Many Chester supporters will remember the Hello Albert fanzine that ran for 28 issues from 1990 to 2000. Edited by Colin Mansley its launch coincided with the departure from Sealand Road and ended with relegation to the Conference under Terry Smith.
In a traumatic 10 years it chronicled one promotion and three relegations alongside exile in Macclesfield, administration under Mark Gutterman and the emergence of the Chester City ISA.
The “stimulating and mildly amusing fanzine” took its name from the 1930s stadium announcer at Sealand Road who would greet supporters with the phrase “Hello Spion Kop. Hello Albert” addressing a long-standing supporter in the ground.
What is not so well known is that this was not the first Chester publication to use the name.
The Chester FC Supporters’ Club was formed in 1949 and not to be confused with the Chester FC Supporters’ Committee which had been established for over 30 years. At first the new group were allocated a small amount of space in the programme but at the end of 1950 they started to produce a very readable official newsheet edited by a Miss Hope. Priced at 1d, the four page publication was initially a folded sheet, slightly smaller than A4, and contained as much reading material as in the official programme. The usual format was an editorial by “Stingo” on the front page, an informative “Presenting the Players” on page 2, club activities on page 3 and a quiz, puzzle or competition on the back page.
I have a few, odd copies of this newsheet which appears to have been issued every two weeks. The first one I have in this format is number 6, dated March 3rd 1951.The last is number 16 dated October 13th 1951.
In 1953 the format changed as it became a flimsier, double-sided single sheet. The paper was now slightly larger than A4 and it contained more editorial content. The sheet numbering changed to volume 2 and again I have a few odd copies starting with number 1, dated August 22nd 1953 and ending with issue 14 on March 27th 1954.
I am guessing that the publication ended at the end of the 1953/54 season but I would be interested to hear from anyone who can fill in any gaps in my knowledge or who has old copies. I would especially like to know if the newsheet was issued in 1951/52 and 1952/53 or after the 1953/54 season.
One of the most interesting items of club memorabilia I have ever seen was recently loaned to Chester FC chairman Tony Durkin.
A 336 page hardback ledger, spanning the period from November 1932 to February 1937, was in the possession of a relative of former clerk and secretary Billy Peters. It makes fascinating reading as it covers board meetings with subjects ranging from club finances and team selection down to travel arrangements and the provision of fire extinguishers.
After my recent articles on Sealand Road there was one item that took my eye. In January 1934 item 2945 referred to the naming of the ground:
Naming of the Ground
“Sec-manager recommended the ground be given a name such as “The Stadium”, Sealand Road, Chester. Resolved on the suggestion of Mr C.J.F. Owen that the Chairman and Sec. Manager use the words The Stadium on posters and letterheads when the public would would follow the lead and accept the title.”
I never appreciated that the ground had formally been entitled “The Stadium” in this way. I had presumed that the name had been adopted by default after its construction in 1906. Given the circumstances I am surprised that such a bland, unimaginative name was endorsed. The naming may have been prompted by the imminent arrival of the Greyhound Stadium, which was built next door the following year, but I would have thought that this would have prompted a more creative title.
Ground name 1932
Ground Name 1935
Although The Stadium may have been the official name I think it is fair to say that it never fully caught on. I always though of it as Sealand Road and this was always how the ground was known in footballing circles.
After I published the On The Buses article Tommy Jones reminded me about the car stickers produced by the now defunct Cheshire Observer in the mid-1970s. As a follow up I thought it might be an idea to put something together about these posters which even at the time seemed peculiarly dated. I did write about them in a programme article earlier in the season but I’ve included a couple of additional examples for this piece.
I seem to remember that the very first one was launched during summer 1974 and have a vague memory of the Cheshire Observer asking readers what the phrase “Chester 3-4-5′ meant. At the time there was no indication that the phrase was linked to Chester FC so I don’t think anyone initially had any idea what on earth it was all about. For those still unsure it meant Chester for Division Three 1974/75. It may make vague sense now but it certainly seemed obscure when it was introduced. I haven’t got an example of the Chester 3-4-5 sticker but if anyone else has got one I’ll add it to the piece.
Chester 3-4-5 was quickly followed by Support Chester FC and then Forget The Cup We’re Going Up after the League Cup Semi-Final defeat to Aston Villa Following promotion the Observer went into overdrive and produced the classic “Let Chester Shout With Glee Seals Are In Division Three”. Possibly the last time the word glee was used in any sentence until the recent television programme salvaged the word from obscurity.
Flush with success the Observer then produced two more stickers for the first season in Division Three.
Chairman Reg Rowlands went to town with the stickers following promotion by proudly displaying a selection in the window of his florist’s shop in Bridge Street along with other memorabilia.
Reg Rowlands shop after promotion in 1975
I’d be interested to hear from anyone who knows if any other stickers were produced.
Older Chester supporters may remember the match adverts that used to appear on the maroon Corporation buses in the 1970s. I can remember the luminous green posters on the school buses and it was not unknown for them to end up in the hands of Chester supporting school kids. I managed to pick up a couple myself after they mysteriously worked themselves loose from the bus window. Larger versions of these garish adverts were also located on boards outside the Stadium. In the late 1970s it was possible to buy small card versions for 10p from the club shop which used to occupy the Georgian House on Grosvenor Road.
At a recent Senior Blues meeting I was talking to supporter Fraser Warburton who was telling me that these adverts appeared on buses as long ago as the early 1960s which surprised as I always thought they were a 1970s phenomenon.
The examples here are from the 1961/62 season when Chester played in green and gold and this is reflected in the colour of the posters although it looks the background may have faded slightly.
Fraser remembers cycling down to Stamford Road in Blacon where the buses used to wait before returning to the city centre, and asking the conductor if he could have the posters.
Games continued to be advertised until summer 1967 when the club objected to the council’s decision to charge £50 to continue with the arrangement.
The adverts re-appeared in the 1970s and my first example is from 1976 but I have a feeling they may have existed before this date. Does anyone know when and under what circumstances they came back? I’m wondering if it coincided with promotion in the 1974/75 season when the council were perhaps eager to cash in on the club’s success. The last dated poster is from 1978 but again they probably remained on buses for a short time after this as I have some of the cardboard adverts from the 1979/80 campaign.I’m not sure that these adverts would work in the present day with de-regulation and anonymity of current buses and I’m sure health and safety would have a say about sticking posters on windows. Nevertheless they were an extremely useful marketing tool for the era when there were far fewer media outlets.