Football: Riches for nostalgia merchants

Football's memorabilia went on sale in Glasgow yesterday. Phil Gordon reports
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There were enough of football's big names to staff a Dream League, never mind a team, and the chequebook took a hammering. Jack Walker would have been in his element.

Even Blackburn Rovers' benefactor, though, might have been stretched to snap up Billy Wright, Bobby Moore, the cream of Red Star Belgrade and Arsenal's famous championship-winning side of 1932.

Sadly, the legends were there in spirit only. Yet there they undeniably were; in the form of caps, jerseys, medals autographs and faded sepia prints, and there was no shortage of buyers desperate to land their star.

Some pounds 305,000 changed hands at Christie's Auction House in Glasgow yesterday as the game's carefully-tended and much-loved memorabilia came under the hammer.

Wright, just as he did during his playing career, led the way - though the modest Shropshire lad, who died in 1994 at the age of 70, would probably have been a little embarrassed at the thought of everyone scrambling over his collection. A large chunk of his 105 caps, along with medals, opponents' jerseys and a marvellous silver gilt-edged trophy, presented on the occasion of his centenary England appearance, realised a sum of pounds 116,759. The trophy itself was sold for pounds 9,200.

The private collector who bought much of Wright's legacy refused to speak about his purchase, or reveal his identity. Like a seasoned manager, he denied any interest in Wright or that he was the buyer. Sheer speculation, presumably.

Two Wolves fans who grabbed their own little bit of the Wright stuff were more willing to talk about the deals they had done. Steve Butcher and Dave Dungar had both travelled up from the Black Country, with Dungar spending more than pounds 2,000 on one of Wright's England caps and a commemorative teapot given to the great man by another legend, Russia's Lev Yashin.

"We're season ticket holders at Molyneux," said Butcher, old gold scarf draped round his neck, "and we didn't want to see this going to a private collector. We'll probably give it to the club to put on display."

All sorts of ephemera attracted all sorts of nudges and winks from the Christie's crowd. Caps belonging to the Scotland keeper Alan Rough; medals to Arsenal's Welsh favourite of the Fifties, Ray Daniel; Gary Birtles' European Cup medal, from Nottingham Forest's 1979 triumph. The most evocative item was a programme from that fateful Red Star Belgrade-Manchester United game in 1958, signed by all 11 Yugoslav players, which fetched pounds 1,450.

Victoria Gibson, of Christie's, said: "This is our eighth annual auction and it's been a record total. Our houses in London do cricket sales but being Glasgow, this is where the bulk of our football clientele is.

"The Billy Wright collection attracted massive interest and it looks like one of our best sales. Our best total before was pounds 220,000 and it's a growing market."

This being Glasgow, parity had to be preserved. A batch of old Rangers programmes, including one from a historic friendly with Moscow Dynamo in 1945, fetched pounds 450. However, Celtic came up with a late equaliser, managing the same sum for some of their 1960s European programmes.