History of the Arsenal Programme – 1970-71 Season

This is the first of a series of articles looking at Arsenal programmes through recent decades. These were first published in The Gooner fanzine.

It was only really in the late 1960s that the programme developed from what you might call a ‘statistical pamphlet’ into a magazine, with most of the features we associate with the publication: action pictures, players ‘at home’, letters and opinion pieces, as well as the ever-present fixtures and results, club details and information on the day’s opponents.

For this article I’m looking at programmes from 1970-71 season, a momentous year for Arsenal as they stepped fully and gloriously back out of the shadow that had been cast from N17 since 1961. Arsenal had just won their first trophy for 17 years, the Fairs Cup, after a couple of losing League Cup finals. With a now experienced manager in Bertie Mee and a good mix of experience and youth in the squad, things were looking up.Arsenal programme 1971 - Copy

The programme itself was a mere 16 pages of slightly larger than A5 size, and priced at the start of the season at one shilling. Full colour pictures were still for special issues only (the first time full colour had been used in the programme was three years earlier, and colour pictures when used were often actually black and white photographs ‘colourised’ after developing), and the cover remained unchanged from game to game, save for the date and opponents. In fact this was the same basic cover design as the previous two seasons, though the background pictures changed. For 1970-71, the background was a montage of pictures from the previous season’s triumph in Europe. As the season progressed there was one further change: decimalisation meant that the price became five new pence mid-season.

There were no pages of thoughts from either the manager or captain on a regular basis in 1970-71, and the first two inside pages of the programme contained the ‘Topics of the Week’. For the match against Huddersfield Town on August 25, 1970, the topic – handily for me – was how the programme was produced. This revealed that the printing didn’t start until the day before the match, in case of postponements – a legacy of hard winters in the 1960s when whole print runs had to be destroyed when games were called off – and as few as 25,000 programmes might be printed for a match ‘against a not very attractive side’, or as many as 48,000 against Man Utd. From those figures it appears they reckoned on producing up to 10,000 fewer programmes than the expected gate. The Man Utd match had drawn 54,117 fans, while a low home gate around that time was 30,000-35,000. However, later in the season the programme for the Newcastle match notes that a club record 60,477 programmes were sold for the Chelsea match that drew a season-high crowd of 62,087!

It was also noted that getting the team listings right was becoming more difficult, as although substitutions had only been allowed in the league for five years at that point, managers were starting to get into the annoying habit of naming a squad of 13 and picking the 11 on the day.

The Huddersfield programme also contains a picture of an injured Charlie George on the Highbury front steps, surrounded by autograph hunters, after breaking his ankle scoring against Everton in the season-opener two weeks previously. The incident itself is also pictured in glorious black and white in the match action section.Arsenal programme 1971 1 - Charlie George injured

There’s a feature on Bob Wilson’s punditry at the summer’s Mexico World Cup. It seems Bob virtually invented expert analysis of the Gary Neville kind, putting together highlights from matches to show themes developing in teams’ play. The one letter printed in this issue urges players to shoot more from distance rather than try and beat more players and get nearer the goal. Oddly familiar.

The following month in the programme for a match against West Brom, there is an interesting question and club answer in the letters page on the subject of the club’s motto: ‘What does it mean?’ asks RL Hessey of London SW2. The editor responds that the loose translation is ‘Victory through Harmony, and it was adopted at the suggestion of his editorial predecessor after Arsenal’s 1948 Championship win to refer to the great sense of harmony at the club that led to that first post-war triumph. The old club badge (featuring the motto) that many of us remember fondly was designed sometime after that 1948 success by Bob Wall (club secretary) and Jack Crayston (former player, and at the time assistant manager, later manager).

Later in the season, with Arsenal safely through to a first FA Cup Final in two decades, there are Wembley souvenirs advertised, including a wool scarf (73p plus 4p postage), silk scarf (75p plus 3p postage) and rosette (15p plus 3p postage). Interestingly these are all listed as being in the ‘Cup Final colours’ of ‘Gold/Blue’ rather than yellow/blue.

The FA Cup semi-final and replay were concluded in March 1971, while there were still ten league matches to go. Arsenal won the first six of those, conceding only one goal in the process, and were top of the table on goal difference with two games in hand. This led to talk of the Double – at least from fans writing to the programme. The editor merely noted the good form of recent matches and the possibility of a League success, without getting carried away.

There were several letters on the subject of Cup Final ticket allocation – always a problem with the FA’s distribution policy for their showpiece match. In those days of course you collected the vouchers from programmes through the season to apply, though season ticket holders jumped the queue. The problems of touting were also discussed, with ‘the spivs’, as the programme editor referred to them, causing problems with tickets for the Cup semi-final replay. A supporter wrote of his dismay that Arsenal had returned unsold tickets after just one evening of 20,000 on sale, before he had a chance to buy one, only for him to be offered a whole sheaf by a tout at 100 per cent mark up immediately afterwards.

Ticket problems aside, it was a happy end to the season of course, as Arsenal triumphed at both Wembley and White Hart Lane. But I leave you with the words of a specially written song to honour the Fairs Cup triumph of 1970, printed in the programme for supporters to sing along with the Metropolitan Police Band and vocalist PC Alex Morgan:
We are the champions
(clap, clap, clap, clap, clap)
Fairs Cup Champions now
A – R – S – E – N – A – L
Come on let’s take a bow
We are the champions
(clap, clap, clap, clap, clap)
Fairs Cup Champions now
Two, four, six, eight, ten, eleven
No one can show us how
I doubt it caught on so I think I’ll spare you the rest!

Click to read about season 1971-72.

Twitter: @AngryOfN5


One thought on “History of the Arsenal Programme – 1970-71 Season

  1. “It was only really in the late 1960s that the programme developed from what you might call a ‘statistical pamphlet’ into a magazine, with most of the features we associate with the publication”

    You might want to add some programmes from 1949-50 onwards to your collection.

    There’s a complete online version of one from 1952-53 in this blog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.