Friday, 25 October 2013

Football League Review, 30 April 1969

The young woman perched on the end of a factory bench may have sent a frisson of excitement through many a male football fan back in 1969. With the greatest of respect, it wasn't so much her as the kit that had the desired effect for this was an early chance to see what the England football team were going to be wearing at the 1970 World Cup Finals.

Further details were provided on the inside pages. "Umbro, who have been making all the new kit in recent years, have produced a new, classical shirt line in specially developed light cellular material. The shorts are in poplin, with single elastic waist, wide vents, and inset cotton cellular panels. It has all been designed to resist the hot climate. Even the stockings are made of light, nylon yarn." We knew the atmosphere at Mexico '70 was electric, but we never knew it was caused by the static charge of England's socks...

This was the cover story from the Football League Review, a 24-page programme produced by the Football League that appeared as an insert in the match-day programmes of many clubs between 1965 and 1975. Created to give supporters a wider awareness of issues from across the league structure, these programmes were a brilliant collection of interesting opinion pieces, factual items, colour pictures and numerous bits of froth and nonsense.

Leeds United team picture

In this issue, the last to be produced for the 1968-69 season, there were many thought-provoking articles that were sure to coax an opinion from even the most passive of fans. In 'Platform', Geoffrey T. Allman noted the success of Third Division teams in the early years of the League Cup and offered some reasons why.

"...Many so-called 'little' clubs have a far greater range of performance than their First Division counterparts. They can reach great heights, hit great depths yet their average performance is often no more than moderate. Division One clubs vary less from week to week; their average performance is usually good, but on days when they raise their game the difference is not so great. It is therefore possible for a good Third Division team to produce an optimum performance which is superior to a First Division team's average performance."

Football League Review's editor, Harry Brown, added fuel to the debate that there was a growing gap in ability between the clubs in England's top two divisions. He noted a comment from Sunday Times writer Brian Glanville that "promoted clubs should put off delusions of grandeur. An ability gap exists; and is likely to grow."

To that end, many observers had noted the plight of Queens Park Rangers, promoted from the Second Division in 1967-68 but ultimately relegated back again just after this issue of the Football League Review was published. Harry Brown concluded that this wasn't necessarily a reflection on the ability of Second Division clubs to survive, and offered evidence that Wolves and Southampton (both promoted in 1966) were still surviving after struggling initially.

"Perhaps Bert Head of Crystal Palace puts the Ability Gap into a nutshell. He says: "It all depends on your players. If they haven't got the ability, they haven't." AND THAT'S A FACT" said Brown, leaning heavily on his Caps Lock key.

Reading team picture

Plans for the 1970 World Cup were uppermost in the minds of organisers and administrators alike, and in 'League View' we find an interesting narrative that could chime with England's preparation for a winter World Cup in 2022.

"At the end of next season, England and, it is to be hoped, some of the other Home Countries, will be wanting to leave not later than May 1 for Mexico" said the editorial piece. "The Football League fixture list for next season has been arranged in consultation with the Home Associations with one object in mind... to get the League competition finished not later than the middle of April."

And so the details were given. The 1970 FA Cup Final would be moved to April 11, the Home International Championship would be played over one week from April 18, and many midweek fixtures were to be crammed into the early part of the 1969-70 season before the bad weather arrived to minimise the number of postponements.

Disagreements and inconvenience for the clubs was foreseen due to the number of matches having to be rearranged or fitted into such a short timeframe, but the Football League were pleading peace and understanding to ensure a happy outcome.

"It has to be done, but it is unlikely to be done without a great deal of heartsearching. Now is the time for everyone - legislators, clubs, players, press and public - to get the record straight."

Another important issue in the game of 1969 was player discipline. Football League Review crunched the numbers and spotted an upward trend in the number of bookings, yet the total number sent off appeared to be remaining steady.

"The amount of violent play is not substantially different from what it was a decade ago, but today there is much more petty argument, much more dissent, much more gamesmanship than there used to be." The inclusion of a picture showing Leeds player Billy Bremner remonstrating with a referee was no doubt coincidental.

Previous assumptions made in the national press were based on the fact that growing indiscipline was a result of 'bonuses' and 'the pursuit of a chance to compete in European competitions.' Football League Review, however, helpfully pointed out the flaw in the argument. "This season the percentage increase in cautions in Divisions Two, Three and Four are higher than in the First Division... If these figures prove anything, they prove that discipline is not related to the frenzy of the Big Game, the chance to compete in Europe, or the effect of cash."

In a lighter vein, 'Soccer's Sound of Music' considered the conflicting views of football fans regarding their choice of pre-match musical entertainment. While some were asking "whatever happened to the brass bands that used to entertain before a game in the old days?" others were clearly favouring the muffled pleasures of 'top ten records' playing out over a tannoy system.

"Stoke City went so far as to provide their fans with classical music, but assistant manager Derek Hodgson admits that the experiment "was not a success" and the idea was dropped after a few games" it said. Now there is a surprise...

Better, no doubt, was Coventry City whose Sky Blues radio provided fans with record requests and pre-match interviews with players and personalities. As for the more traditional types, there was always the old-fashioned brass band playing still at "Arsenal, West Ham and Southampton."

As it was nearly season's end, Football League Review announced the winners of two lesser-known competitions created to provide some silverware for clubs whose trophy cabinets might have been somewhat empty-looking.

Swindon Town, fresh from their League Cup win at Wembley over Arsenal, were also handed the John White Football League Supporters' trophy, having been assessed by a panel headed by League secretary Alan Hardaker. As well as that, they also had the undoubted privilege of being able to fly a special 'Crowd of the Season' pennant at their home ground - surely worth more than silverware every time.

As for QPR, they made off with Football League Review's award for Best Programme. Over a thousand readers sent in their comments and the Loftus Road club came out on top ahead of Manchester United and Wolves.

But the final word has to come from the Post Bag feature which has a wonderful correspondence from M. Ronsley of Potters Bar in Hertfordshire. We're filing this one under 'Never in this day and age'...

The reader says:

"I wonder whether any other supporters of teams who play in white shirts have noticed the confusion that sometimes arises.

"In two recent Second Division games, I have seen the team playing in white shirts accidentally passing the ball to programme sellers in white overalls who walk round the pitch while the game is in progress.

"It may sound an amusing situation, but I don't think it's funny. Can't something be done to end this possible confusion?"

Football League Review - tackling the tough issues of modern football since 1965.


  1. I mentioned this on Twitter but a Linesman (yes, that's what they were called in 1972) mistook a programme seller in his white overcoat for a Stoke City defender in an FA Cup semi final replay and allowed John Radford, who was offside, to score for Arsenal.

    Andy Rockall

  2. It's OK, Andy - you're allowed to say 'linesman' here. In fact it's very much encouraged... :)

    I've not heard about that programme seller incident before, so thanks for bringing that to our attention. Just goes to show it was a matter that needed to be taken seriously!