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Chris Lakey: A glossy part of our footballing life we should not discard

PUBLISHED: 13:01 04 May 2018 | UPDATED: 13:01 04 May 2018

Are football programmes destined to be a thing of the past? Picture: PA

Are football programmes destined to be a thing of the past? Picture: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

It was probably November, 1972. The ground was definitely Highfield Road and if I have the date right, then the game finished Coventry City 3 Sheffield United 0.

It was a school trip, courtesy of the Queen’s Boys’ School, Wisbech. I was 12 years old.

I remember the game itself more because the noisy kids from the fens made such a racket, the Daily telegraph actually gave us a mention in their match report. Not that we knew what the Daily Telegraph was – if it wasn’t the Express, then it wasn’t read in my household.

I remember the bus journey there and back. I say next to a lad called Gerald. We’d not really spoken much before (he was from town, I was from a village), but we got on like a house on fire. I have been his best man (twice) and we undertook our footballing education (and other types of education too), step by step, together.

We holidayed together, we left school together. When he moved away to work, me and his dad continued to go to football together, to pop up to The Bell at Walsoken, just up the road from Wisbech’s old ground, for a pint.

Me and Gerald don’t see much of each other nowadays and his lovely dad has passed away.

Lives change, people move on, in all sorts of ways.

But in my mum’s loft there remains a few of my childhood treasures, including a football match programme dated November 18, 1972. Coventry v Sheffield United. It has been read a hundred times. It’s got a nasty looking orange mark which I believe may have been from a packet of Quavers, or some Opal Fruits (made to make your mouth water).

It is tangible evidence of a friendship forged on a cold winter afternoon which has lasted forever.

I’ve got a programme from Peterborough v Ipswich in the FA Cup at the beginning of the same year - I went with my late uncle Johnny. I’ve got a Nottingham Forest v Manchester United programme from March 1970 when I got a bus from home to Wisbech then the 360 to Peterborough, stopping outside one of the gates at Perkins Engines where I hopped into a red sports car driven my a friend of my dad‘s which whisked me (barely inches from the road it seemed) off to the City ground to see Matt Busby and his star-studded Best, Law and Charlton boys.

There are more of these football programmes which need one cursory glance to ignite a million memories, of friendship and adventure and derring-do for a little kid from a village in the sticks. The football programme can become a date in life’s calendar, a marker of significant moments in one’s life.

Yet there may be no more – clubs will vote at the Football League’s AGM next month to scrap the rule that says they must produce a programme on match days. Some clubs say it is not financially viable in the face of competition from digital and social media.

They won’t disappear altogether, but some clubs may decide that history has no place in the game, that these shiny little bundles of joy have, over the years, become superfluous to the life of a football fan. We don’t need them. We have our gizmos with which to follow every bit of matchday news – and more – that we require. And I would not be without my gizmo.

But the football programme brings us that bit extra. It’s like getting an emailed birthday card: it’s not the same as the one in a sealed envelope the postman delivers.

Football programmes are traditional and while the game appears to be intent on shedding its past, there must be a middle ground. Otherwise, life’s landmarks are in danger of being no more. We will have fewer things to remember our time on this planet – the fun bits at least.

You’d hope that one of the great social influences on our life - football - would know its place in history.

Gee whiz

I really hoped Steven Gerrard had gone fishing when it came to the Rangers job.

Gerrard’s interest became very public earlier this week when he confirmed he had held talks with Rangers and came to a boil yesterday when media outlets began reporting he had agreed a deal with the Scottish Premier League club.

It had been suggested Gerrard was just “putting it out there” that he was looking to move into management and that the Rangers link was just a red alert for other clubs who might be looking to make a managerial change.

But, much to my surprise but perhaps not to everyone else’s, there was truth in the rumour.

Surprise because it is such a tough job. The once fruitcake club appear to be back on the straight and narrow, but it would also appear that Celtic are as tough a nut to crack as they were years ago when the two Glasgow giants were on an equal footing.

It’s a brave introductory step to the world of top-level management for Gerrard – no amount of experience on the playing side will be taken into account if he fails.

Had there been vacancies at somewhere like Aberdeen, Hibs or Kilmarnock they would have been better for Gerrard – not as much pressure, not as much expectation and not as much green and white derision awaiting your every failing.

And I am disappointed for a not very valid reason either: Gerrard has become a fine pundit on BT Sport. Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand form a perfect team. Add in Paul Scholes, the finest English player to grace the Premier League, and the team is complete.

Gerrard isn’t a smiler, so there’s a gravitas to what he says. Even the others sit up straight and listen.

Hopefully, it won’t all end up the same way as it did for Gary Neville; a fine pundit who tried his hand in management at Valencia, failed, and is now back at Sky Sports doing what he does best.

If Gerrard fails on what may well be his Liverpool managerial apprenticeship trail, no doubt he will back... although given what happened to his old team-mate Jamie Carragher, Ferdinand and Lampard will need to stay out of trouble...

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