What do you usually find on the front cover of a football programme? In the 1970s, odds were that Sideburn Bob would make an appearance. Inaction photos were also a favourite.
But over the decades, clubs have regularly featured their home grounds on the cover of matchday programmes, handbooks and the like. Aerial shots, crowd shots, non-matchday shots with empty stands, the lot.
Opening with the red and yellow turnstiles at Albion Rovers and closing with a sepia rendering of Cathkin Park, the book covers grounds from different levels of British football.
Covers include Middlesborough’s farewell to Ayresome Park, Peterborough United vs Reading at London Road for a Worthington Cup tie, and Shrewsbury Town’s last league match at Gay Meadow.
Many of the football grounds featured in the book exist no more. Others, such as Stamford Bridge, have been redeveloped beyond recognition.
Mike has harvested these covers from his own extensive collection of football programmes. Some of the covers feature his own photos, including the cover photo of Doncaster Rovers’ Belle Vue ground.
The selection of covers is evocative. The photos provide a stark contrast between the British game’s roots and its modern day incarnation. An all-seater stand with functioning toilets is possibly preferable to a muddy, exposed hill, or a urine-soaked terrace, but there is a certain romance about the old grounds and their flat-cap wearing occupants.
Programme pricing over the years is also intriguing. Huddersfield Town charged £5 for a programme in 1994 (admittedly a souvenir edition for the last match at Leeds Road), and 6d in 1966.
We also see the transformation of programme covers, from black-and-white leaflets to flashily-designed full-colour booklets.
It’s an intriguing book for any football fan. Ground-spotters and programme collectors will tremble with excitement at every turn of the page.
You can buy Covered at Mike’s website, Football Grounds Frenzy.