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 Football  Annuals & yearbooks


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football annuals, those preseason indispensable guides that are packed full with facts and information, have been around a long time. In fact the Athletic News Football Annual first appeared as a 16 page booklet in 1887, a year before the Football League was formed.








Before the turn of the 20th century, several other of these pocket sized guides began to
appear, with some firms such as the football outfitter William Shillcock, and the Holborn-based
department store Gamages, using them as advertising tools.





These early annuals are now highly sought after by collectors of soccer memorabilia and examples in pristine condition are becoming increasingly difficult to find. A pre- First World War Gamages Annual in top condition will probably command as much as £75,nowadays.





During the inter-war period, it was the Athletic News annuals which continued to lead the way.
This production came from the publishers of this weekly sporting newspaper and by 1926 the annual had risen to 272 pages, crammed full of satistics from the previous year and also containing the relevant information and fixtures for the forthcoming campaign.





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These soft- backed publications were produced in largely unaltered format until the Second World War. Lists of player's appearances and goalscorers for the previous season were a regular feature of these annuals, as were updated attendance records and details of international caps awarded. Later examples now change hands for between £25-35.




Another leading annual from this era came from another sporting paper, the 'Topical Times'. Although these did not contain as much statistical wealth as the Athletic News rival production, they did contain several more pages of photographs.









In the early 1930s the title was changed to the 'Topical Times Sporting Annual' which as the name implies included other sports, although soccer still took up most of the pages.


These little books, which were issued annually until 1940, are still relatively easy to come by at around £15 each. Other firms to produce yearly football offerings of this nature at this time included the Pools companies, such as Littlewoods and Vernons.


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Their   annuals were pre-occupied with form-lists and prospects for the new season, although they often contained photos of team -groups and leading players, which make these type of booklets well worth looking out for.




After the war, a boom in attendances at football matches coupled with the relaxation of paper rationing meant that there were many new titles to choose from at the start of each season.





Several of these continued to be produced by newspapers and periodicals with our old favourite the Athletic News re-apperaing as the Sunday Chronicle Annual.




In fact, this publication went through several name changes before celebrating its centenary in 1986-87 as the News of the World Football Annual, under which name it is still produced.



Although they appeared in various guises and sizes, with so much competition it was yj inevitable that many publications would bite the g dust, and most did not survive into the 1970s. One that has survived however, is the Official F. A.



Yearbook, which first came out for season 1948-49. Produced by the game's governing body, this yearly publication gave comprehensive reports on the previous year's top matches, as well as including many illustrations.




A similar offering, which still survives, first appeared around this time and came from 'Playfair'. Examples from the plethora of soft - back annuals from the 1950s and 60s are still easily obtainable from the many football memorabilia dealers, which are continually spring up all over the country. In most cases, good examples of all these publications can be had for under £10 each.


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1970 was an important year for soccer historians, because it saw the intoduction of the famous Rothmans Football Yearbook. At 992 pages, this publication took soccer statistics to a hitherto unprecedented level, and is now acknowledged as the serious fan's 'bible'.





Available in both hard or soft back, this brainchild of the late Jack Rollin has been published every season since, and is now in its 30th year. Early examples are nowhighly sought after, and a hard-backed copy of the first edition are now likely to cost £60 plus.






So far, we have looked at the mainly pocket-sized annuals which were aimed at the adult fan. However, in the 1950s, hardbacked annuals for the children's Xmas market began to appear.





These large, colourful books containing pictures of the leading players together with exciting stories, were at first endorsed by top stars such as Stanley Matthews and Billy Wright. Soon, children's comics and magazines got into the act and the likes of Charles Buchan's Soccer Gift Book and  the Roy of the Rovers Annual became high on every boys', Christmas list.





In 1960 the 'Topical Times' annual,complete with Bobby Charlton on the cover, made a welcome return in this guise, and is yet another tide which has survived to the present day.




It was not that long ago that these boys annuals could be picked up for next to nothing at jumble sales etc. but lately, they too have become sought after -especially those with dust jacket intact.


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A 1960-61 Charles Buchan's Gift Book, which contained 160 pages, will now command around £7 with out its cover; double this for an example with its dust - wrapper in pristine condition. Even the more modern editions from the likes of Shoot! and The Sun seem to be increasing in value, so it may be worth looking out for suchlike at the car boot sales.




 A word of warning here on this type of football publication: small boys often cut out the pictures of their heroes - and draw over those from rival teams! On the other hand, it may be that some of the photos have been autographed one such annual containing many signatures fetched over £200 at auction, a couple of years ago.


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