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There Used To Be: A Programme Hut

Colin Payne just wants the opportunity to buy a £5 bundle


It wasn’t always like this, akin to some dirty secret, looking over your shoulder as you ask a disinterested teenage-girl in the Hornets Shop if she can check under the counter for a “West Ham at home”. Programme collecting was once a noble art, a hobby where collectors had yet to be forced underground, trawling the dark-net (well ebay) for long lost delights.

It was once celebrated, welcomed, encouraged. Back in the eighties, where shiny-black coaches now park having ‘dropped-off’ their multi-millionaire passengers, there used to be a Porta-cabin that was a glorious wonderland of ephemera and musty-smelling pages. Behind the counter the genial Bill Mainwood (now forever immortalised in Hornet Heaven). And beyond Bill that neatly ordered shelving displaying programmes from days long gone.

Of course it was intimidating to the young novice collector with 25p to spend, and like the Supporters Club HQ just across the road, there was a certain clique-ness to it all. But on those shelves were a world of exotic-delight, red covered pages from places as far away as Crewe, Workington or Wrexham; home games from when we played in blue, and the glorious bundles put together consisting of who-knew-what, a lucky dip of excess stock that would take you to places only previously imagined.

With the sad demise of Bill and his Porta-cabin, a smaller ‘hut’ was erected in his name. An impenetrable den, where you were only offered glimpses of what lay within. The open doorway guarded by the lovely Doreen and a giant stuffed hornet; a storage system that only she understood, where programmes were filed in a numerical order, the ‘key’ to which was never at hand. I often wondered what exactly was inside, was there some box left over from Bill’s place, full of 1940s treasures, buried beneath a pile of Gary Porter testimonial brochures? Alas we’d never find out.

Progress, as progress always does, banished the last vestiges of something good to where ‘it isn’t in the way’. As we broke from normality Doreen was still making a last-stand, selling away issues and that day’s programme from behind a fast-food outlet in a damp and cold corner of the Rookery. Invisible in plain sight, yet there, still failing to find that programme, you know full well she has.