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Programme Notes Part 9

The modern day football programme came into being on Christmas Day 1948, for which we owe Albert Sewell a debt of gratitude. Albert continued to collate the required information and produce a fully up to date programme right up to the end of the 1948-49 season, the final one being against Sunderland on 30th April 1949. If there has to be any criticism of those first issues, it was not the content, but rather the quality of the paper used for printing. Sadly, these programmes are very prone to damage and many of them have been unable to withstand the ravages of time.

If those early efforts had been well received by the footballing public, then the new design that was issued at the start of the 1949-50 season was nothing short of a revelation. For a start it was better quality paper and was packed full of information and the first issue for the Arsenal game on 24th August 1949 even included photographs of the team in pre-season training, as well as an in-depth article featuring the clubs Summer trip to Malta. Purchasers among the 63,196 who attended the match were also greeted by Len Goulden, who always looked like he should have been in the Ealing Comedies on the front cover. In one of the final issues of that season for the game against Bolton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge on 7th April 1950, there was a small insert on page 3 asking for feedback regarding the quality of the match day programme at Chelsea. Given how innovative it had become, there can’t have been many who were not happy with it.

At the start of the 1950-51 season the featured photograph on the front cover had been replaced by a detailed drawing of a footballer which would remain for the rest of the campaign. There was, however, a glitch when a printers dispute broke out, severely affecting the size and content of the match day programme. For several home games only a reduced number of folded sheets were available and some of these are now highly collectible.

The 1950-51 season is also remembered for Chelsea’s miracle escape from relegation. Seemingly doomed, a remarkable sequence of results gave Chelsea hope when they played Bolton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge on the final day. A 4-0 win, combined with Sheffield Wednesday’s 6-0 drubbing of Everton meant Chelsea stayed up at the expense of those two clubs. It was incredibly close as Chelsea survived by .044 of a goal. As the final whistle blew at Stamford Bridge and the result at Hillsborough came through, it was noted that many people were feverishly working out the permutations of goal average. I’m proud to say that the copy I have contains such workings out and I’d love to have been standing next to whoever it was when he realised the result.

Notwithstanding all that, in two and a half years the Chelsea programme had evolved into a valuable keepsake from the game, but for Albert Sewell, it was only the start.

He would continue to push the boundaries and the Chelsea programme, in my opinion, was about to enter the golden years.

By Paul Waterhouse, Bygone Chelsea 1905-99

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