Unique Programmes: After the Lord Mayors Show

With this season's F.A. Cup Final fast approaching it gives a good opportunity to look back at a time when Liverpool were involved in this event. Now over half a century ago, the 1950 F.A. Cup Final was the club’s first ever appearance at Wembley. 

The 1949-50 season ended in disappointment for Liverpool after it had promised so much, with even an F.A. Cup and League Championship double being talked about. In the first half of the season Liverpool led the way, remaining unbeaten until their twentieth league match, away at Huddersfield Town on 10th December. Even in this game they led 2-1 at half time before going down 3-2. It was only after late February that things really did go wrong with the team losing eight of the last thirteen games of the season, including four home defeats. This meant that they finished the season in eighth place – quite a disappointment after such a great start.

However, in the F.A. Cup it appeared that the team might win a trophy. Their road to Wembley began on January 7th away at Blackburn Rovers with a match that ended in a 0-0 draw. Liverpool won the replay four days later 2-1. In the forth round Exeter City were defeated 3-1 at Anfield. Next came a 2-1 away win at Stockport County (in front of their record attendance). In the sixth round on 8th March Blackpool, a real power in those days, were defeated 2-1 at Anfield (Blackpool gained their revenge four days later by winning 1-0 in a league match at Anfield). The semi-final saw an all Merseyside affair with Liverpool winning 2-0 in front of 72 000 at Maine Road, Manchester. 

The F.A. Cup Final was played on April 29th. Liverpool played Arsenal, trying to lift the cup for the first time in their history on their first ever appearance under the Twin Towers. In a game that is remembered for seeing Bob Paisley left out of the side, despite scoring the first goal in the semi-final. Liverpool performed under par and lost 2-0. Apparently Joe Mercer, the Arsenal captain who received the trophy, had been training quite regularly before the final with the Liverpool team. But in the few days before the final he had to train at the opposite end of the ground to the Liverpool players.

This article looks at items relating to the club’s first ever Wembley appearance as well as the programmes from some of the games that followed the final and the contrast between triumph and defeat. As well as the related programmes there is a wide range of memorabilia from this period. All help illustrate the period well and show the attractiveness of collecting in highlighting the club’s great history.

In the early post-war years the cup final often came at the end of April whilst the league season continued on into May. This happened in the 49-50 season with both Liverpool and Arsenal playing matches after they had met in the final.

To celebrate reaching the final the players produced a souvenir brochure. It was published by the Liverpool Echo with all the proceeds from the sale going to the players. It is a very impressive 20-page rectangular publication and has many photographs and details of the road to Wembley. Every player has their pen picture and photo included.

The programme for the Final consists of 20 pages and originally cost one shilling. It has appreciated in value quite substantially over the last couple of years and today a copy in mint condition would fetch around £130. Page 3 has a photograph of the King and Queen who were attending the final. It is quite an impressive issue with comprehensive articles on both teams, as well as team photos and detailed pen pictures of the players.

Also illustrated is an extremely rare item, the official itinerary issued by the club for the match.  It is rare as only a few must have been printed for those on this official trip. It is a 4 page card which details the travel arrangements and duties before and after the match. The party left Liverpool by train on the Thursday before the match (with “afternoon tea” on the train), and then had arranged a motor coach to take them to their hotel in Weybridge. On the day of the final they were to leave the hotel at 1-00pm for Wembley, arriving at the Empire Stadium at 2-00pm.  After the match, there was a dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel. On the Sunday they then left for a day out in Brighton. Finally it was a train home to Liverpool on the Monday where on arrival the party were to proceed to Anfield and then onto the Town Hall for a reception by the Lord Mayor at around 9-00pm.

For the Grosvenor House banquet on the evening of the Final a special 4 page menu was issued.  The inside cover list the menu and page three has a list of the toasts. Again a very rare item as so few must have been produced and lasted the test of time. Arsenal also held a special post-final banquet. Theirs was at the Café Royal and the menu produced was similar to that of Liverpool’s, being printed on card and with a red ribbon attached.

Four days after the cup final both Liverpool and Arsenal had home matches – their last home games of the season, with the kick off at both being 6-30pm. Liverpool entertained Huddersfield Town and produced their usual 16 page issue, with red print on white paper. Page 2 and half of page 3 were taken up with an article “From the Board Room.” Not surprisingly this focused on the events at Wembley the previous Saturday. It conceded that Arsenal were the better team on the day and deserved to go home with the cup. It also commented on the banquet held at Grosvenor House in London on the evening of the final which was attended by many civic, political and legal dignitaries from Merseyside, as well as representatives of all five Football Associations and most of the leading clubs of the country. The Chairman at the time, Alderman S. R. Williams is quoted as saying that because the team now knew the way to Wembley they hoped to be there again in the not too distant future, and next time go one better. They certainly did go one better on their next Wembley trip, but it involved a fifteen-year wait.

Pages 4 and 5 introduces the visitors, looks at their history and comments on their performance in the season coming up to this game. Pages 6 and 7 contain pen pictures of the Huddersfield players. Page 8 contains two adverts and the team line-ups appear on page 9. Page 10 has a football league results chart. Page 11 has a half page advert for Bent’s Ales and an advertisement for a celebration dance being held by the Liverpool players at the Grafton Rooms on Saturday 6th May (7-30pm to 1-00am) – tickets were on sale costing five shillings. The players also had an outing to Brighton on the day after the final and another banquet on the Sunday night that they were there. Pages 12 and 13 contain “Chatty Pars” about clubs and players. The rest of the programme contains results, tables and statistics. Altogether a very good souvenir, and also one that is quite hard to obtain compared to other issues from that season.

Whilst Liverpool ended the season on a low, by losing 3-2 in front of 32 000 supporters Arsenal were basking in the glory of their win in London. They faced Portsmouth, who went on to be Champions, in front of 65 000, and won 2-0. The programme form this match is a special souvenir issue that contains pictures from the cup final. Although Liverpool’s programme issues in the 49-50 season are good, with adequate reading, coverage of the visiting team and statistics, it still trailed in terms of quality behind Arsenal. The issue that came out of Highbury was also 16 pages but of a larger size. Page 6 is a full-page picture of Arsenal’s captain, Joe Mercer, receiving the cup from the King. It states that as Joe Mercer left the Royal Box with the trophy, strains of “For he’s a jolly good fellow” filled the air. Altogether an excellent issue and one, because of its coverage of the cup final is very collectable.

Liverpool played one further game this season. It took place on the afternoon of the players' banquet when the team travelled to Burnley to contest the Lancashire Senior Cup Final. For this game Burnley issued a four page programme with the team line ups spread over pages 2 and 3.  The back page contains “Programme Notes.”  It mentions that Turf Moor was the venue as Burnley’s secretary had won a toss of a coin to decide where the game was to be played. It also mentions the cup final result as Burnley had hoped that Liverpool would have been able to bring the F.A Cup to go with the Lancashire Cup that was being played for. An issue that is very difficult to find.

Liverpool’s journey to the Lancs Cup Final began at Anfield on 26th October when Barrow were the visitors. Round two saw a trip to Oldham, and a 3-1 victory with Done grabbing two goals and Brierly the other. The next round was the semi-final, this was played away against Southport with Liverpool winning 2-1. The final ended in a 3-0 defeat with Liverpool’s side containing 6 of their cup final side.

For more information on Liverpool programmes and memorabilia please send 2 x first class stamps for the latest bulletin of the Liverpool Programme Collectors Club.  This contains many articles on past issues and news on current season programmes.  The club has been established for over 17 years and exists to promote the enhancement of the hobby and the sharing of information on Liverpool memorabilia between collectors.

Write to: Keith Stanton, 4 Hillview Gardens, Woolton, Liverpool, L25 7XE  (0151 42 86 087).

© Robin Gowers,

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