THERE have been many football fans, past and present, who have extend their passion for “the beautiful game” beyond just attending matches.

Football memorabilia is a specialist and popular area of collecting and includes everything from shirts, cups and mugs to signed photos, boots, balls and much more besides.

Printed ephemera is also a feature – particularly programmes.

The official version of the story is that programmes first appeared with the launch of the Football League in 1888 but, based on surviving examples, they were around before then.

The early documents were, however, more like scorecards detailing the names of the teams and the dates of games.

Over time they evolved into A4-sized single sheets and then the more familiar multiple-paged booklet format emerged.

Age, rarity and condition are all important to collectors and some of the more obscure examples can go for mind-blowing amounts of money.

The oldest known programme is from the pre-League 1882 FA Cup final of Old Etonians v Blackburn Rovers.

It made a staggering £30,000 at auction and a later 1909 FA Cup, involving Manchester United v Bristol City, went for a similarly large £23,500.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

The Maldon FC fixture list

My (modern in comparison) West Ham programmes are certainly not rare and not worth anywhere near those huge sums (if they were my wife would have sold them by now) but I do have an early, local example listing Victorian football fixtures.

Measuring just 3 by 6 inches, it is made of card and is tri-fold.

The outside parts are coloured a faded pink and are rather rubbed and worn but, with a strong light and magnifying glass, the wording is still discernible.

The central section of the outside folds has an antiquated picture of a player in those classic long shorts and kicking a ball with the dates 1884 and 1885 either side of him.

Below it reads “Maldon Football Club Match List”. The outside panels also reveal that the club ground was on ‘Fairfield’ (today’s Plume Academy Fambridge Road campus), the headquarters were at the Blue Boar Hotel, the dressing room was located on the ground, their colours were black and amber and practices were held on Saturdays at 3pm.

Annual subscriptions were set at three shillings and were “payable in advance”, and the names of the president, five vice-presidents, captain, sub-captain and eight committee members are given, along with contact details for the honorary secretary and treasurer – the Maldon councillor and borough accountant Walter H de Caen, c/o his private house at 113 High Street.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

The player depicted on the programme

As fascinating as all of that is, it is the inside spread that really represents football programme history.

A list of matches for the 1884-85 season is given, starting with an opening home game on the 20/9/1884 between teams led by the captain and sub-captain.

After that “friendly” came an away game at Chelmsford on the October 11, 1884 against ‘Excelsior’.

Whoever originally owned the document has written the scores down in a convenient section headed 'Goals', 'Won' and 'Lost'.

I am pleased to report that Maldon beat Excelsior 2-0. October continued well for the team – they won against Heybridge on the October 18 (4-3) and Halstead on October 25th (5-4).

November’s games started on the 8th against Chelmsford (score unknown), Braintree on the 15th (2-0 to Maldon) and with Maldon’s second eleven drawing with Terling on the 22nd (1-1) and losing to Chelmsford Rovers on the 29th (3-1).

December was mixed – the first eleven lost to Witham (at Witham) on the 6th (4-1), drew at the Bocking cup tie on the 13th (2-2), beat Heybridge (at Heybridge) on the 20th (2-1) and played the return Bocking cup tie on the 27th with a 1-0 defeat.

Our anonymous scribe likely attended most of those 1884 fixtures, but only recorded the scores of six games in 1885 – a loss to Heybridge on January 3, 1885 (3-1), then a win against them on January 17 (2-1).

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

‘Fairfield’ – the original club ground

A further win took place on January 24 against Chelmsford Rovers (2-0), another on February 28 with Halstead (1-0), but a loss against Braintree on March 14 (2-0) and finally a win against Witham on March 28 (1-0).

The closing game for the season was a return to the Captain v Sub-Captain competition on April 4.

At the bottom of the card there is an autograph that reads “Frederick C Perry, MFC”.

Fred Perry was one of the Maldon committee members, but more than that (and rather surprisingly) he was also the first honorary secretary (from 1880) and successful player with arch rivals Heybridge.

In fact, his name became synonymous with Heybridge football for well over 50 years.

Those late-Victorian Heybridge matches (up to 1895) were regarded as “friendlies”, but one wonders who Fred was cheering for (openly or otherwise) when Maldon met Heybridge during that 1884/85 season.

Despite all the detail, there are some things that even the old programme can’t tell us and perhaps, for Fred’s sake at least, that’s for the best.