The mid century stalwart – A brief guide to the News Chronicle Football Annual

Posted: 16th January 2016


The annual had different names before 1930/31 and it would take on a different name after 1960/61.

But through the middle years of the 20th century, the News Chronicle Football Annual was a stalwart publication for football fans for many years, as each season began just, as its sister publication the News Chronicle Cricket Annual was for fans of the Summer game (see Cricket Annuals section of the site).

In the decades before it’s launch, the annual had various predecessors all reflecting the names of their owning newspapers.

Then, for 3 decades, the annual was published annually with useful information, articles and statistics for the football fan.

From 1933/34 (the 4th edition), there were Northern and Southern editions of the annual. Thanks to Goals and Wickets follower, Gordon Small, it seems that the differences in these regional versions related to the leagues shown below the Football League.

As Gordon has pointed out for the 1949-50 editions, ‘the Northern edition has tables and/or fixtures for the Central League, Midland League, Lancashire Combination and North-Eastern League, while the Southern edition has tables and/or fixtures for the Football Combination, the Southern League, the Kent League, the Spartan League, the Isthmian League, the London League, and the Athenian League – plus it also has a report on the Inter-Varsity match and the FA Amateur Cup round-by-round results’.

Although Charles Buchan, the ex England, Sunderland and Arsenal player is perhaps best known for the monthly magazine and Soccer Gift book annuals he created from 1951 onwards, he was the original editor of the News Chronicle Football Annual and this responsibility was only passed on to respected football writers John Camkin and Frank Taylor (who survived the Munich air disaster) for the 1957/58 edition.

Looking back through all the editorial comments made by Buchan and Camkin, many of the issues they raised, whilst pertinent to the specific circumstances of the day, are ones still being debated today, like the differences in playing style between English teams and their Continental opponents at country and club level.

Other issues discussed were attendances, which rose and then fell, especially after the end of the War, transfer fees, player wages and the conservative attitudes of clubs to change, even though bit by bit, new initiatives and policies were introduced, including the introduction of a 4th Division and floodlit matches, to note just two.

The content remained consistent throughout the annual’s life, expanding into the 1950’s and especially at the end of the decade as European competitions were launched. The international scene and especially the England team, F.A. Cup, Football League and the amateur game were all covered.

The statistics included in the annual expanded as time went by especially in relation to club appearances and goals from the previous season and the rosters of players on the staffs of each club.

The importance of the F.A. Cup, another issue debated currently, can be seen by it’s prominent place at the front end of the order of the contents and by the inclusion of the trophy in the front cover design of one edition.

A centre pages section of player and team photographs appeared briefly in the post war editions but then disappeared as fast as it arrived.

When Camkin and Taylor took over as editors, a feature was introduced highlighting the 6 players of the previous season with nice cartoon graphics.

Whilst the annual had evolved out of ownership changes back in the late 1920’s, so the Daily Dispatch was added to the annual’s title in the late 1950’s when that newspaper became part of the News Chronicle.

However, as the 1960’s began, it was all change again and after the demise of the News Chronicle paper, yet another owner and title change took place.

The Dickens Press, the publishing arm of the Daily News, ultimately decided to merge the annual into the Playfair Football Annual but using the small format that had made the News Chronicle Football Annual so popular as opposed to the stylish, slim and slightly larger format that had been used for the Playfair annuals from 1948 until the early 1960’s (a process also adopted with the Playfair Cricket Annual).

So after 25 editions (and one as The Football Annual), the News Chronicle Football Annual continued in the guise of the Playfair Football Annual which survived and continued to flourish until its last edition in 2012/13.

Let’s have a look at the history of the annual breaking up the story into 5 sections.

The post brief guide will then conclude with some comments designed to help collectors of the annual;


1. Late 1890’s to 1930 – Predecessors

In these years, there was a chain of annuals with different owners and names which ultimately lead to the launch of the News Chronicle Football Annual.

If we have a look at the Cricket Annuals section of the site, there is a brief guide to the News Chronicle Cricket Annual and although I have wanted to assume that the titles of the predecessor annuals of the cricket version of the annual would apply to the football annual predecessors too, there is not as much information on the football versions of those annuals.

Here is what I have found and can feel reasonably confident about stating.

The chain of cricket annuals began in 1897 when the Star and Leader Cricket Manual was launched, lasting for 3 years. So far, I have not found a football version.

In 1900 the Star and Leader Cricket Manual became the Morning Leader Cricket Annual until 1908. The name changed again between 1909 and 1911 to the Morning Leader Cricket and Sports Annual becoming the Morning Leader Cricket Annual again in 1912. There was a Morning Leader Football Annual.

In 1913/14, the cricket annual became the Daily News and Leader Cricket Annual and after the Great War, the annual became the Daily News Cricket and Tennis Annual between 1921 and 1926. Between 1927 and 1930, the name changed to the Daily News Cricket Annual.

There was a Daily News and Leader Football Annual from 1913/14 and from 1919, a Daily News Football Annual;



2. 1930/31 to 1939/40 – The early years

For the 1930/31 season, the annual’s name then changed again to become the News Chronicle Football Annual.

The size, design and contents of the annual would remain consistent through the 1930’s until the 2nd World War brought publication to a halt after 1939/40 edition.


#1. 1930/31


The editor of the newly titled annual was former Sunderland, Arsenal and England international Charles Buchan who had retired recently and taken up a job as a journalist with the News Chronicle newspaper.

Although most football enthusiasts will associate Buchan with the Football Monthly magazine and Soccer Gift Book annual that he published from the early 1950’s onwards, this earlier News Chronicle pocket football annual was Buchan’s first experience as an editor of a football annual.

Indeed, the early editions of the annual emphasised Buchan’s former player status on the front cover, announcing that the publication was ‘by Charles Buchan (The Famous International)’.

The contents opened with an editorial called ‘General Review’ which was a summary of the state of the game and also the highlights of the previous season’s football. The content then looked at the previous year’s international matches and went on to cover the Cups in England and Scotland, the league clubs and their playing staff and then published a list of the fixtures for the upcoming season division by division.

The contents then went on to look at the results of the previous season and finally a review of the main amateur leagues including end of season tables.


#2. 1931/32


At the start of the 2nd year of issue, 1931/32, the content was in the same style and order as the first issue.

One small change from the first issue was the front cover bottom end border claim, ‘FIRST AND FOREMOST’.

In his editorial comments under the title of ‘A General Review’, Charles Buchan commented on the negative effects of the depression on attendances.

Whilst his comment that high transfer fees for players may have peeked were being made during difficult economic times for everyone, not just those in football, such a view would be made in the future too and I wonder what Buchan would make of the modern game with players being transferred for millions?

Like the first issue of the annual, this edition was 144 pages long.


#3. 1932/33


On the front cover of the 1932/33 edition, a change was made to the bottom border words which now read ‘REPORTS, RECORDS, TEAMS AND FIXTURES

Whilst Charles Buchan acknowledged continuing difficult times for the economy, it seemed that football was still holding its interest amongst the fans with good attendances, especially at the England / Scotland international.

Buchan noted Everton‘s 1st Division win, Newcastle United‘s F.A. Cup triumph and in Scotland, Motherwell‘s success in winning the Scottish League and breaking the dominance of Celtic and Rangers.

The annual was 144 pages long.


#4. 1933/34 


In the 1933/34 edition, for the first time, the front cover noted a Southern Edition or a Northern edition.


As Gordon Small pointed out to me in the introduction above, there were subtle differences in the information shown for football below League level which differentiated the contents of these versions. The Southern Editions also showed more information about the F.A. Amateur Cup (which consisted mainly of Southern clubs, of course) as well as the varsity match.

Also on this edition, the front cover design was made a bit simpler with the absence of any bottom border claims or words.

Looking back at 1932/33, Charles Buchan noted the poor performances of the England team and the success of Everton, who added an F.A.Cup win (against Manchester City) to their 2nd and 1st Division titles won in previous seasons.

The annual was still 144 pages long.


#5. 1934/35


The 1934/35 edition had an even more simple front cover design with the absence of any players.

In his editorial comments, Charles Buchan noted a number of positive signs that the game was on the up including improved attendance figures.

Interestingly, in the context of modern developments, FA Cup tie attendances had been especially good.

Indeed, a staggering figure of over 84,000 fans had watched the match between Manchester City and Stoke City at Maine Road.

Again, the annual was 144 pages in length.


#6. 1935/36 to #9. 1938/39

Details of the 1935/36, 1936,37, 1937/38 and 1938/39 editions will be added at a later date.

At the time of writing, I don’t have these editions in my master collection and haven’t found appropriate images of the annuals’ front covers to include here.


#10. 1939/40


The 1939/40 edition was published despite impending military conflict on the World stage.

The image above is a scan and details of the annual’s contents will be added at a later date.


3. 1946/47 to 1956/57 – Charles Buchan’s finale

After the Second World War, the annual started up again and Charles Buchan was still the editor.

The annuals were thinner than their pre-war editions but gradually became thicker as football got back to normal and paper for printing became more accessible.


#11. 1946/47


In this 1946/47 annual, Charles Buchan commented on the 1945/46 season in which Moscow Dynamo had visited the U.K. to play 4 friendlies, the home internationals were called ‘Victory’ Internationals and the 1st and 2nd Divisions were combined and then divided into North and South for one season as the nation attempted to get back to normal. Third Division sides played in various competitions, often regional in nature.

Buchan looked forward to 1946/47 when football would be organised and run along normal pre-war lines as far as League, F.A. Cup and international football too.

From this edition, the annual included a list of all league clubs and their players, by division.

The annual in its first post war incarnation was slimmer than pre-war editions with 88 pages.


#12. 1947/48


In the 1947/48 edition of the annual with a nice, clean and simple design to its front cover, Charles Buchan looked back at the 1946/47 season where crowds flocked back to games, the competitions were re-introduced and internationals took on their usual status with official caps being awarded to participating players.

For this year, the annual’s page numbers increased back upwards to 96.


#13. 1948/49


In the editorial comments for the 1948/49 annual, Charles Buchan celebrated the continued post war football boom.

In the 1947/48 season, attendances had risen again as had transfer fees.

Buchan made note of a change to the law relating to charging an opponent. Such an action could now only take place if it was part of an attempt to play the ball. In modern times, with many lamenting what they see as a removal of any physical contact from the game, it seems completely crazy that as recently as the late 1940’s, what might be called indiscriminate charging of an opponent not linked to playing the ball, was allowed within the laws.

The number of pages in the annual had risen again and were now up to 128.


#14. 1949/50


This image above is a scan of the front cover of the 1949/50 edition of the annual.

Details of the contents and Buchan’s comments will be added later (it’s another edition, as yet, not part of my collection).

One change to note was that the front cover acknowledged editor Charles Buchan’s new work as a radio commentator for the B.B.C.


#15. 1950/51


By now, the annual was not only getting thicker (up to 144 pages ) but now included a black and white photo section in middle of the book.

The photos showed top players (Arsenal’s Joe Mercer, Tottenham Hotspur’s Alf Ramsay, Newcastle United’s Jackie Milburn and Doncaster Rovers’ Ray Middleton) and teams (Portsmouth, Tottenham Hotspur, Notts County, Doncaster Rovers).

In his comments, Charles Buchan noted the increase in League clubs from 88 to 92 with each section of the 3rd Division taking on 2 new clubs for the 1950/51 season. However, as far as league football was concerned, Buchan was critical, focusing on defensive tactics and suggesting that continental teams were ahead of English sides, especially in  tactical play.

These comments were being made ahead of Hungary’s visit to Wembley in 1953 where they would destroy the England team with a style of play Buchan was referring to in this editorial.


#16. 1951/52 


In 1951/52, editor Charles Buchan launched his own magazine, Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly. However, he stayed as editor of the News Chronicle Football Annual.

Inside the annual, Buchan’s comments extended over 4 pages where his season review noted the successes of the British nations in the Festival of Britain matches but again, criticised the methods which achieved these results, claiming again that they needed to be refreshed.

Again the centre pages black and white photos concentrated on top players (Manchester City’s Harry Johnstone, Birmingham City’s Gil Merrick, Tottenham Hotspur’s Eddie Bailey and Blackburn Rovers’ William Eckersley) and top teams (Tottenham Hotspur, Preston North End, Nottingham Forest, Rotherham United).

The front cover design reflected the status of the FA Cup in the 1950’s where the final was the showpiece game of the season.


#17. 1952/53


By the 1952/53 edition of the annual, the front end pages were all advertisements for the football pools companies like Copes and Littlewoods.

In Charles Buchan’s review of the 1951/52 season, he raised the issue of country v. club as this had been a problem.

Buchan also lamented the league clubs’ rejection of every proposal for change other than an increase in the minimum admission fee for spectators!

As well as adverts for the pools, there was one for Buchan’s Football Monthly magazine which was now in its 2nd season.

The centre pages photos included Arsenal’s Lionel Smith and Bolton Wanderer’s Nat Lofthouse.

Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday, Plymouth Argyle and Lincoln City were the team photos.

The annual was 142 pages in length.


#18. 1953/54


In the 1953/54 annual, again funded by adverts from pools and cigarette companies, Charles Buchan talked about the technical shortfalls of the England players in their over long England tour of South America and the end of season conflict between the F.A. Cup Final (in which Stanley Matthews brought Blackpool back from the brink with his wing play) and league matches which had to be changed so as not to clash with the final, televised for the first time.

This issue of prioritisation between cup and league matches and especially the focus of matches at the end of the season on Cup Final day, is still going on today amongst all the stakeholders of the modern game.

The top player photos were Bolton Wanderers’ Malcolm Barrass Manchester City’s Ivor Broadis, Portsmouth’s Norman Uprichard and Blackpool’s Tom Garrett.

Arsenal, Sheffield United, Blackpool and Bolton Wanderers were the team photos in the centre section of the annual.

The annual was 142 pages long.


19. 1954/55


The 1954/55 annual was published after the 1954 World Cup but also the shattering defeats for the England national team by Hungary at home and away.

In his remarks, Charles Buchan focused on the need for the England team to spend more time together in preparation for big games. Buchan also emphasised  the importance of training with the ball to develop players’ skills, again topics which we are still discussing in the present day in the context of the level of technical skill displayed at the top levels of the game and in England, the development of the academy system to try and produce more players from a young age with better technique.

There was no centre page section of photos in this edition.

The annual was still 142 pages in length.


#20. 1955/56


The 1955/56 annual included coverage of all the usual content.

But Charles Buchan’s editorial comments voiced some concerns. Attendances, which had boomed after the end of the War were on the decline and Buchan wondered if this was down to the direct style of play which many English clubs employed.

Buchan talked about a continental style of play and a British one and the uses of both, a topic still being discussed in modern times.

An exception to the clubs using a more direct ‘British’ style was Manchester City who were using future Leeds United and England manager Don Revie in a Hungarian-style deep lying centre forward role (like Hungary’s Hideguti), although Buchan had doubts if City would be able to win the First Division or other sides be able to adopt this formation and style unless they had the right type of skilful players to execute it.

From this edition onwards, in addition of lists of players by club, the annual also included a list of appearances and goalscorers by club for the preceding season.

The annual was a bit larger, creeping up to 150 pages.


#21. 1956/57


For the 1956/57 edition, the title of the annual reflected the News Chronicle’s ownership of the Daily Dispatch, so the title was The News Chronicle and Daily Dispatch Football Annual.

This year would be Charles Buchan’s last as editor of the annual and in his remarks, he championed the results of the Young England team, Manchester United and their commitment to youth, as well as John Charles and his contribution to getting Leeds United promoted from the 2nd Division.

Indeed, the Leeds United and Wales star, a talented enough player to be able to switch between centre forward and centre half throughout the season, was on the front cover (left hand player) of the newly titled annual which had increased again in size slightly and was now 160 pages long.


4. 1957/58 to 1960/61 – New editors

For the 1957/58 edition of the annual, new editors took over.

The annual was now under the stewardship of John Camkin and Frank Taylor.

John Camkin had a number of links with football both before his time with the News Chronicle (his father had been a director of Birmingham City) and after, when he became a director himself at Coventry City working with Jimmy Hill in bringing in a number of new initiatives.

Frank Taylor had a respected career as a sports writer although will be remembered especially as being the only journalist fortunate to survive the Munich air disaster in 1958.


#22. 1957/58


In his first set of editorial comments, Camkin had to focus on various administrative matters including illegal payments to players although he heralded the achievements of the young Manchester United side who had a very good run in the new European Cup, won the league but failed narrowly to win the double when they lost the F.A. Cup Final to Aston Villa.

The new editor also introduced his 6 footballers of 1956/57 who were shown with a cartoon image and pen picture details: Preston North End’s Tom Finney, Manchester United’s Roger Byrne, Leeds United’s John Charles, Blackpool’s Jacki Mudie, Ipswich Town’s Ted Phillips and Leicester City’s Jack Froggatt. 

There was another increase to the annual’s size: It was now 190 pages long.


#23. 1958/59


John Camkin’s comments at the start of the 1958/59 edition of the annual focused on the Munich air disaster in which his co-editor, Frank Taylor was the only journalist to survive.

The headline for these comments reflected the disaster – ‘An Eventful Season Lay Under Munich Shadow’.

Whilst noting the highlights of the 1957/58 season, Camkin felt that other than the tragedy affecting those in the party in Munich, the season had been a good one in which the 4th Division was now established and a 4 up – 4 down promotion / relegation policy had now been approved for clubs moving between the 3rd to 4th divisions.

Camkin’s 6 footballers of 1957/58 were Wolves’ Bill Slater, Manchester United’s Harry Gregg, Blackburn Rovers’ Bryan Douglas, Tottenham Hotspur’s Danny Blanchflower, West Ham United’s Vic Keeble and Fulham’s Johnny Haynes.

On the front cover of the annual, still at 192 pages, was Wolves and England captain, Billy Wright who smiled out at fans in what looked like an official FA / England blazer.


#24. 1959/60


In his editorial comments to the 1959/60 annual, John Camkin noted Manchester United‘s recovery after Munich. Wolves won the 1st Division but were knocked out of the European Cup by Schalke 04 and Nottingham Forest had won the F.A. Cup.

Camkin’s notes also included details of the sad death of Birmingham City’s Jeff Hall who succumbed to polio at the young age of 29, a tragic event unheard of today, of course.

Disputes between the Football Association and the Football league were also mentioned.

Camkin’s 6 footballers of 1958/59 were Wolves’ Billy Wright, Manchester United’s Albert Quixall, Middlesbrough’s Brian Clough, Fulham’s Johnny Haynes, Luton Town’s Syd Own and Stoke City’s Tony Allen.

The annual was again, at 192 pages long.


#25. 1960/61


The 1960/61 would be the last edition of the annual under the News Chronicle title.

As a new decade began, slow progress amongst the authorities in bringing in change, an ambivalence to the introduction of the new League Cup, a poor year for the England team and the death of former editor of the annual, Charles Buchan were all noted.

Camkin’s 6 footballers of 1959/60 were Wolves’ Ron Flowers, Burnley”s Jimmy Adamson, Tottenham Hotspur’s Dave MacKay, Wolves’ Bill Slater, Watford’s Cliff Holton and Manchester City’s Denis Law.

Again, the annual was 192 pages long.


5. 1961/2 and beyond –  New owners; new title

For the next edition of the annual, changes took place.

When the Dickens Press bought Playfair Books, they also took over the News Chronicle and Daily Dispatch Football Annual when the annual’s owning paper went out of business in 1960.

Initially, the annual was published under the simple title of The Football Annual for 1961/62;


In 1963, Dickens Press decided to merge its new Football Annual (and Cricket Annual) with the Playfair counterpart to take advantage of the good name which Playfair had been developing since 1948.

But the slim format that had been used since 1948 in both Playfair Football and Cricket annuals was ditched and the pocket format used previously by the News Chronicle Football (and Cricket) annual was adopted.

In 1962/63, the first pocket version of the Playfair Football Annual in the style used to this day, was published with John Camkin as editor;


So the News Chronicle Football Annual was no more but lived on in the form of the Playfair Football Annual which lasted until that annual’s final edition for the 2012/13 season.


Collecting, values and prices

The editions from 1946 onwards are reasonably easy to find and will cost collectors a few pounds each.

However, it is the pre-war editions which are not only more scarce but difficult to find in good condition.

The paper in all the annuals tends to have age faded and this is especially the case for the pre-War editions.

I have some of the early 1930’s editions in my own collection but they have many faults, including heavy rust to the staples used in the binding of the inside pages.

These annuals from 1939/40 back will cost a bit more and I’d suggest that collectors might be willing to pay more for them, especially if the condition is good.


Final word

Although the News Chronicle Cricket Annual was similar to the Athletic News Cricket Annual which was also published through the years of the News Chronicle’s existence, looking back at the annual, it provided a good snapshot of the game from the 1930’s through to the 1960’s especially the comments from editors Charles Buchan and then John Camkin.

The annual’s front covers alone are a lovely part of cricket memorabilia heritage.


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Category: Football Annuals


Gordon Small

Another great article. I regularly look at your website, and find these football (and cricket) memorabilia articles really interesting. I have a couple of comments:- The Playfair Football Annual has now ceased publication. The last edition produced was that for the 2012-13 season. There were differences between the Northern and Southern editions of the News Chronicle Annual. For example, looking at the 1949-50 editions the Northern edition has tables and/or fixtures for the Central League, Midland League, Lancashire Combination and North-Eastern League, while the Southern edition has tables and/or fixtures for the Football Combination, the Southern League, the Kent League, the Spartan League, the Isthmian League, the London League, and the Athenian League - plus it also has a report on the Inter-Varsity match and the FA Amateur Cup round-by-round results. I hope that this is useful.

Wednesday 27th January 2016 - 2:40pm


Hi Gordon, Thanks so much for the kind comments about my posts and also for that update information. Looks like you are right about the Playfair Football Annual. I must have got it confused with other titles (News of the World etc). Also, that's a big help on the Northern and Southern Editions where your analysis suggests an obvious segmentation of lower leagues shown, to match the geographical distribution. I'll adjust the post now and mention you while doing so, if that's okay? Thanks again and best wishes, Mark PS I'll be working on a Cricket post next (Flagstaff Cricket Annual 1953-1969) after which I'm going to have ago at a brief guide on League Cup Final programmes. This will be written in similar style to the one on FA Cup Final programmes already on the site.

Wednesday 27th January 2016 - 3:20pm

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