The good, the bad and the ugly of FA Cup Final programmes
1928: Blackburn Rovers vs Huddersfield Town
Ahead of its time in a way that it might not have wanted to be – there’s something unpleasantly 1980s about the vile use of pink and lime green hues, and the jagged print-setting on this cover. It resembles the opening credits to a long-lost entertainment show now being carefully scrutinised by Operation Yewtree.
Hugely inappropriate for gritty powerhouses Blackburn Rovers and Huddersfield Town, it also offers a first foray into punditry, with the cover promising “expert criticism” within from Frank Thorogood – who can’t have been that thorough or good, because he lost the gig to Charles Buchan the next year. Not for us, Clive.
1934: Manchester City vs Portsmouth
Here come the Art Directors! The first truly stylised FA Cup final programme is this attractive effort, in which exotic silhouettes and curved headlines hint at an age of art deco and design experimentation.
They don’t even deem the names of the two sides necessary to the posterised front page, and the powerful feel of the cover is finished off by the advert proclaiming USERS OF BOVRIL ARE MILLIONS STRONG. Don’t mess with a “user” of thick, salty meat extract, kids.
1954: Preston North End vs West Bromwich Albion
After a decade of broadly similar covers – standard images of airborne footballers transposed over an illustration of Wembley – came the iconic cover shot of the uncovered Empire Stadium from above, which ran every year until 1962.
Oddly, as soon as the stadium roof was completed in 1963, a smaller illustration of the new-look ground was chosen, and a year further after that, Wembley was replaced on the front by the trophy itself for an eight-year stint.
1970: Chelsea vs Leeds
Published by Manchester United instead of the FA thanks to the replay being held at Old Trafford, this cover is the first truly contemporary-looking effort to go into print, shaking off the fusty feel of establishment suits.
In fact, with its bold half-and-half colouring and chunky fonts, it couldn’t be any more Mod if it tried: when you open it you half expect a foul-mouthed Phil Daniels to mooch out in a fur-lined parka and spark up a ciggie.
1977: Liverpool vs Manchester United
A pearl amid swine: after a run of boxy-looking, hastily slapped-together final programmes, this beautifully simple rosette design jumps out a mile.
Alas, a year later it was replaced by a gaudy photo of the trophy, and there wouldn’t be another tasteful cover for two decades.
1985: Everton vs Manchester United
A couple of years into the birth of desktop publishing programmes, and designers everywhere have completely lost their marbles, perhaps beset by some kind of God complex after discovering what computers can do.
This effort is the nadir: a horrid excretion of colour from an ‘artist’ presumably loaded to the gills with hallucinogenic drugs, a kaleidoscope and a set of those blobby Rorschach Test cards used by head doctors to work out if you’re a psychopath.
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