Passions: My favourite match programmes are for postponed games

I want the programme to a Dundee-Hibs ‘ghost game’ I travelled to with Dad

This column is called Passions but sometimes “Full-Blown, Cold-Sweat, Clammy-Hands Obsessions” would be a better name and today’s entry is a case in point.

I dream about football programmes, in particular one such pamphlet for a game long ago, but get this: the match didn’t actually happen. Give it to me straight, doc: am I wasting my time here?

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My team Hibs were away to Dundee and this was going to be the furthest I’d travelled to see them play. My father was driving, the radio was blasting out Scottish country dance music. Oh, the excitement as we crossed the Tay, Dad pointing out the stumps of the old rail bridge and telling a story of a fateful track check days before the disaster when the inspector was distracted by his son’s non-stop chattering – a cautionary tale doubtless impressed upon generations of pesky kids.

I’d like to think the story tempered my disappointment upon finding out the game had been postponed due to a frozen pitch but can’t altogether be sure about this. Could I still get a programme, a souvenir of the “ghost game”? Dad circled the stadium a few times but we couldn’t find a seller. It was a quiet journey back.

We made many such expeditions but perversely – a Scottish trait regarding football – that one has become special so I’d very much like a memento and I know that programmes were printed, having got to know a few collectors, each of them searching for their own postponements, their own holy grails.

I’ve confined myself to Hibs games from the 1960s and 1970s. “A nice wee collection,” I was once told, although it dawned on me later that this was the equivalent of being informed I had a nice wee car or a nice wee penis.

But any bigger, involving dearer prices for even more ancient parchments, and the children would be jumping up and down about their inheritance and I’d probably end up divorced.

Including Dundee, I still need ten to complete. My programmes are smelly but lovely, thin on info but packed with social history through advertisements for army recruitment, discotheques and high tea. They are in a box under the stairs. I haven’t invested in leatherette folders or Silent Witness-grade gloves to peruse them. Come on, I’m not sad …

Aidan Smith is a journalist and columnist at The Scotsman

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