Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolverhampton 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.

According to Andy Ellis’s book Relics of the Rams, “the earliest example of a Derby County home programme is from 5 September 1903, for the fixture against Wolverhampton Wanderers. The format of the card or programme was the same for a number of years, showing drawings of the players on the front with their names underneath.” I wonder who the lucky owner is!

1936/37 Derby County v Wolves

Having commenced the season with 4 wins in the opening 6 games the Rams, lying 3rd in the table behind leaders Portsmouth and Stoke, welcomed a Wolves side lying 8th in the table to the Baseball Ground. Those 6 games had yielded 17 goals for a free-scoring Derby team, including 5 against Manchester United.

The club issued a 16 page programme for the match, line-ups on the front cover as was standard practice back then. Editorial content is limited to “Here and There” which covers the previous weekend’s home game with Preston as well as a brief introduction to Wolves and “Matters of the Moment” which takes a broader look at current events in the sport, noting that Jack Barker would be absent for the Rams that day as he was captaining the Football League XI over in Belfast.

As ever with pre-war programmes, the advertising content acts as a portal to a very different era. Films on show at the Coliseum cinema on the London Road include those featuring Herbert Marshall, “Buster” Crabbe and ‘Dial M for Murder’ star Robert Cummings. Al Berlin and his band were playing at the Plaza ballroom but if you preferred to make your own music, A. E. Tomlinson of 46 Osmaston Road, was purveying accordions at prices ranging from £4 17/6 to £15 15/-. The one which really caught my eye, however, was tucked away on page 12 where Mr. L. Marriott, for a short period, was offering to wallpaper the room of your choice for just 16 shillings. Wallpaper included. As someone who can barely open a can of paint, I would gladly take Mr. Marriott up on his offer!

The match itself saw the Rams continue their scoring spree. A 5-1 victory, courtesy of two goals each from Dally Duncan and Jack Bowers as well as one from Sammy Crooks, sent Derby to the top of the table. The attendance of 18,103, however, was the smallest of the season to date and was perhaps due to the fact that this was a midweek game. Back in the 1930s, Baseball Ground attendances were always smaller for Wednesday matches, regardless of opposition.

1943/44 Wolves v Derby County

Season 43/44 saw both clubs participate in the Football League (North), an abridged competition which was only due to run from early August until late December. As was the case in the following two seasons, teams played each other home and away on successive Saturdays. November 20th saw the Rams visit Molineux on a good run of form, three successive victories and a total of 18 goals scored in their previous 6 games.

Wartime paper restrictions meant the home team could only issue a small single-sheet programme (on old gold paper). Team line-ups on the front and, on the reverse, fixture lists (minus results), upcoming games at the ground and a “programme of music” which saw 8 tunes played prior to kick-off (via the old 78rpm shellac!) including the slow foxtrot “I Left My Heart At The Stage Door Canteen” and, at half-time, parts 1 and 2 of the “Tin Pan Alley medley”. Not a bad little issue for a penny, though the original owner of my copy has chosen to scribble the team changes on the cover, sadly.

Another win for the Rams, the 3-1 victory featuring two goals from stand-in striker Jack Nicholas (one a penalty) and a third from Bivens (a player whose first name escapes me!). 6,000 were in attendance at a Molineux where, as was the case at the Baseball Ground during the war years, only part of the ground was open to the public.

1943/44 Derby County v Wolves

A week later and the return fixture at the Baseball Ground saw the Rams make a total of 6 changes to the team which won at Molineux, including Huddersfield centre forward Rodgers who was “guesting” for the club. Raich Carter (although a Sunderland player, allowed to play for Derby due to the fact his wife was living in the city with her parents at the time) netted both Rams’ goals in a 2-2 draw in front of 7,000 spectators.

For the match, Derby issued a 4 page programme costing 2d. Page 2 contained brief reports and fixture lists for the first team, reserves and “Colts”, line-ups were on page 3 and the back cover contained a full page advert for The Nag’s Head hotel in Mickleover. The licensee was one “S.T. McMillan” who, at a guess, may have been the present Derby manager!

One note of trivia – the telephone number for the hotel was Derby 531041 which is the only occasion I have seen a telephone number of the time expressed as 6 rather than 4 (or fewer) digits. If anyone can shed any light on either that (or the licensee), please let me know!

1970/71 Derby County v Wolves (reserves)

Fast forward 27 years now and to an early season Central League game at the Baseball Ground. On the same night, at Molineux, 29,910 saw Derby triumph 4-2 but, here, a much less exciting affair took place, both sides cancelling one another out in a goalless draw watched by just over 4,000 spectators.

The programme is a “mini” version of the first team issue that season, 4 pages costing 4d or (as is noted in parentheses) 2 new pence, decimalisation being very much on the horizon for one and all by this time. Page 2 features a preview of the first team’s upcoming fixture at Portman Road alongside a photograph of Ipswich’s left back Mick Mills, page 3 has line-ups and a half-time scoreboard, and the back page gives final league tables for the previous season for both first team and reserves, a lucky number competition and a “cut out and keep” token (in this case, token number 2). “Save it – it may be of use later in the season” we are told. This was usually the case when a club reached the FA Cup Final and was a way of rewarding supporters who could prove their attendance on a regular basis. Not that season 70/1 saw any need for the token system to be activated! Derby reserve home programmes are an interesting and still relatively inexpensive branch of collecting and season 70/1 saw arguably the best reserve programme since pre-war days.

1970/71 Derby County v Wolves (FA Cup)

Something a little different now – an unused match ticket for the FA Cup 4th Round tie at the Baseball Ground between the two clubs. Derby had won 2-1 at Chester in the previous round; Wolves had hammered Norwich 5-1. When the two were drawn to meet one another, it was the first time they had played in the country’s premier knockout tournament since 1934 when Derby won 3-0 at the Baseball Ground.

A huge crowd of 40,567 amassed to see Derby progress to the 5th round courtesy of goals from Alan Hinton and John O’Hare in a 2-1 victory. As this attendance was just over 1,000 short of the ground capacity, it makes me wonder what it was that kept the original ticket-holder from attending. Was he ill? Did he have to work overtime? We’ll never know. The ticket itself is in two parts, the left half to be torn off by the turnstile operator and the right half retained. As can be seen in the image, however, there’s a superbly detailed map of the Baseball Ground and environs which, from a collector’s point of view, is something which it seems a shame to debase by tearing in half! The map bears a distinct similarity to those occasionally included in Derby home programmes of the late 1940s – those cobbled streets surrounding the Baseball Ground did not lend themselves to urban regeneration!

1991/92 Derby County v Wolves

7th played 11th in the old Second Division on March 21st, 1992, but this was a special day for all at Derby County – 100 years (and two days) since the very first competitive match at the ground against Sunderland. To mark the occasion, spectators were handed a numbered certificate to commemorate their attendance at the match and the club included a fascinating 16 page programme supplement which “charted the milestones in the Baseball Ground’s development”.

What struck me upon reading this again was that the original capacity of the ground was just 8,500 and that the terracing (as such) was made up of old cinders from the adjacent Ley’s foundry! The programme also makes mention of a time capsule (not to be opened until March 19th, 2092) that the club have buried under the pitch….with the subsequent redevelopment of the ground, I wonder where that is and whether it actually can be resurrected in the future? An excellent publication, then, the only disappointment being the programme cover which I think really ought to have featured the old stadium instead of Simon Coleman. 21,027 – The highest league gate of the season – saw Paul Kitson give Derby the lead but two second half Wolves’ goals in a minute from Steve Bull turned the match on its head.

As an aside, I attended this game along with a friend of mine as he had heard me rabbit on and on about the Baseball Ground and he wanted to see for himself. The first (and so far only) time I have ever seen Derby lose a home match. I can recall Lionel Pickering being given a tremendous ovation when introduced to the crowd at half-time…..and the disbelief everyone felt when Wolves scored twice to spoil the party. Ah well, that’s football…..

This article was first printed in issue 7 of Derby County Memories (December 2014). If you enjoyed reading it, why not buy copies of the magazine? See the About section for further details.