Steve McGhee takes a look at some of the programmes issued covering matches between Derby and Manchester United.
Formed in 1878 as Newton Heath LYR, they were invited to join the Football League in 1892 following the dissolution of the Football Alliance. The club played for a further ten years under their original name before, in April 1902, adopting their present title. The least said about the first League meeting between the two, the better. Newton Heath ran out 7-1 winners on New Year’s Eve 1892 although the Rams did win the return fixture 5-1, Steve Bloomer one of those on target that day.
1936/37 Manchester United v Derby County
In September of 1936, in one of the most memorable matches in their history, the Rams had come from being 1-4 down to beat United 5-4 at the Baseball Ground. Could the return fixture at Old Trafford – the first match of 1937 – match the earlier one for excitement? For the Rams, the embarrassment of a 0-7 defeat at Everton on Christmas Day had been partially redeemed by two successive home victories to lift the team to 5th in the table, two points behind leaders Arsenal. For United, it was their first season back in the First Division since being relegated in 1931. However, they were struggling to adapt and, despite also having won their two previous games, lay bottom of the table, two points adrift of West Brom. Despite the positional gap between United and Derby, defensively they had the two worst records in the division, so goals were virtually guaranteed.
For the match, United issued their standard large-size 16 page programme, priced at 2d. Unfortunately, there are no match details on the front cover. Page 3’s editorial reminds all United fans that it is their “sacred duty to be present” at Maine Road for the upcoming local derby with their neighbours. The cartoon on page 5 under “Bricks and Bokays” features a very ferocious-looking Ram provoking a United player with the 5-4 result as mentioned above. Page 6 is devoted to introducing the Rams, the “Who’s Who” listing height and weight rather than anything more subjective. Line-ups are in the centre pages, some reflections on current events at the club and a rather sparse statistics section complete the programme. Though nicely presented, there’s quite a heavy emphasis on advertising with those for the cinema prevalent. The back cover does include a highly detailed ad for the “no deposit, 2/- weekly” Philco Radio. “The People’s Set,” as it was branded, cost £6 6/- and, at two bob a week, would take the HP customer just over two years to pay off.
As for the match, Old Trafford was about half full, a gate of 31,883 recorded to see the points shared in a 2-2 draw. Harry Rowley netted twice for the home team, Dai Astley and Peter Ramage on target for the Rams.
1947/48 Derby County v Manchester United (FA Cup semi-final)
Winners in 1946, 5th round in 1947, semi-finalists in 1948. The immediate post-war years were good to the Rams in terms of cup runs. Having defeated Chesterfield, Crewe Alexandra, Middlesbrough and QPR, it was on to Hillsborough for a semi-final against a Manchester United side who, to be fair, had undergone a far tougher route to the last 4, triumphing over Aston Villa, Liverpool, Charlton and Preston, all of whom were top-level clubs at the time. The winners would meet either Blackpool or Tottenham Hotspur, playing their semi-final at Villa Park.
For the match, the FA issued an impressive advert-free 8 page programme, priced at 6d. The text uses the same font as Sheffield Wednesday did at the time, page 2 gives the result of each tie in the competition from Round 3 onwards, pages 3 & 4, entitled the “magnetic Cup semi-final” lays the foundation for the match, page 5 has team line-ups, pages 6 & 7 have a team photograph of the Old Trafford team along with a few head and shoulder portraits of the Rams players, along with an apology for the programme team not being able to “obtain a photograph of the Derby team in the limited time available for the production of this programme”. A few United pen-pictures on the back page (no equivalent Derby ones) complete the programme.
Ultimately a disappointing afternoon for the Derby fans – United inside-left Stan Pearson netting a hat-trick to earn United a place in the Final against Blackpool (who beat Spurs 3-1). Billy Steel replied for the Rams in front of a crowd of 60,000.
I have also included a scan of the pirate programme issued by T. Ross of London SE1. Unpriced and with just team lineups on the inside pages and a few statistical odds and ends on the back cover, it would be interesting to know how many people were fooled into parting with their money for this “souvenir programme”.
1948/49 Manchester United v Derby County
The opening match of the following season saw the Rams handed a tricky trip to Old Trafford. Indeed, it had been 6 visits and 20 years since they had taken maximum points at United. With Angus Morrison and Jack Stamps out of favour, the number 9 shirt was handed to Cyril Thompson, the club’s new signing from Southend United.
The 12 page “United Review” still did not include the opponents on the front cover but at least did now include the date of the match as well as, unusually, the programme price (3d) printed twice. The programme is highly readable with a “Welcome” message from the Club Chairman, full details of the club’s pre-season trip to Ireland, the “Bricks and Bokays” cartoon featuring an Olympic Games theme, pen-pictures of the Rams players and a number of other features to go along with the team lineups in the centre pages. One of those features describes the Derby team as “dour” and possessing a “long memory” – we can only wonder what evidence the programme editor had in order to substantiate such an opinion! Advertising is limited but there is one interesting headline which details the latest article in the Manchester Evening Chronicle asking “Is a player worth £20,000?”. I wonder what the author would make of United’s outgoings 69 years later?
A very healthy crowd of 52,922 were in attendance to watch the Rams team “dourly” take both points with a 2-1 victory, Reg Harrison and Frank Broome on target, Jack Rowley replying for the hosts. Indeed, Derby would start off the season with an unbeaten run of 16 matches (by some considerable distance a club record) which would not come to an end until mid-November and a defeat at Newcastle.
1951/52 Derby County v Manchester United
Talking about unbeaten runs, it was United’s turn to impress, their visit to the Baseball Ground in February 1952 seeing them attempt to sustain a sequence of 12 games unbeaten which had seen them rise to the top of the table. For the Rams, the season was in danger of fizzling out following defeat in the Cup to Middlesbrough and their own disappointing run of just one win in their last six league fixtures.
The 8 page programme featured match reports from the recent home match with Liverpool and the reserves’ fixture at Blackpool, both of these games ending in 1-1 draws. The detailed pen-pictures of the visiting players make interesting reading in terms of just how many of their team had come “through the ranks”. Team lineups on page 5 followed by the standard statistics make up the remainder of the programme.
On the day, the visitors seem to have had little trouble in extending their unbeaten run in a 3-0 victory, the goals from John Aston, Stan Pearson and Jack Rowley. The crowd of 27,693 had only been bettered once that season – four weeks earlier, when Arsenal had been the visitors.
41 years after their previous title success, and having finished as runners-up no fewer than four times since the war, the First Division Championship trophy would finally end up at Old Trafford once again. For the Rams, the disappointing second half to the season would herald the struggles of 52/53 and the beginning of the club’s darkest days.
Late 50s Derby County v Manchester United (reserves)
Just a couple of standard four page issues covering games against United – in season 58/59, goals from Dave Cargill and George Darwin give the Rams a 2-1 victory. The following season, it was United’s turn to triumph, 1-0.
1965/66 Derby County v Manchester United (FA Cup)
When the draw for the Third Round was made in early January 1966, more than a few clubs would have envied the Rams when they came out of the hat paired with the reigning League champions and the club who were arguably the biggest draw in the country at the time. It had been a while since a match had enthused the Derby public quite as much as this one had and the local paper even printed a special midday edition on the day of the match with team lineups, photographs and some on-the-spot reporting detailing how some fans had queued all through the night to try and secure one of the remaining tickets.
The club issued their standard programme for the match, although a full-page team photograph of the opposition at least added a bit of variation to the usual fayre. The club’s recently appointed Chairman, Sam Longson, pops up on page 3 with a few motivational phrases before two pages of quite detailed pen-pictures of the opposing players. That’s about it, though. Not much for your sixpence, frankly, though there are details of how to apply for tickets should a replay be required at Old Trafford. Tickets would range in price from 7/6 to 12/6 for a seat….pay-at-the-gate if you were happy enough to stand.
No replay would, however, be necessary. The gate of 33,827 was The Baseball Ground’s highest since 1960 (when United were also the opposition) and certainly got value for money. United triumphed 5-2 on the day, John Richardson (from the penalty spot) and Frank Upton on target for the Rams, George Best and Denis Law each netted twice for the visitors, David Herd adding the final goal. United would reach the Semi-Final before losing to Everton at Burnden Park.
By the mid-60s, “pirate programmes” for big matches were becoming the exception rather than the rule, as both clubs and fans became more savvy……but Starkey of Hammersmith gave it one more go with this 8 page ‘souvenir’. I’d be interested in knowing how far away from the ground the vendor(s) were!
1969/70 & 1970/71 Derby County v Manchester United
To finish with – a couple of tickets for United’s visits to the Baseball Ground following the return to the First Division. Compare the price to what we would be expected to pay now! The ticket on the left, of course, refers to the famous 4-4 draw which turned out to be ‘keeper Les Green’s last match for the Rams after 129 consecutive games. Following a huge fallout with Brian Clough, Green was transferred to Durban City in South Africa in August 1971.
This article was first printed in issue 18 of Derby County Memories (September 2017). If you enjoyed reading it, why not buy copies of the magazine? See the About section for further details.