Monthly Archives: April 2018

Back to the Proper Business

After the ‘transition’ season immediately following WW2, football resumed properly on 31st August 1946 after a break of almost exactly 7 years. The general public were desperate to get back to (sporting) normality and Bryon Butler’s Official History of the Football League  said that ‘football offered excitement, a sign of normality and the promise of of a better tomorrow in one heady and irresistible package’.

Albion took their place in Division Three (South) with an opening fixture against Port Vale at The Goldstone. The fixture list was the same as for the aborted 1939/40 season, another attempt to give the impression of normality. The ground was in a sorry state, having suffered bomb damage during the war. Money to make the repairs was in short supply and the club obtained a large amount of government surplus ‘battleship-grey’ paint. This was liberally daubed all round the ground, resulting in the pseudonym ‘HMS Goldstone’

Page 1The programme for the game was an eight-page issue, larger in size than the previous season’s offering. Inside, the content was sparse, evidence that the club had a lot of work to do, building on the post-war positivity seen in the previous campaign.

Crosse & Blackwell were back on the front page but the panel below was blank.  The twin crests of Brighton & Hove appear above a list of club officials, with Charles Wakeling listed as Chairman. Mr Wakeling had steered the club through the difficult war years and he was to continue in the role until 1951. He was a prolific author on football and the money he made from these publications was often used to help the club financially.

Page 2 lists the fixtures for the season, for both the first team and reserves, above an advert for the Brighton Corporation Electricity Department. Their slogan was ‘The Best way is the Electric Way’, in an attempt to modernise the way we ran our homes after the War. The Corporation was based in Electric House, an imposing Art Deco building in Castle Square, now occupied by Royal Bank of Scotland.

Turning to page three, we see the first example of what was to evolve into ‘Club News’ over the years, penned by Victor Champion, the club Press Manager. Mr Champion opens with a note of real positivity, saying New hopes arise in the hearts of Albion supporters this afternoon, there is a feeling of confidence in the Albion camp”. The previous season had been spent assembling a squad of permanent players, to replace the wartime system of ‘guest’ players. With another game coming up four days later, Mr Champion ends his article by saying These two matches so close together should give home supporters some concrete idea of what the season holds for them”. The War had decimated the numbers of young players available and for the opening game, we fielded a line-up which was the oldest in the history of the club, with an average age of 31.

Page 4-5The centre-pages are a familiar sight. The teams are laid out in the centre of the page, surrounded by a number of adverts for local companies. These include FryCo, the soft drink manufacturer based in Portslade. Founded in 1984, the company had moved to Victoria Road in 1920, manufacturing a large range of ‘Delicious Squashes and Table Waters’. To encourage the football fan to buy their products, Fryco offer ‘Half Time refreshers’ and ‘Full Time favourites’. They were to become a stalwart advertiser in the programme in seasons to come.

Page 7The back half of the programme was almost completely blank, with each page urging prospective advertisers to take up space. One of these slots was ‘reserved for C Baker & Co Ltd of Portslade’. A wholesale tobacconist, with a factory in Portslade and a shop in St Georges Place, Bakers obviously ran out of time when it came to submitting their advertising copy!

As the season wore on, advertisers returned to the club and by the time Exeter City visited in December 1946, the programme was looking much healthier. The game against The Grecians took place on Christmas Day and is the last time we played at home on December 25th.

The blank panel on the front cover of the programme was taken up by The King Alfred Restaurant, offering ‘Luncheons, Teas and Dinner. Dancing Wednesdays and Fridays’. The King Alfred complex was started in 1938 but as war intervened, the building was requisitioned by the Admiralty as a training complex and became HMS King Alfred. The building was eventually finished after the War and was opened for public use in August 1946. The King Alfred was to become a regular fixture in Albion programme for years.

BHA v Exeter 25 Dec 1946 1The Brighton Corporation still believed in the benefits of electricity and enhanced their adverts with drawings of the latest state of the art gadgets, which included cookers, kettles and water heaters.

Mr Champion was at his festive best, passing on ‘All the Very Best’ from the club; The Albion Directors extend to the players, the Executive Staff, the ground Staff and the Sport-Minded folk who consistently support the Club, the compliments of the season”. He goes to provide a mid-season update and we are told “Barracking does not affect players”; “The Board can take all the criticism that is coming to them”; and “‘HMS Goldstone’ will shed its battle-ship grey when controls are removed”. 

The Evening Argus push their Saturday Football Special underneath Mr Champion’s article, who also writes for the paper under the name ‘Crusader’. Blank advertising spaces were filled by more local companies, including Moody’s Motors of Davigdor Road, Hove.

In the spirit of post-war togetherness and re-building, C Baker & Co used their space in the programme to ‘Offer this space, gratis, for the purpose of advertising any charitable function that may be held during the football season’.

The programme ends with yet more adverts. The Restaurant Imperial near the Clock Tower in North Street promises to ‘Cater for any Party, large or small’ with a Dinner Dance available for 5/- (25p) inclusive. Underneath this was further evidence that electricity was the way forward. Page & Miles Limited at 60 Western Road is the place to go ‘for EVERYTHING electrical’.

Page 3The penultimate programme of the season, for the game in April against Bristol was almost identical to the Christmas Day offering. No-one had come forward to take up the offer made by C Baker & Co and the format of the programme had settled down, much like life after the War. Mr Champion talked to us about International players at The Goldstone. The England team had used the Goldstone’s “Virgin turf” to help them prepare for the forthcoming match against Scotland at Wembley. We are told that “They were greatly impressed with the condition of the pitch and not one of them had seen a better conditioned ground this season”Mr Champion puts this down to the land being originally used for sheep grazing, a practice that continued until after the First World War. The secret, we are told, is “the wonderful fertilising characteristics” of the animals.

Albion fans didn’t exactly flock back to The Goldstone. The average crowd for the 46/47 season was 8,217 and they saw just eight wins in the 21 games. Things had to improve the following season.

Thanks for reading. These blogs will form the basis for what I hope will eventually turn into a book on the Post-War history of the Albion programme. Any feedback is gratefully received.

Ian

Acknowledgements:

My own programme collection is the main source of information for these articles. For the seasons immediately following the War, I am indebted to the help provided by the Albion Collectors & Historians Society, who have lent me programmes from their stock for me to scan. I am particularly grateful to Society member Peter Irvine, the real Albion programme ‘guru’, who sent me scans of the Christmas Day 1946 programme.

Other information was obtained from:

“Seagulls!”The Story of Brighton & Hove Albion FC” by Tim Carder & Roger Harris. Online, Judy Middleton’s blogs on the local area have been invaluable, especially when looking at the history of the companies that advertised in the programme.

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