Mention the Cliff to the majority of those (I almost said supporters) who visit Old Trafford on a match day during this and recent seasons and they would more than likely get the impression that you were making a reference to some aging pop-star. But for others, who take pride in the history of United and care more about the likes of Stan Pearson, David Pegg and Duncan Edwards than they do any of the present carriers of the flame, then the Cliff re-kindles memories of a bygone age. When football was a sport and the players were, let’s say, ordinary blokes.

Even those flimsy, single sheet programmes hold more allure than what is on offer at Old Trafford these days.

The first programme featured here is printed on light brown paper, something that also conjures up memories of days gone by, a far cry from those glossy publications of today.

Fourth Maccabiah X1 were the opposition, a name that was enough to attract you to the game out of simple curiosity if nothing else.

The game was arranged as part of the celebrations of the ‘World Jewish Sports Festival – Israel’ which had been held between May 3rd and May 12th 1953. This fixture, against a ‘Manchester United X1’, was played on September 7th of that year. The Maccabiah eleven were to represent Great Britain in the games of the same names which were being held later in Israel, with this fixture nothing more than a warm up match.

Who actually cares what the contents of this four page issue held, as it is one of those ultra-rare programmes and just owning it would be enough for any collector. But to satisfy the curiosity of many, what the programme does contain is as follows:

Page 2 has pen pictures of the Maccabiah players, who would quite obviously be completely unknown to I would imagine all of those in attendance and who were also amateurs.

Page 3 is the team line-ups, with United listed as – Howe, Foulkes, Redman, Harrop, Greaves, Barrett, Mooney, Whelan, Hamilton, Whitehurst, Scott.

The back page, strangely enough, is blank.

It wasn’t simply friendly fixtures that were played at the Cliff, as the Youth team and junior sides played competitive games under the floodlights at the somewhat Spartan ground. Floodlights, by the way, a facility of which Old Trafford could not boast.

The programme featured alongside is a single sheet issue and along the bottom is the legend – ‘To Read – Hold Programme To Light”. Would you do this on a pouring wet night? Perhaps many did, hence the reason that such items are now few and far between.

Obviously the opposition are little more than a nondescript side, but there are certainly a few familiar names in the United line-up.

Many supporters do not class themselves as “memorabilia collectors”, but will admit to keeping their match tickets, bringing them out of the cupboards and drawers from time to time to relive those games of yesteryear.

On their own, most of those tickets can be considered dull, uninteresting pieces of paper or card, but a few do stand out in their own right.

One such ticket is shown here, an ultra-rare issue for a game at the Cliff in 1953. To date, I have only ever seen one other ticket for a fixture played at the old training ground.

Remaining in Lower Broughton and by a strange coincidence, only a matter of a few weeks later than the previously mentioned programme against the Fourth Maccabiah X1, comes another rarity.

This in effect is a non-United programme, featuring a game between a Stan Pearson X1 and the Adelphi Lads’ Club, whom he had left in December 1935 as a sixteen year old, to join United as an amateur.

One or two familiar names within the ranks of both sides, with Billy Redman of United, Eric Westwood formerly with Manchester City and Joe Fagan best known in his association with Liverpool in the Pearson X1 and Frank Clempson another former United player in the Adelphi line up.

I wonder how many people turned out for this particular fixture? I wouldn’t imagine there was a huge attendance and I doubt if there are many copies of this programme still in circulation.

I mentioned earlier Stan Pearson’s association with the Adelphi Lads’ Club and also shown here is a telegram sent from that club to Stan on his selection for the England international side for the first time. Another telegram (can you still send them today?) was one again sent to Stan and this time from the Prestwich Cricket Club and sent to him at Wembley prior to the 1948 Cup Final.

Just to round off this particular article, I have also illustrated a signed picture of Stan in England colours and a ‘Turf’ cigarette card.

———–
Taken from the excellent book Manchester United: Rising from the Wreckage 1958-68 available on Kindle and as a hard back. Follow Iain McCartney on Twitter.




------------
The RoM 2016-17 Season Preview is available for just £5. It includes an EXCLUSIVE interview with Mikael Silvestre, a Q&A with the country's top journalists about our transfer targets, articles by brilliant United writers, and so much more. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.