Rams side, however, romped to a 4-0 win on the day thanks to goals from George Darwin, Peter Newbery and a brace from amateur player Ian Hall. What this victory did do, however, was initiate a subsequent run of six straight victories for the Rams’ reserves, scoring 24 goals in the process. Both Blackburn and Bury were hit for 6 with Ray Swallow boosting his personal goal tally to the tune of 7!

Nothing unusual about the programme issued, four pages for 2d and covering nothing more than line-ups, fixtures and league tables. There is a “lucky number” competition….but my copy of the programme has a blank space where there ought to be a number.

1963/64 Liverpool v Derby County (FA Cup)

It’s probably fair to say that, whilst the 1950s was a rather mundane decade for both clubs, the 1960s would see the emergence of both Liverpool and Derby as major forces in the game. Only not quite at the same pace. By January of 1964, Bill Shankly was in his fifth year at Anfield and had led Liverpool back to the top flight in his third season. Shankly instigated major improvements to both the stadium and training facilities and capitalised on the fervour for all things Liverpudlian in the early 60s. The club’s transformation was not unlike that which Brian Clough would initiate in the latter years of the decade. In the meantime, however, it was Tim Ward who took a Rams side without a victory since mid-November to Anfield in the third round of the FA Cup to face Shankly’s Liverpool on a run of six wins in their previous eight games which saw them reach third place in the table. The 16 page programme, costing 4d, is not dissimilar to the Everton issue of the time. Given that printer W. Jones of Seel Street, Liverpool, printed each issue, then that’s perhaps not surprising. The coverage given to the visiting side is most comprehensive and takes up much of the first half of the publication. Line-ups are in the centre pages, though the quality of the programme tails off somewhat in the latter pages with rather a lot of blank space in amongst the standard club statistics.

The match itself was a somewhat one-sided affair in the end, though had Mike Williamson netted an early “gilt-edged” chance for the Rams, the outcome might have been different. Future England international Roger Hunt scored on 63 minutes but it was the home side’s 21 year-old centre-forward Alf Arrowsmith who rampaged through the Rams’ defence, netting four times (twice in each half) in a 5-0 victory in front of a gate of 46,460.

The always fair Kop even managed to give the beaten-but-not-bowed Rams side a send-off as they trooped off the field at the final whistle, a special cheer reserved for Reg Matthews who had ensured a heavy defeat hadn’t turned into something worse. Ironically, Liverpool would end up being a victim of a Cup shock in the quarter-final that season, beaten at home by Second Division Swansea Town.

1969/70 Derby County v Liverpool

Back in the First Division after 17 years, the Clough-led Rams had made a highly impressive start to the campaign. As November came around, the club were in third place in the table, with only the Merseyside duo of Everton and Liverpool ahead of them. Having lost their previous two home games, however, to Coventry and Manchester City, it was left to Dave Mackay to remind fans, in his programme notes, that “we are not disheartened” and that these defeats were more down to the rub of the green rather than a loss of form.

The programme’s editorial notes are taken up with the state of the Baseball Ground pitch and how it has improved now that thousands of spectators no longer rush onto the ground at the final whistle! The notes conclude by stating that potential additional expense as regards the pitch was not considered feasible due to the major financial outlay in constructing the Ley Stand. Page 11 congratulates travelling Rams fans on keeping out of trouble following the previous week’s defeat at Elland Road and that this was a major factor in the latest national “John White Award for Good Behaviour” being awarded to Derby supporters. I wonder if Leeds fans ever won this (ha ha)?

On the pitch, however, with Peter Daniel continuing to deputise for the injured John Robson, the day belonged to the Rams with Kevin Hector netting twice in the second half to add to first half strikes from John McGovern and John O’Hare in front of a massive crowd of 40,993 shoehorned into the Baseball Ground. Oddly, due to Leeds winning their games in hand that week, the victory actually dropped the Rams a place in the table to fourth.

This article was first printed in issue 20 of Derby County Memories (March 2018). If you enjoyed reading it, why not buy copies of the magazine? See the About section for further details.