The challenge with writing a column for a programme being published on New Year’s Day is that you have to work to a pre-Christmas deadline. Rather than take a punt at predicting the future, I started wondering how our predecessors would have coped with Bank Holiday matches.
You see, Cables have been producing programmes for almost a century. The first match for which Prescot FC (as it was then known) issued was a Liverpool County Combination fixture against Ormskirk on 25th October 1924. Of course, back then, the programme would have been a single sheet affair, folded into four pages and containing the teams, a few paragraphs of club news, the fixtures and not much else. There would have been adverts for local businesses, of course, but the layout would have probably remained the same for years at a time.
There are those – particularly programme afficionados who rail against the rise of the digital-only documents becoming increasingly common around the non-League game – who would be quite happy to return to this kind of stripped-back affair. I imagine that quite a few Treasurers and hard-pressed Editors would agree!
Of course, such a suggestion ignores the commercial realities of modern football. Even at our relatively lowly level of the game, the Northern Premier League takes half-a-dozen pages of advertising space in every programme produced by all its clubs, to meet its own obligations to sponsors and commercial partners. That, in turn, increases the production cost, meaning clubs need to sell adverts of their own. But fans won’t buy a booklet full of adverts on a regular basis and, in this era where social media and the World Wide Web make club information more accessible than ever, programmes tend to be successful when they offer something to read that you can’t find online, which is possibly where I come in…
Had I had more time available for research, I might have used this page to discuss the history of meetings between our two clubs. What I do know is that the first League meetings between Prescot and Marine were in the old Liverpool County Combination during the 1925-26 season. Ninety-odd years later, the two clubs are still competing, which makes this derby one of Cables’ oldest, although the rivalry with Skelmersdale United, who first took on Prescot in February 1889 remains Prescot’s longest-standing fixture.
Of course, Cables and Marine haven’t met in every season since they first came together in the 1920s and, if the Mariners maintain the lead they have at the top of the division at the time of writing, this afternoon’s game might be the last League match between them for at least one season. Marine’s FA Cup run last season was remarkable and what’s been even more impressive is the way the club has sustained the momentum generated; the crowds packing into the Marine Travel Arena and the improvements made to facilities there show all local clubs what can be possible. However, while our visitors this afternoon command respect, Cables are frequently at their best on occasions such as these.
The resounding win over Market Drayton Town before Christmas was as clear a marker as the squad could lay down that they intend to battle for every point still available this season. As we head into 2022, I’d point out – especially for old school supporters who pre-date any peskiness – that the Chinese New Year which begins in February is the Year of the Tiger. Maybe, just maybe, Prescot might get a head start on it this afternoon?