Friday, 7 December 2007

Blues Pages - Chester City's Match Programme

Do you discard your football programme after every match? Just imagine if you had supported Chester for 50 years or so and had kept every programme since your first visit to Sealand Road. Today, you would possess a valuable treasure-chest of memorabilia documenting the evolution of the club from the days of past glories to those of current life at the Deva Stadium and the progression of programme features from cartoons to computer aided graphics. This website attempts to give you an insight into the memories that such a post war collection would contain.

I believe that football programmes are the one true link between a football club and its supporters. Each issue represents a fraction of the club's history, and that there is no better way to track the joys and sorrows associated with Chester than through the perspectives gleaned from the writings penned week to week in home and away publications. The offerings of yesteryear provide reliable chronicles of the happenings at Chester Football Club and the rise and fall of household names and famous teams, as well as insights into events around the City.

This part of Talking Blue charts the changing designs and contents of programmes from the spartan issues available immediately after Word War II to the magazines of today. In addition, you will see images of programme covers for each season to highlight representative home issues and some of the more sought-after away editions. These illustrations will allow you to form your own impressions about the changing face of the game and may evoke nostalgic memories of your favourite footballers and matches.

I designated this section of the website for supporters and collectors of all ages with a passion for football and a fascination with Chester's proud history.

Pre-war Programmes

Pre-war programmes from Chester Football Club are few and far between. Having gained election to the Football League from the Cheshire League in 1931, they remain much sought after and can command high prices for each individual copy when and if they come on the market. This particular issue illustrated dates back to the 1934-35 season when Chester finished in third position in the old Football League Third Division North setup, ironically enough behind Champions Doncaster Rovers and Halifax Town who have both tasted Conference football in the last five years. In those days it was particularly hard to gain promotion to the second division, as only the Champions went up.

A large 16 page programme printed by Williams and Mansley of Chester was the order of the day with a wrap around cover being used. There was no mention of their opponents or date on the front cover, it carried a drawing of a Chester player in his Blue and White striped shirt was overshadowed by a more prominent advert for Walker's Warrington & Falstaff Ales. This game played against York City at the old Sealand Road ground in September 1934 resulted in a 5-1 win for the home side.

Very few pre-war programmes give any details of attendances, but this one was the exception, not only informing the public of how many supporters had attended the games, but also giving the gate receipts too. The first team was averaging in the region of 9,000 spectators at each home league game, with the reserves, who competed in the Cheshire League, getting more than 2,000 a game to watch them. The highest gate receipts that season to date had been a paltry £492.9s.6d. for a game against Hartlepool which had attracted a gate of 8,979. By my reckoning, I make that an average admission price of 5p per customer, a bit different from the prices paid to watch Chester City play these days.

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