West Bromwich Albion

West Bromwich Albion

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.

What strikes me at first is how dominant the home teams have been in league fixtures between the two – in the 116 league meetings between the two clubs, there have been only 16 away wins. Those of us who consider Hillsborough to be our “unlucky” ground may have to reconsider! Anyway, on with the collectibles…

1936/37 West Bromwich Albion v Derby County

My oldest programme involving the two clubs dates back to August 29th, 1936. Derby had finished the previous season as runners-up to title winners Sunderland whereas Albion had only avoided relegation on goal difference. Accordingly, the Rams travelled optimistically for this, the opening game of the season. Such optimism was not unfounded. A crowd of 30,219 was in attendance to witness a 3-1 win for the Rams courtesy of goals from Reg Stockill, Jack Bowers and Charlie Napier.

For the match, Albion issued a large 12 page programme costing 2d. As is typical of so many pre-war issues, there is plenty to read including “Old Throstle” discussing the new law change regarding goal kicks, full details of all the pre-season public practice matches the Albion had played and a two page tribute to the legendary William Bassett’s 50 year service to the club. To mark this, he had been presented with a silver casket containing a parchment scroll recording the “salient dates of his long and happy connection with the game”. The programme lists these, from 1887, when he made his first team debut, through to 1930 when he was elected to the Management Committee of the Football League. Sadly, Mr.Bassett didn’t live to see the season out, as he passed away in April the next year.

Advertising is mostly restricted to the outer cover and includes a very jaunty ad from gents outfitters Fosters Brothers as well as ads for Carters liver pills and a 5/- rail excursion to Manchester for the club’s upcoming match at Maine Road. All in all, a splendid programme not dissimilar to Aston Villa issues of the period though, in collecting terms, perhaps slightly harder to find.

1945/46 West Bromwich Albion v Derby County

For the Football League (South) meeting between the two clubs at The Hawthorns on December 1st, 1945 however, the programme issued, as was the case for all clubs, was much reduced due to the paper-rationing restrictions in place. The club printed a 4 page programme for the match, costing 2d, the front cover still displaying an ad for the Albion fans’ favourite brew and the back cover, as in 1936, still featuring the Foster Brothers (who would be a staple advertiser in the “Albion News” for years to come).

Reading material is limited to league tables, team line-ups and a request for supporters to consider donating any spare clothing coupons to the club so they could use them towards football strips to “remain respectable”. Sounds like the players had to patch up their own shirts with sewing thread! This isn’t the first time I’ve read this request in a programme so perhaps it was a common problem at the time.

26,000 were in attendance that day to watch Derby win 3-2. Peter Doherty was on target twice and Jack Stamps hit the winner as the Rams twice came from behind to move up to 3rd in the table.

1947/48 Derby County v West Bromwich Albion (reserves)

For whatever reason, the Rams’ reserve side were never particularly successful in the Central League finishing, more often than not, in the lower half of the table. Since its inception in 1921, they only won the title once (in 1935/36) up to 1971/72 when, famously, both the first team and the reserves won their respective leagues.

The years immediately after the war, though relatively fruitful for the first team, were a particular hardship for the second XI. Thus, on October 25th, 1947, as the Rams were at Anfield, the reserves entertained West Brom. Derby lay 19th in the table and, having conceded 20 goals in their previous 5 games, on a particularly bad run. What’s particularly poignant about this programme is that it is one of the very last (possibly the last?) matches that Jack Nicholas played in for the club. He had made his final first-team appearance the season before and was now using his experience to occasionally help out the reserves. On this occasion it succeeded –the Rams won 2-1 and. if the original owner of the programme is correct, the goals came from Oliver and Smith.

The 8 page programme issued cost 2d and is no different to the first team issue of that season. Mostly advertising with fixture lists on the back cover, lineups on page 5 and a syndicated article on page 7 entitled “International” written by Clifford Webb of the Daily Herald. Its tone is somewhat amusing, read with hindsight, as Mr.Webb is still firmly fixed in the “we taught them the game and they’re not really much use at it” school of thought. When he moved to writing for Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly in the 1950s, he never really strayed from that position. Still, he writes with a flourish!

1952/53 Derby County v West Bromwich Albion

When the Albion arrived at the Baseball Ground in November 1952, nobody would have realised that it would be over 17 years before another such fixture took place. The Rams went into the game on a run of 4 matches without a win which had seen them drop to 20th in the table. Albion, though 5th in the table, had only won 1 of their previous 5 so perhaps the sensible money would have been on a draw. Correctly, as it transpired, with 26,234 in attendance to witness a 1-1 draw. What was particularly notable about this one was that it was the one and only goal that Tommy Powell would score that season (which, of course, ended in relegation for the Rams).

I would argue that the Derby programme for this particular season was the best the club would issue (post-war) until the advent of The Ram in 1971. At 3d for 16 pages, it had dispensed with the colourful front cover of previous years but with match reports (both first team and reserves), plenty of statistics, detailed pen-pics of the opposition and articles covering the laws of the game, at least there was much to read.

1956/57 West Bromwich Albion v Derby County (reserves)

By now, of course, the Rams were in the Third Division (North) but the reserve team still made visits to the grounds of their (temporarily) more illustrious opponents. On December 8th, 1956, as the first XI were going down 2-3 at Stockport County, the Rams reserves visited The Hawthorns promising plenty entertainment, the club’s previous 6 games having seen 29 goals scored. Both clubs were mid-table so a close game was forecast.

Though Lee gave the home side the lead, Jock Buchanan and Allan Crowshaw replied to earn Derby the two points. The programme is a highly readable 12 page issue costing 3d, sequentially numbered as Volume 48 No.20. The introduction to the visiting clubs begins “we are still not used to the idea of the fine old Derby County Club being in the Third Division”. Well, not for long, as it turned out. There are 4 pages of club notes, scores and line-ups from each of Albion’s 8 (eight!) representative teams (going all the way down to the Handsworth League) and a very comprehensive H/T scoreboard with 20 matches featured.

What I really like about this programme, though, being something of a film buff, are the detailed film listings on the back cover. The Queen’s and the Alhambra have quite a selection – everything from “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers” to “The Court Jester” with Danny Kaye. Especially intriguing, however, is “Bigger than Life” starring James Mason and Barbara Rush, rated ‘X’ and subtitled in bold capital letters “STRICTLY ADULTS ONLY”. I wonder why?

1969/70 Derby County v West Bromwich Albion

Fast forward to Christmas 1969 and the return of West Brom to the Baseball Ground. The Rams had got off to a great start on their return to the top flight and were lying 6th in the table, Albion, on the other hand were, as the programme notes put it “top six material but unpredictable” and, though having reached the League Cup Final a week earlier, lay in 16th place. 35,581 in attendance that day to see the Rams triumph 2-0 courtesy of a John O’Hare brace.

The programme now featured a match action photo on the cover and this one is a beauty denoting the smallest player in the Rams’ team, Willie Carlin, jumping more than his body height to almost score with a header against Newcastle, a packed Ley Stand and Popside in the background. Perhaps he strained something doing so as, though listed to play in the programme, it was Frank Wignall who wore the number 8 shirt against West Brom.

At a shilling for 16 pages it was reasonably good value for money (and included the Football League Review as an insert). The Xmas “message from the chairman” congratulates the club’s fans on winning £100 as the best-behaved supporters for 1969 and the prize would be donated to a local boys’ club. Club notes are penned by George Edwards of the DET and there’s a short message from Dave Mackay apologising for getting booked for kicking the ball away against Newcastle. There are copious pen-pics on the Albion players and a full page photo of Jeff Astle, described as “Albion’s Free Scoring England International Centre Forward”.

Although the programme has certainly been spruced up, it still has an air of the early-to-mid sixties about it, especially when compared with other clubs, some of whom were making giant strides with their issues. Albion foremost amongst them. The advertising seems to concentrate more on the industrial sector with Notsa Engineering taking a whole page to promote their “N.C.Machining”. Whatever that is!

This article was first printed in issue 5 of Derby County Memories (June 2014). If you enjoyed reading it, why not buy copies of the magazine? See the About section for further details.