Bird’s Eye View – Coventry City’s classic column for ladies

Coventry City vs Falkirk football programme

By Miles McClagan

The secret admission no programme collector ever wants to say out loud is that a lot of football programmes are rubbish: a lot of football programmes from the “Glory days” are little more than basic documents, extending themselves to giving an old boy a column to rant about something, but documenting little more than today’s teams, that the ref loves his fishing, and that Elsie is organising a whist drive at the social club. It’s strange that a collector will dip deep into this wallet for an 8 page Tottenham programme for instance where the highlight is that Joe Kinnear twisted his ankle…

Coventry City shared my angst back in the day, and thus after an off-season of thought and insight, they managed in the 1971/72 season to make the single greatest programme ever printed. The back page featured the famous/infamous “Girl Of The Match” feature in which readers were invited to pick their favourite scantily clad model from a series to win a prize. The programme gave away free blankets, gave training hints (mostly don’t over do it), had a dot to dot that never looked like the person they hoped it would (no way that’s Ian St John) and glorious 1970s ads. It was pretty much a revolution. Every programme is a singular work of art, far above the norm. It could be the only season programme where you genuinely have to collect them all, just to see what the hell they might do next…

However the cherry on the glorious cake are the two “Hers” pages, dedicated entirely to attracting female fans and giving them something to read – a noble idea, but not exactly, shall we say, dripping with girl power. Starting with a profile of a player’s wife, who always stayed at home and made the tea (Sheila Asprey for instance had to make a steak to calm her husband down, Dorothy Coop had “a fascinating rubber tree plant”, while Maggie Cantwell was “very feminine and loved to dress up”, matron), running through some about the house tips (sample: don’t throw away stale bread, and a helpful hint not to buy winceyette nighties for the kids lest they catch fire) it was so far, so 1950s.

For the purposes of this article though, we will have a look at the opposite page which featured recipes and the greatest column ever written – Bird’s Eye View. And yes, “Bird” being a British slang term for female just ramps up the greatness. A column that offered handy hints for women, sit back, relax, and enjoy the magic of how Jimmy Hill and 1970s Coventry City helped out the little lady around the house…

Bird's Eye View Coventry City

Slimming Tips

The programme started off strong on opening day against Stoke by offering dieting tips and a slimming guide. Suggesting a diet that seemed to be nothing but crispbreads and milk, the best line was that a diet could turn an “un-remarkable woman into something fairly arresting” – good news if you were unremarkable, but bad if you hated crispbreads…and also a message undermined by the recipe for Coventry Godcakes…

Banking Tips

Oh how I love this one. Taken from the Derby County programme, this one sought to let the little lady uncover the terrifying world of banking. Do you know Bank Managers are people too? A column that literally broke down what a bank is (“banks are shops, money shops…”) and ended with the terrifying thought of how not having a bank account could lead to your TV being repossessed in front of the kids. There is no part of this column that isn’t insane.

Gardening Tips

Things got a little more sane for the visit of Newcastle, as the little lady got a break from her diet and banking woes with a chance to potter gently around the garden while husband earned a living. Although it is worth wondering exactly who had country friends who could offer “self-sewn seedlings”…

Papier- Mâché tips

For the Texaco Cup visit of Falkirk, it was time to let the ladies’ hair down a bit and tackle the big issue of the day: how best to make papier- mâché crafts with the kids. Have fun ladies! Although not advised for the squeamish, by the end our papier- mâché enthusiast is going WAY over the top: anyone following this column literally will have papier- mâché bins, cupboards full of “pretty containers”, unusual bracelets all over the house, and probably an intervention from the neighbours…

Guy Fawkes Day Tips

From the Crystal Palace programme, topical tips to get through fireworks night, with literal details as to what the fireworks actually are if you have no idea. Sparklers are “little metal sticks with a combustible mixture”. The best bit though is the advice about the bonfire that suggests dumping everything on the bonfire to “save the dustman some trouble” – trust me, I’m from the UK, no one spreads gossip and slander like a dustman…

Rust Tips

“Nothing can be more disheartening than…standing back helplessly and watching the rust break through” – alarming stuff from the programme for the friendly against Gornik Zabrze. Much like the Papier-Mache tips, this has a generally alarmist tone. “You must remove every last scrap of it,” it intones, setting Coventry housewives all over the house with a magnifying glass, looking for rust in a panic…

Air and Exercise Tip

Taken from the visit of Leicester City, we finish with maybe the best of the lot. Husband’s at work, spending his day sitting down or standing up. So what does the wife do?  Reads this column for exercise tips and being reminded to breathe. That said they would be “fools to give up their labour saving gadgets”, but they are encouraged to “twiddle your toes inside your shoes”…

But wait, there’s more…

The good thing for me is, these columns are still out there, and I haven’t seen them all yet, but they are genius. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m building up the courage to talk to my bank manager. Any minute now…

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