For anyone that doesn’t remember, League Ladders were a simple device. Essentially the main part consisted of a thin piece of 74-75 Shoot1974Tabs1cardboard with slits cut into it, on top of which was printed the empty league tables for England and Scotland. Into the slits you’d slot some thin cardboard tabs that displayed the names of all the English and Scottish league clubs. As the league tables changed each week, it was your job to pull out the tabs and place them in the right slots to show each team in their new position.
The process of updating your very own full colour league table display was addictive and hugely enjoyable up until, ooh, the third week of the season, by which time the novelty of rearranging 130 small pieces of cardboard had dramatically worn off.
Such was SHOOT!s ingenious ability to nurture your excitement for the new season (and for increasing revenue), they’d only give away two divisions worth of team tabs every week, thereby meaning you had to buy Shoot for four consecutive weeks to get them all. Chances are you’d fail to get a copy of Shoot for at least one of those four weeks, thereby leaving an aching chasm of emptiness where Kilmarnock should be. On reflection, maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing, actually… Anyway, the history of team tabs and league ladders as they affected Ayr United are explored on this page.
Team tabs for published league ladders are certainly far older than I had ever imagined! Previously, I had believed that the football magazine SHOOT! produced the first of these in the 1969-70 season, but my research has revealed that in fact they go all the way back into the 1920s!
Lets start with an inventive group called THE FOOTBALL ATTIC 2013-14 who, in August 2013, to celebrate the popularity of League Ladders produced their own ‘fantasy’ set of League Ladders for 1913-14.
You will find a link to their website and a fully printable set of both ladders and tabs in the links below to show you what they might have looked like had they been available 100 years ago, just before the start of the 1913-14 season.
As you can see, they tried to be as authentic as possible when it comes to the admittedly minimal styling (give or take the occasional bit of indulgence here or there) be rest assured the details and team colours shown are accurate as any examination of Ayr United’s colours for then will show.
It shows Ayr United in perfect 1913/14 colours just after they entered the league in 1910 and gained their first promotion.
The major producers of these little items were ROVER, CHAMPION, TIGER, LION and VALIANT comics, all published by Amalgamated Press / Fleetway / IPC from the early 1920s and into the 1970s. It seems that between 1955 and 1965 the League Ladders published were alternated between LION and one of TIGER and VALIANT comics.
The Tab colours in Scotland were white lettering on a Blue background for Division 1 and red lettering on a white background for Division 2, all detailing the colours of the clubs’ strip.
From 1960-61 the colours’ changed for the first time; certainly in 1962-63 VALIANT had the 2nd Division teams represented by red letters on a yellow background with black edges. Also, up until 1962-63 tabs were not perforated for easy ‘push-out’ use; instead they had to be cut from the printed sheet.
In 1963/64 LION led the way in having team ‘colours’ on the tabs with the Ayr United tab showing white text on black. Another innovation in the 1963/64 season was the printing of the previous season’s finishing position – a boon to all collectors trying to date individual tabs!
By the late 1960s everbody wanted to get in on the act and all sorts of commodities were issuing their own ‘League Ladders’ in a variety of shapes and sizes. The VICTOR tab was a peelable sticker.
LYONS MAID – All you had to do was send your name and address along with four tokens from the bottom of the Soccer Star cards that were given away free with their Score lolly. The offer ended on 1 February 1971.
SMITHs Crisps became involved and offered league tables for 1978/79 and ‘HOT SHOT’ in 1988/89
Perhaps the most fondly remembered and most widely known team tabs were those produced by SHOOT magazine from 1969 until 2000, although not 1970-71 when they were issued with SCORE’N’ROAR’ instead.
As can be seen, they underwent quite a change in presentation although they certainly stuck to using team colours’ for each of the clubs.
One problem for the collector came with the decision in 1970 to drop the previous season’s finishing position, (re-instated by 1990), in favour of information about where the club played which makes dating these items all the more difficult.
From 1984/85 the record attendance was added which again did not help in identifying the season. In 1990/91 the previous seasons league position was re-introduced.
The SHOOT! tabs for the 70s, therefore, were very much the same from one season to the other as can be seen in the tabs shown here. 1990/91 also saw SHOOT! move from white lettering on a black background to black lettering on a white background for Ayr United which remained until the last produced Ayr United tab.
For collectors in Scotland there was a major change in 1994/95 when SHOOT took the decision to exclude the Scottish second division from their annual publication, providing tabs and League ladders for the Scottish Premier and First Division only.
This meant that (unlike for English teams) league position the previous season decided whether or not you’re club were included in the following seasons league ladders.
Because of this there were no tabs printed for Ayr United in seasons 1994/95, 1995/96 and 1996/97, when the Honest Men were in Scotland’s third tier.
In August 1999 SHOOT! printed their final set of League Ladders, leaving MATCH WEEKLY to carry the torch single-handedly for the next ten seasons.
With many different publications getting involed, the ‘News of the World’ got in on the act in 1996/97, its one and only effort.
MATCH WEEKLY appeared as a serious rival to SHOOT! and began producing League Ladders of its own in 1990.
Like those of SHOOT! these tabs underwent varying changes in design although they did stick pretty much to using a ‘shirt’ design and the colours of the club.
By 2005-06 they had also adopted the same design as the shirts of the team, not just their colours.
Like ‘SHOOT!’, ‘MATCH’ continued the now accepted format of including only the first two divisions in Scotland and by 2009 they had dropped the Scottish first division producing tabs only for the Scottish Premiership.
This effectively meant that the last tab produced for Ayr United was in 2003/04 when the club were relegated to the third tier not returning to the second tier until season 2009/10 when only Premier League tabs were produced.
On a general issue, MATCH inexplicably, did not issue League Ladders in seasons 2011-12 or 2012-13.
They also failed to produce any League Ladders in August 2016, fuelling thoughts that such gifts were considered no longer of interest to the general football fan.
It wasnt until 2017 that a new range of Team tabs appeared. Simon Holderness of retrocraftsuk developed a current day version of these league ladders and team tabs to a very high standard, meaning that once again that Ayr United featured in a League Ladders system albeit not from the recognised national magazines.
His 2017/2018 version included all of the recognised Scottish and English league system but also includes ladders and team tabs for the Scottish Highland and Lowland leagues as well as the English National, National North and National South divisions, other divisions in the English pyramid system.
In September 2017 retrocraftsuk produced a retro 1975/76 league ladders with a revised 2017/18 version. A 1958/59 retro system was also produced in September 2017. RetrocraftsUk also offered a series of 1960’s retro versions to include the traditional tab with the previous years league position.
He continued with new ranges in subsequent years including a nice ‘Big League’ issue showing club logos.
I have been lucky enough to have my Scottish League Ladders personalised by showing a footballer in an Ayr United shirt as background (above) and having not only the normal Ayr United home tab, but also an away version in the 2017/18 away colours (shown below). Ive also had some single (one off) team tabs for other seasons as shown below which are not in general sale.
Another such recent version of League Ladders is that of Stephen from Huddersfield who has developed an update-able set of wooden League Ladders that can be physically moved each week.
They come with scorecards and fixtures for you’re specific team.
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