As a child we are filled with wonder. Questions pop in our minds constantly. I always wondered how dear old Father Christmas did the rounds on Christmas Eve. Even Sebastien Vettel would have his work cut out there.
Another constant query concerned the Birmingham Sports Argus. I grant you this is a peculiar question, a little different from the identity of Superman or the launch of the new Sinclair Spectrum computer?
the Sports Argus was also ahead of its time. The Argus was a Saturday
Evening sports newspaper which followed the fortunes of West Midlands football. This unique journal was launched in 1897. Each week eager fans would make a beeline for their local newsagents to read about their favourites.
My sense of amazement revolved around the time of publication. The distinctive pink tabloid would hit the stands at 6pm, just 75 minutes after the final whistle. I'm not sure why the Argus was printed on pink paper? Maybe Squarefootball readers could provide the answer.
In that time the hack would have filed his match report. The blow by blow account would then be printed and distributed to various
retail outlets. Even in these days of the iPad, this was smart work. The Argus was a product of its time. Before the advent of the Premier League, weekly televised football was restricted to Match Of The Day and The Big Match.
In contrast to today these programmes broadcast highlights from an handful of matches. If you were lucky your team's goals might be shown on the regional news the following Monday. The majority of games were only witnessed by
paying spectators. There was no Soccer Saturday to keep you informed while mobile phones were a curiosity item on Tomorrow's World.
If you had the misfortune to be shopping, contact with the beautiful game was remote. Hence many a fan was known to be in the vicinity of
the nearest Curry's or Dixons around 4.45pm. First you would have to
tolerate the salesman spiel. Having successfully avoided purchasing a
new toaster, your eyes would casually
glance to the assortment of televisions. All of which just happened to be
showing Grandstand's Final Score. It was worth the pain,
particularly if you side had picked up maximum points.
The afternoon would take a further upturn when you picked up the Argus.
from match reports this football bible contained stories on the
various clubs. Each season one unlucky player would give us an update
on the week's events. These columns were propaganda exercises. You wouldn't
read about any Mancini/Tevez bust-ups or Lee Clark's latest joust with a
Birmingham City player. It was all uplifting stuff, just the tonic
after losing 4-0 at home.
The Birmingham Sports Argus followed the weekly
exploits of Aston Villa, Birmingham City, West Bromwich Albion,
Wolverhampton Wanderers, Coventry City and Walsall. These were
collectively known as The Big Six (everything is relative). The main
headline would be reserved for the most comprehensive victory. For
instance this edition describes Birmingham's 6-2 victory over Leicester
City in 1976.
The main caption has a double meaning. Birmingham
City's away win was a a memorable triumph, particularly for Blues
striker Kenny Burns. His four goals were rewarded with a new
Triumph car. The spanking new TR7 had been donated by the local car
manufacturer. The player who netted the Brummies sixth goal would be rewarded with a new motor.
Although the weekly editions were enjoyable, I always looked forward to the Sports Argus annual. This beauty
was published before the start of each season. The annual included
fixtures for the coming season, stats about the playing squad and a
colour team photo. Here is Aston Villa's 1981 League Championship side
in glorious technicolour.
delights of the Argus were not confined to the West Midlands. Up and
down the country versions of the newspaper were available. I can
remember an old college friend having
a copy of Newcastle's pink 'un sent down every week. One week the
Geordie Argus featured a colour photo of Paul Gascoigne resplendent in
his Newcastle United kit. Other cities such as Bradford, Brighton,
Coventry, Southampton and Norwich were part of pink revolution.
times changed the Saturday night institution suffered. The advent of the internet, mobile phones and rolling TV score updates meant latest scores and full time
results were instantly available. No more peering
through shop windows, your team's weekly fortunes were just a click of a
As circulation declined the editors grew edgy. One by
one these traditional rags began to disappear. In 2008 the Birmingham
Sports Argus rolled off the presses for the last time. More than a century of
high quality sports journalism was consigned to the archives. A year
later Norwich's pink un' met a similar fate.
These days these football
tabloids rarely appear. The clock is briefly turned back to celebrate a
notable achievement, for instance Norfolk's pride and joy produced this commemorative brochure to recognise The Canaries' 2010 promotion to the Premier League.
Oh for the good old days . . .
Calling all football fans: What are your memories of the Birmingham Argus or your weekly Saturday football paper? Do you miss these papers or have the internet and mobile apps made it a whole lot easier to be a football supporter? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.