Outside The Box: Everton get with programme and transfer rare gem to United

A friendly gesture from Everton, who have allowed the Manchester United museum to borrow what is claimed to be the oldest known United programme. It is for a game in April 1889 between Everton and Newton Heath, forerunners of United, who went bankrupt some 13 years later.

Given all last week's hoo-hah over Wayne Rooney, the advertisements in the programme are interesting: dancing at the Royal Assembly Rooms, a Wines & Spirits shop, a Tobacco & Cigars store and a "Leather Warehouse" (selling "football bladders" rather than anything more exotic).

Chris Williams of the auction firm Sporting Gold says: "In the very early days they were really just a card, with the teams listed on one side and sometimes the home team's fixtures on the other side. It was probably Sheffield United who produced programmes in the format that most people would recognise when the 16-page issues were produced in 1897." Sporting Gold's next auction will include a match card for an FA Cup tie between Wolves and Matlock from 1886.

According to Programme Monthly , the oldest known match card dates back to October 1879 for a game between the Scottish side Queen's Park and Wanderers, which identifies the players by their headgear: "Lord Kinnaird, blue-and-white cap" etc. The most expensive sale recorded for a single programme is believed to be the £21,850 paid for the 1889 Cup final at Kennington Oval in which Preston's "Invincibles" completed the Double in the Football League's first season by beating Wolves.

Joy of Six was shortlived

Now Aston Villa's production of "Waiting for Gérard" (Houllier) is almost over, it is worth remembering the arrival of the club's first Frenchman, the winger and World Cup player Didier Six (pictured), back in the mid-Eighties. "I didn't feel like coming at first, I didn't want to go," he recalled. "It pissed me off. But then I was overwhelmed by what I saw. I stayed in Birmingham for two or three days and I was seduced by the ambience. With the Villa players, it was instantly: "Come on, let's go for a pint! Let's go for a drink!" Alas, the joys of Ansell's Bitter soon wore off and after only 13 League starts, he headed back to France with Metz.

Croydon are back on track

Encouraging news of Croydon Athletic, whose future has been in doubt following accusations that the owner, Mazhar Majeed, was involved in cricket spot-fixing. After postponing two games in the Ryman League and withdrawing from the FA Cup, as well as losing the manager and several players, Croydon have rearranged tomorrow's scheduled home game with Aveley for this Friday and are promising to field "a full and competitive side".

Something to Brag about

As well as threatening Arsenal's biggest Champions' League victory of 7-0, last Wednesday's opponents Sporting Braga must have set a record for highest aggregate shirt numbers: 427, which included numbers 84, 88 and 99. It would have been even higher had there been room for the substitute wearing No 85, Elton, who remained on the bench; presumably singing Sad Songs during the 6-0 defeat.

No holding the Fort

And finally... Having declined to mention our Highland League friends Fort William last week in the hope that it might bring a change of luck after a run of defeats by 8-0, 8-0 and 7-1, we were thrilled with the result away to rivals in distress Rothes: a gritty 3-3 draw. That first point of the season, after only seven games, offered the possibility of drawing level at the bottom with yesterday's opponents, the other members of the eternally struggling triangle, Strathspey Thistle. Hurry to the results section on page 25 to check the outcome of what would be called a six-pointer if either side was likely to amass that number during a season.

s.tongue @independent.co.uk

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