The View from the Bar
Now, regular readers of this column (if indeed there are any) will be familiar with me banging on about picking up bits and pieces for the collection – a tattered old home programme from the early-sixties here, maybe a fifties issue from Andover there, and every one of those finds is important – it’s another fragment of our club history recaptured, another piece of the jigsaw found, and there’s a genuine thrill, for me at least, when another item comes into my possession. Months can pass when nothing comes up at all, when you start thinking that maybe that’s it, you’ve collected everything out there, and there’s nothing left that hasn’t been consigned to the tip, a bin, or heartbreakingly (as I’ve heard about in the past) a bonfire. But then something comes along again – more often than not on ebay – and a few quid later there’s a flimsy programme from a long-forgotten Russell-Cotes Cup match against Totton dropping through the letter box. Hope is restored, and the thrill of the chase, and the find, resumes.
Few collectors ever experience a day like the one I had a couple of weeks ago, though. Just a week or two before I had been bemoaning the fact to Pete Jeffery that I didn’t have any programmes from the early 1930’s featuring our most famous and prolific strike duo of Percy Cherrett (ex. Crystal Palace, Plymouth, Portsmouth et al) and George Reader (who went on to referee the de facto 1950 World Cup Final) – you’ll have heard a bit about their goal-scoring exploits on these pages before. So anyway, not long after I got up to the club for the Christchurch match Pete beckoned me into the committee room and told me to sit down, which I did.
“Not there”, he said, “that chair there”. I duly swapped seats, albeit a bit confused.
“Do you remember what you were saying to me the other day?” he continued. “Well, take a look under that bag”. I lifted a plastic bag on the seat next to me to reveal a sizeable stack of old programmes. Many were bound together with a piece of string, and the top few were a bit raggy, but the vast majority were in overall pretty good nick. I couldn’t believe my eyes – it was a near-complete run of home programmes from the start of the 1930-31 season to midway through the 1933-34 season – 62 in total – plus a dozen-or-so loose issues from the 1950’s.
Bill Murray’s postman had, apparently, turned up at his door one day recently and given them to him. Said he’d been clearing out a garage and came across them, and wondered if anyone at the club would be interested. Interested? That doesn’t even come close. I’d have been thrilled to find just one of these on ebay, and would have paid a fair bit too, had that happened. But here, in a crumpled, grubby, but simply quite wonderful pile, was the embodiment of one of the most successful periods in our cub’s history, each one annotated with the score and scorers, then filed away, and ultimately left forgotten in a garage to be rediscovered over eighty years later.
There’s not much to them, truth be told. Each is just a single folded sheet. No club notes, just the team line-ups printed in red, at the centre of a page otherwise taken up by adverts in blue. But I can’t begin to talk about the significance, what they represent. Each programme marks another ninety minutes of football here at Westwood, where many hundreds – often two or three thousand – Cowes folk would gather to cheer on The Yachtsmen. A single postman aside, to know that the last person to handle each programme was almost certainly the one who came to these games, who spent the days leading up to the match looking forward to it and the days after talking about it gives an incredible link to our past, our history.
Among the most interesting for general collectors would be a series of four friendlies against Southampton (mostly featuring Reserves and ‘A’ side players at a guess), but my favourite is the 1931-32 home v Newport in an F.A. Cup qualifier. Predictably, Newport won 5-2, but the day is more significant because of the mind-boggling record attendance of 4,815 that packed into our modest Westwood home. And now I’ve got the programme from that historic day.
You’ll be hearing – and seeing – a good deal more about this trove over the coming weeks and months. For now though, we’ve got a game to look forward to, and some more history to create. But if you’re reading this in eighty years time, the programme rescued from a dusty pile in a dark corner of a forgotten space, don’t doubt for a second the passion and love that we have for this club, just like it was eighty years and more before now, and hopefully just as it will be for generations to come. Up the Yachtsmen!
Enjoy the game,