From Pensioners to Blues – A brief guide to Chelsea football programmes

Posted: 12th February 2014


Plenty of clubs have used a variety of nicknames and club crests, all linked to an aspect of their club’s heritage.

So it is with Chelsea.

But while the club’s original nickname was the Pensioners, it was in the post 1945 era and especially from 1952, when manager Ted Drake lead a modernisation of the club which included a change of nickname (to Blues), club crest (also losing the Pensioner image) and an overhaul of the club’s youth policy, a move which contributed to the club’s first League Championship in 1954/55 and paved the way for the successes of the 1960’s and early 1970’s.

I have fond memories of visits to Stamford Bridge back in the late 1960’s when my mum and dad used to take me to various different grounds to help fuel my growing love for the game.

My parents were not football fans at all and as I’ve told elsewhere, my interest came about almost by chance as I wandered past the TV when the 1963 FA Cup Final was on.

I took a liking to Leicester City due to the names of their players (Goodfellow, Stringfellow) as opposed to winners Manchester United and one time when the Foxes, lead by a young David Nish, came to South West London, down we went from our North London home to see the game.

These were the Tommy Docherty days at the Bridge.

While West Ham United had numerous players whose name began with a ‘B’,  Chelsea it seems were custodians of the letter ‘H’ with Allan and Ron Harris, Marvin Hinton, Alan Hudson, Peter Houseman, Ian Hutchinson and John Hollins whose calling for the ball in his high pitched voice could be heard over the large crowd set back behind the greyhound track at the Bridge.

In the mid 1960’s, there were many other fine players at Chelsea alongside all the ‘H”s including Bobby Tambling, Terry Venables, George Graham, Barry Bridges (who I would watch every week at Queens Park Rangers a few years later), Ken Shellito, Eddie Macreadie, John Boyle, Peter Bonetti, Bert Murray and then the brilliant Charlie Cooke.

The match day programmes at that time were the small blue ones (see above).

But back in the early days of the club’s history, as was the way then, the programmes were much larger in size, as we shall see.

As the decades went by, the size reduced until around the time that I began my own football journey in the mid 1960’s.

By the time Chelsea were created (1905/06 was their opening season in Division 2), most clubs had migrated away for match cards into actual programmes.

Here is an issue from Chelsea’s first season against Chesterfield (thanks to Sportingold auctions);


These larger size programmes were quite flimsy affairs and were usually folded by fans, often both vertically and horizontally, as seen now when they emerge from collections or boxes in people’s lofts to appear at auction or on Ebay.

By the 1920’s, rather like North London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, the front cover of the Chelsea programme usually included a cartoon strip featuring a Pensioner in some sort of story line linked with the prior match, an event at the club and then the match about to be played that day.

On the cover of this issue for the home game against Aston Villa at the end of the 1922/23 season, there titled The Salt Cure by Bernard Hugh;


For the match against Barnsley in 1926/27, Charles Shaw Baker has come up with ‘Keep Your Eye on the Yorkshiremen, Pensioner’ for the visit of the Tykes;


On to 1934/35, Bernard Hugh has written ‘A Chance To Get A Whopper Today’, for the visit of Everton‘;


In the post war years, we see that the size of the programme has reduced, although the Pensioner image is still on the front cover but gone are the catchy cartoon stories of the pre-War years.

This is the programme for the 0-0 draw with Arsenal from 1947/48;


The Pensioner continued to be featured strongly, especially on the front cover, as shown on this issue from the 1948/49 match against Burnley;


For 1949/50, we see a change in design with an emphasis on the blue club colour although our proud Pensioner is still in evidence on the crest at the top end of the cover.

England star, Len Goulden is shown on the front cover photograph of this programme for another match, again against Arsenal;


The following season for the 5th Round FA Cup tie against neighbours Fulham, although the programme is full of photographs, the front cover design has reverted to a graphic;


Then, with Ted Drake in place, it’s goodbye to our Pensioner and we see a new club crest on the front of this issue for the Division 1 match against Sunderland.

On this cover, there is an excellent photograph of Stamford Bridge before all the modern day developments, with the Shed top right, the quirky North Stand, bottom left and the enormous terrace spreading back upwards where the West Stand would be built (bottom right);


But that new crest only lasts a season it seems as a new crest and one I got used to seeing on all the programmes through the 1960’s and 1970’s can be seen on this 1953/54 Division 1 match against Portsmouth;


This design and crest are in use through to the end of the decade and seen here on the cover of the Manchester United match issue for 1959/60 where it looks like it was quite a game; someone has noted the score of 6-3 to the Red Devils on the front cover;


In 1961/62, Chelsea changed the size of the programme down to a smaller one, favoured by many clubs at the time, including London rivals, Arsenal and West Ham United with Leyton Orient and Tottenham Hotspur and numerous clubs outside London, to follow.

Seen here, the programme for the Division 1 match that season against Blackburn Rovers;


The Blues were to retain this small size into the mid 1970’s.

1963/64 (v. Manchester United) and 1964/65 (v. Fulham);


1965/66 (v. Stoke City) and 1966/67 (v. Nottingham Forest);


1967/68 (v. Newcastle United) and 1968/69 (Nottingham Forest);


1969/70 (Ipswich Town) and 1970/71 (Everton);


1971/72 (v. Manchester City) and 1972/73 (Leeds United);


1973/74 is the final season for the small size (v. Sheffield United);


In 1974/75, a new size and design as seen here for the issue against Burnley;


The programme stayed large for a while including this 1976/77 issue against Bolton Wanderers;


For this match against Everton in 1978/79, amazingly both Peter Bonetti and Ron Harris are on the team sheets, survivors from the Tommy Docherty days of the mid 1960’s;


Into the rather lean years of the 1980’s, the programme reverted to a small size as seen here for the 1981/82 match against Bolton Wanderers;


What might be termed the Clive Walker years had a variety of designs but all in a slightly larger size but not as big as the late 1970’s.

In this match against Derby County, not only is Clive Walker in the team (a player whose wonderful skills I would see at Conference club Woking in later years) but also another stalwart from the Tommy Docherty years, the new player-coach, John Hollins;


Back in Division 2 for 1986/87, we see Pat Nevin on the front of this Division 1 match programme against Norwich City who have a formidable centre back partnership of Steve Bruce and Dave Watson facing Blues’ strikers Kerry Dixon and David Speedie;


As the 1990’s begin, we see a kit change, a design change and a change at left back where Tony Dorigo now plays as seen on the front of this 1990/91 Division 1 issue against Derby County again;


Entering the 1993/94 season, things are changing again as we see Dennis Wise with the Makita Trophy for manager Glenn Hoddle and the boys on the front of this Blackburn Rovers issue, now a thicker tome of 62 pages;


The Premier League era can be spotted by squad lists now appearing on the back cover of programmes.

For this match against Manchester City in 1994/95, the Blues have 22 players listed while the Citizens have 19;


As we pass through the 1990’s, the overseas influence begins with Hoddle’s signing of top star Ruud Gullit seen on the cover of this programme (alongside Mark Hughes) for the match against Everton at the start of the 1995/96


It’s 1996/97 and we now see French international Frank Lebeouf on the cover against Middlesbrough.

Also in the team are Dan Putrescu, Gullit, Mark Hughes, Steve Clarke, Gianluca Vialli, and Roberto Di Matteo;


Its the early days of a new century, it’s Roberto Di Matteo who takes pride of place on the front cover for this FA Carling Premiership match against Tottenham Hotspur.

The teams page shows 34 players for Chelsea and 32 for Spurs from all over Europe;


For this FA Barclaycard Premiership match against Southampton in January 2002, the front cover of the 68 page matchday magazine is Celestine Babayaro, who we are told is just off to the African Cup of Nations.

Squad sizes are listed at 36 players for both teams;


Club record goal scorer, Frank Lampard is on the cover of this Barclays Premiership programme (now grown to 76 pages) against Liverpool in the 2005/06 season;


A player I nearly bumped into in a Wimbledon curry house, Michael Ballack, is on the cover of this Arsenal home programme in 2008/09;


As we enter the second decade of the century, the programme has not changed much and we see Branislav Ivanovic on the cover of this 76 page Barclays Premier League issue against Wolves;


From the mid 1990’s onwards as Chelsea’s increased domestic success took them into more European competition, some of the top European names started to visit Stamford Bridge as well as their domestic rivals from the top of the Premiership or Premier League as it became known as.

In 1999, AC Milan with the ageless Paolo Maldini at left back were the visitors with Gianfranco  Zola on the cover;


As always, the programmes for big games are an important aspect of any club’s programmes history.

With Chelsea, there have been more of these in recent years than the earlier years of the club’s history but nontheless, there are some rare, valuable and/or interesting issues across the years.

This is a scan of the reprinted programme for the 1915 FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Sheffield United held at Old Trafford.

This match was the first final to have a programme issued for it as opposed to the match cards which had been produced for many of the finals between 1872 and 1914;


In 1944, Chelsea played Charlton Athletic in a Football League (South) War Cup Final, a match the Blues won although they went on to lose to Bolton Wanderers in the national final;


The 1965 Football League Cup Final against Leicester City was played over two legs at Stamford Bridge and Filbert Street where standard home programmes were issued by both clubs.

Then we come to the terrific FA Cup Final of 1970 where the Blues beat the mighty Leeds United in a replay at Old Trafford after the first match was drawn 2-2 on a heavy Wembley pitch. I watched every minute of both matches.

First, the Wembley final;


Next, the replay programme which can fetch a variety of prices in the £25-£35 at the time of writing (January 2014).

This scan is actually of a nice trade card version of the front cover, ideal for those with limited ephemera storage space;


A few months later, as a result of that Cup win, Chelsea played League Champions Everton in the Charity Shield, a match which was yet to be played every year at Wembley and was played that year at Stamford Bridge.

Ron Harris and Peter Osgood can be seen parading the FA Cup on the front cover of the programme;


In 1972, the team reached another League Cup Final against Stoke City where Tony Waddington‘s Potters prevailed;


Chelsea fans had to wait a while before visiting the twin towers again.

As the side strengthened in the early 1990’s, there was another visit to Wembley in 1994 but the Blues were defeated by Manchester United;


Ruud Gullit’s side beat Middlesbrough in the 1997 FA Cup Final.

By now, these big game programmes were large, heavy affairs, although full of features and photographs on both clubs;


There was another victory over Middlesbrough but this time in 1998 and in the Worthington (League) Cup;


Next came a 2000 FA Cup Final win against Aston Villa;


2002 saw a defeat to London rivals Arsenal in the FA Cup.

While Roman Abramovich took over the club off the field in 2003 and Jose Mourinho took over the team in 2004, more league and cup success followed.

In 2005, Liverpool were defeated in the Carling (League) Cup;


Then in 2007, there was success in the 2 major domestic cups.

Arsenal were defeated in the Carling (League) Cup;


Then Manchester United were defeated in the FA Cup Final;


In 2008, Chelsea lost to London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur in the Carling (League) Cup;


Shortly after this, in Europe, years of Champions League involvement resulted in a 2008 final appearance against Manchester United, lost on penalties in a rainy Moscow;


Back at home in 2008, the FA Cup was won again with a victory against Everton;


There was a FA Cup win over Portsmouth in 2010;


The FA Cup was won again in 2012 against Liverpool;


Also, at the end of the 2011/12 season, the Blues finally won the Champions League against Buyern Munich;


Testimonial programmes are another type of programme often included in supporters’ collections.

These programmes often command a slightly higher value than standard league and cup issues.

Some examples are Frank Blunstone‘s Testimonial match in 1963;


Ron Harris’ 1972 Testimonial was against Rangers;


John Bumstead’s 1987 Testimonial was against Spanish side, Real Sociodad;


The following year in 1988, Colin Pates‘ Testimonial was against Tottenham Hotspur;


Friendlies and some pre season tours programmes are often sought after.

Back in the 1940’s and 1950’s before the days of the Champions League and the bloated Europa League, the only time domestic fans saw overseas teams and players were in international matches or when some of the big and famous European teams played what became prestigious friendlies in the UK.

The programme for one such match against Moscow Dynamo who made a short tour of Great Britain just after the War is listed at £100 on one site.

As with the other successful big clubs who have played a lot in Europe, some of the away programmes where issued can be in demand and fetch higher prices.

Stamford Bridge was also used for big games, so newer collectors might want to be aware that some issues back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, even the 1970’s when some FA Cup and League Cup Semi-Finals were held at the old ground, may look like Chelsea programmes but they are in fact big game issues not including their team.

Some examples include this Under 23 international between England and Bulgaria played in September 1957 with Chelsea’s Peter Bradbrook and Jimmy Greaves in the England forward line;


In 1969, England played the regular match against Young England, often on the evening before the FA Cup Final.

Blues’ stars Peter Bonetti and Bobby Tambling were playing for England while John Hollins was Captain of Young England.

Club stalwart Harry Medhurst is listed as the Trainer for Young England also;


In 1975, an FA Cup Semi-Final between eventual Cup winners West Ham United and Ipswich Town took place at the Bridge;


Collecting, values and prices

Looking at the issues  of accessibility and cost / value,  Chelsea programmes are similar to those of other clubs’ in conforming to a few basic factors. Always subject to quality, the older they are, the more difficult they will be to find and the more expensive to acquire for buyers.

As you go back into the 1960’s and 1950’s, there are lots available, although I have found that I usually have to compete with others to win them.

For the late 1940’s, you might find small clusters of programmes on offer in separate but once you go back to the War years and definitely prior to 1939, issues will be sold individually on websites, at auction and on Ebay and values for these programmes will rise up as time goes further back.

Also, finding programmes without writing and vertical creases is difficult and programmes without these faults will command a premium.

A look at recent sales of Chelsea programmes on Ebay gives an interesting snapshot of the market for some of the higher value issues (as at January 2014);

– 1962/63 Division 2 promotion season programme away to Bury (with 2 tickets) sold for £666

– 1984/85 Division 1 rare postponed match away to West Ham United sold for £406

– 1970/71 European Cup Winners’ Cup away leg to Jeunesse Hautcharage sold for £350

–  1970/71 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final in Athens against Real Madrid sold for £197

–  1954/55 Division 1 Championship winning season away game against Sheffield United  sold for £196

–  1958/59 Metropolitan League ‘A’ Team game against Headington sold for £192

– 1955/56 Charity Shield against Newcastle United sold for £149.99

–  1909/10 Division 1 match home to Newcastle United sold for £147

–  1959/60 Football Combination match away to Portsmouth sold for £133.71

Of course, these examples are for rarer or special issues which are much sought after.

Also, even for these particular programmes, there may be websites away from Ebay where the items will cost more than these prices. Equally, collectors may well pay less for any one of the programmes at any particular time.

There are no fixed prices for what people should and shouldn’t pay.

The price for acquiring most post 1960 programmes is much less and those from 1970 onwards can usually be bought for around £1-£2, although there will be a premium for the 1962/63 Division 2 Championship winning season (as for the 1954/55 Division 1 title campaign within 1950’s issues).

As with most programmes and collectables in general, as stated above, the older items get, the greater will be their value.


Final word

As ever, for Chelsea supporters and programme collectors, the club’s programmes provide a marvellous record of the club’s history whether it’s the early days at Stamford Bridge, the Ted Drake years, the Tommy Docherty years, the doldrums of the 1980’s or the gradual re-building of the 1990’s and the changes which have taken place especially since Roman Abramovitch took over the club in 2003.

For me, every time I see those small blue programmes with Chelsea across the top, I’m taken back to my formative football days in the swinging 60’s.

Happy days.


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