Aston Villa's 1924 FA Cup Final programme up for auction
May 5 2008 By Dick Barton
An Aston Villa FA Cup Final programme which cost just one shilling in 1924 is expected to fetch up to £8,000 at auction.
The Villa versus Newcastle United Cup Final programme has become one of the most valuable Wembley cup final programmes partly because it rained on the day, April 26,1924.
So many fans used their programmes as makeshift umbrellas in the wet weather that few of the sought-after 1924 cup final programmes have survived intact. The covers were made from a particularly flimsy paper, which further reduced the remaining number.
And the Football Association's decision to double the price of the programme - from sixpence in 1923 to one shilling in 1924 - deterred some fans from buying a programme that year in the economically depressed 1920s.
These days the match day programme for the Cup Final costs more than £10.
The 1924 final was only the second FA Cup Final staged at the newly-built Wembley Stadium, which was constructed in 300 days and delivered on time at a cost of £800,000, so for many fans this was their first glimpse of Britain's newest and finest football stadium.
Newcastle won the final by beating Villa 2-0, with goals from Neil Harris and Stan Seymour.
The programme will be sold by Graham Budd Auctions at Sotheby's Olympia in London on Wednesday.
But even if fetches the expected £8,000 it will not be the most expensive football programme.
Two years ago, in 2006, Graham Budd Auctions sold an 1889 Wolves versus Preston North End FA Cup Final programme for £21,850. Before that auction, the slightly torn, single-sheet document had been expected to fetch between £7,000 and £10,000. It was snapped up by Giles Lyon, a bookseller at Farnham, Surrey.
Also being sold this Wednesday by Graham Budd Auctions is an urgent telegram from Wolves to one of their young stars telling him that he was playing on Saturday - and adding "bring father and mother".
The telegram was sent in the late 1940s, sometime before June 1948, by Wolves manager, Ted Vizard to Halesowen-born Molineux starlet Les Smith and says: "Want you to play in first team Sat. Kick off 3.0. Bring father & mother. Vizard."
Comparatively few people had telephones in the bleak, austere 1940s immediately after the end of the Second World War and the telegram was often the only means of contacting someone in a hurry.
Les Smith was 20 when he made his league debut for Wolves in one of Vizard's last games as Molineux boss, at Stoke City on April 17, 1948. Wolves won 3-2 with goals from Jimmy Mullen, Jesse Pye and Jimmy Dunn.
Smith made 88 league appearances and scored 22 league goals for Wolves but the club had such a great team in the 1950s that his first team chances were restricted. He was sold to Villa in 1956 for £25,000 and the following year, in 1957, Smith helped Villa win the FA Cup.
The transfer fee of £25,000 in 1956 would have been enough to buy 10 decent houses in Birmingham, as the average house then an average £2,280 while a gallon of petrol was four shillings and seven pence halfpenny (or 24p in modern money).
Les Smith died this year, in March, at Mary Stevens Hospice in Stourbridge after battling throat and bowel cancer. He was 80.
As well as the Molineux telegram, his football boots and three of his Wolves contracts are also being auctioned and are expected to fetch up to £250.