There are arguably too many ways we can find out about football. Club websites, apps, 24 hour breaking news, message boards, podcasts, club TV channels, regular TV channels and of course the good old public prints. A lot of this is digital, accessible from the swipe of a smartphone. I myself often check the scores from other grounds when watching Hibs. Sometimes, though, this backfires such as recently when we played Celtic and I had to wait for the PA announcer to tell me the scores since everybody and their granny was using their mobile data and I couldn’t. Analogue is very often best and it’s why I’m writing in defence of another form of print media: the match day programme. I went back to football after a bit of an absence in 2014 and I have a programme from each and every game since, well, except the recent match at Ross County where I had to make do with a printed teamsheet. Some of them are battered, others have been in the rain, even some fairly pristine, placed under my seat and conveyed home after the day’s proceedings have concluded.
Programmes are probably irrelevant now. As I said, pretty much anything can be found online. But still I buy one and I read it, usually before the game and over half-time. Most of interest are usually the away programmes. In the pile from this current season I have examples from Celtic, Dundee and Alloa, plus the aforementioned Ross County teamsheet. They vary considerably in quality, in every sense of that word, though from each is usually a clear sense of dedication to the club, of love even. The Alloa programme from the 3-0 drubbing Hibs administered on a drookit July afternoon has real, genuine opinions, a far cry from the normal corporate PR stuff. One article begins:
‘It doesn’t seem so long since we were all staggering out of the Indodrill Stadium punch drunk after the play-off epic, yet here we are back for the start of the new season.’
They are also a reminder of days past, some half-forgotten, others very clear. One of my most prized possessions is the programme for the 2016 Scottish Cup Final, which gets kept with the rest of my souvenirs from that wonderful day, a haul that also includes newspapers, books and DVDs. The Alloa game I mentioned earlier saw me sitting in a gazebo and still getting absolutely soaking. Going through my programme pile last night brought back other memories. A Hearts programme from 2014-15 reminded me that our captain Sir David Gray once had a full head of hair. The Rangers programme from 13th February 2015 had me back in the away end at Ibrox with all of us Hibees going absolutely berserk as Lewis Stevenson scored our second that night. Also memorable that night was the cry from the Hibs end when we were kept in to let the Rangers hordes out. Not long before The Rangers had put their manager Ally McCoist on gardening leave. As the ground emptied, a groundsman came out on a tractor, prompting ‘Ally, Ally, gies a wave’.
I’m not a collector. I’m a reader and genuinely I like to read the programme to get the lie of the land. Or to be enlightened. The Hibs programmes invariably feature on games and players past, usually penned by Tom Wright of the Hibs Historical Trust. Last season’s were about Hibs playing in America in 1967. Most programmes usually feature something historical, usually a link to both clubs, like Dundee recently, which was very polished, professional and actually accomplished in that respect. Yes, very often a programme is a PR tool of the club that prints them. They are often expensive, such as at a semi or a final when they are usually a fiver at least. More at a concert. But they are a reminder of the game that transpired, a historical document to supplement hazy memories, often bearing the marks of the event itself, the rain or the tears or even the pie grease. I imagine my pile will continue to grow, at least until it fills more than the cupboard it currently inhabits, at which point I’ll probably have to reconsider. Not the football, I hasten to add. I’m too far gone for that.
Further reading –
The Scottish Supporters Network, Programmes In The Digital Age, accessible via http://www.scottishsupporters.net/programmes-in-the-digital-age/