Missing link in Rovers programme collection

Who'll have them when I've gone? Single man Barry Watson with his massive collection.                                Picture: Steve taylor
Who'll have them when I've gone? Single man Barry Watson with his massive collection. Picture: Steve taylor

BARRY Watson is just one short of having a programme for every game that Doncaster Rovers have played since the end of the 1939-45 War - a 1946-47 FA Cup first round replay at Accrington Stanley.

Barry started the year just two short of completing his collection - the FA Cup replay, which Rovers won 5-0, and the Division Three (North) game at Accrington, which Rovers won 1-0, from the same season.

“I tracked down the programme for the league game, which cost me £100, in January and I was told where I might get the FA Cup one,” said Barry, speaking exclusively to The Star.

“I rung the dealer and he said he had it but I told him that he had to check it because at that time the Accrington programme never had a date on the front or who they were playing; you could only work it out by looking at the fixture list at the back.

“However, he assured me that it was the programme that I was looking for and we agreed a price of £65 plus a £6 fee for special delivery and sent him a cheque for £71.

“When nothing arrived after a few days I rung him up and he said that he was sorry but when he checked he said the one he had was for the league game, so I’m still that one short.

“I let it be known five or six years ago - I even took out adverts in newspapers - that I would pay £300 for the pair or £150 each - but I got no joy. But, as I say, I’ve now got the league programme.”

As Barry will tell you, it’s not a cheap hobby and he paid more than £700 for the 1951-52 Division Two Luton Town-Rovers programme.

He recalled: “The game was rearranged for a Wednesday afternoon kicking off at 1.30pm and because people couldn’t get time off from work and the away supporters couldn’t travel down there, they only produced a sheet of paper and my mate at Luton did me a favour and sent me a photocopy a few years back.

“He later told me that it was coming up at an auction at Northampton. I went down with £500 in my pocket expecting to get it easily for that price but I had to pay £720 for it.

He once spent £800, around half of the original asking price, for 15 Rovers programmes between 1897 and 1915.

“It’s a lot of money now but it was even more the case when I bought them off a collector from Rotherham,” said Barry.

As well as taking a lot of money to put together his unique collection, it has also taken Barry a lot of time.

“I was at a programme fair every Sunday,” he said.

“It all started when I was eight in 1958 and the football results came on the television we had just bought and I just happened to say to my dad, ‘have we got a football team, dad?’ and he said we had and that he would take me the following week if I wanted to go.

“From being 12 my parents never used to give me any pocket money. Instead they would buy me a ticket for the coach to the away games and all the kids at school would ask me to bring them a programme back and I did and that’s what started me.

“By 1972 I had amassed 42,000 programmes and because we were short of room to store them I decided to sell them all apart from my Doncaster programmes - though there were gaps in my collection everywhere.

“That’s when I seriously started saving Rovers’ programmes. My ambition was to collect all the club’s programmes back to the end of the war.

“But in the meantime I’ve picked up war competition and pre-war programmes.”

Among that collection is a 1935-36 Division Two programme for the game at Old Trafford for which Barry has rejected an offer of £5,000.

He also has a Rovers-New Brighton programme from the mid-1920s worth over £1,000.

When asked which is his most treasured programme, not necessarily in terms of its monetary value, he says: “It has to be Rovers’ club-record 10-0 (Division Four) home win 1963-64 against Darlington.”

He added: “Another special one has to be the first colour programme for the Hull-Rovers game in the 1947-48 season.”

The number of pages in a modern day programme have increased tenfold on those of that era, as have the prices.

Yet Barry for one, is not impressed by today’s glossy publications costing £3 or more.

“Today’s programmes are terrible,” he claims. “They aren’t a football programme; they are a magazine.”

Yet they continue to attract interest from collectors, especially from postponed games.

“The programme from the Rovers-Ipswich game last season, due to be played on Boxing Day, is now worth £100 because all but a few were sent back to the printers for shredding when the game was called off,” says Barry.

Barry, who is single and has no dependents, worries what will happen to his collection, which is kept in a secure location, when he passes on.

He offered it to Rovers for £60,000 a few years ago hoping that they would be interested in doing something similar to Bury’s archive at their Gigg Lane ground where fans can view their collection of old programmes and other items.

But he says the Doncaster directors didn’t show any interest.

Undeterred, he has carried on and in addition to completing his post-war Rovers collection he is now looking to add to his collection of Rovers’ reserve team two-page programmes from the early 60s.

“I had loads of them before I really started collecting programmes and I swopped them for some stamps with a lad at school,” he recalled.

“It’s the worst thing I ever did,” he said. “I’m now trying to get them back.”

Anyone who can help Barry in his efforts to locate the Accrington programme he needs to complete his collection, can contact him via the Supporters’ Club.