Region's sporting triumphs and tragedies – looking back over 90 years of Sporting Star

The Sporting Star, the pink paper football fans grabbed as they left grounds, ran for 90 years. We look back at its highlights.

Sporting glories
Sporting glories

"Don't forget to pick up your Pink on the way back from the game."

For 90 years, the Sporting Star was as much part of the match-day experience as steaming-hot Bovril at half-time.

Long before Grandstand and World of Sport, let alone smartphones and the internet, fans would pick up a paper as they left football grounds – and read a comprehensive match report about the game they had just seen.

The Sporting Star ran for 90 years, having been launched in 1919, a season that saw domestic club football dominated by West Bromwich Albion, who won the league title, and FA Cup winners Aston Villa. The paper finished in May 2009, at the end of another eventful season in the West Midlands, which saw Mick McCarthy's rejuvenated Wolves secure promotion back to the Premier League, and arch-rivals West Bromwich Albion heading in the opposite direction.

Wolves captain Bill Slater holds the FA Cup aloft in 1960

Producing comprehensive match reports within minutes of the final whistle remains a logistical challenge to this day, but 100 years ago it must have seemed like a work of genius. In the early days, match reporters would head to the nearest payphone with a pocketful of coins to post updates throughout the match. In later years, there would be telephone lines in the press box, where reporters could dictate their reports throughout the game to a team of highly skilled copy-takers back at the newsroom. The presses would start rolling the moment the final results were in, and the papers would be on the news stands almost as soon as the fans had got out of the grounds.

The rest of the paper would be filled with in-depth news, interviews and comment about a variety of different subjects.

Graham Turner shots - Shrewsbury v Wolves, 1979

Not everything stood the test of time. The 'Star Birds' feature of the 1980s – a bit like Page Three girls but usually in some form of sporting kit – seems more than a little outdated today. But the basic idea, of providing fans with all the latest results, tables and detailed commentaries straight after a game is as relevant today as it was in 1919 – only today's sports reporters do it on our website.

The Sporting Star was the last 'Pink' sports paper produced in the Midlands, having outlived a number of its old-established rivals. One of the factors behind the paper's demise was the growing number of sporting events – football matches in particular –which were no longer held on Saturday. This was not an entirely new phenomenon, and is why memorable sporting moments from Aston Villa's 1982 European Cup triumph, to the promotions of West Bromwich Albion in 2002 and Wolves in 2003 never made it onto the front of the Pink. However, by 2009 the tradition of football matches mostly being played at 3pm on a Saturday were all but over, meaning that the Pink was no longer viable.

Dennis Mortimer when Villa became league champions in1981

For the Star's sports reporters, it simply meant that their match reports would be published online instead – and of course meant the end of the dash to print, and the vans racing out of the newspaper's printworks to get to the shops and street vendors in time.

But it also marked the end of an era, where young fans would compile scrapbooks of their team's ups and downs, and keep the Pink as a souvenir of the most memorable moments.

Here we look at some of the biggest stories the Sporting Star has covered.

April 10, 1920 - Albion win title, but it doesn't make front page
April 10, 1920 - Albion win title

April 10, 1920 – Albion win the title

Albion claimed the First Division championship with two weeks to spare as they cantered to a 3-1 win over Bradford.

It was the first and only time the Black Country side won the league title.

Jephcott put Albion ahead 10 minutes into the game, and created the second for Bentley a short while later. Bradford pulled one back before the interval, but Bowser put a penalty away in the second half.

Yet despite the historic occasion, it didn't make the front page where, instead, there was a cartoon bemoaning Wolves' disappointing Easter programme.

April 4, 1920 – Villa win the Cup
April 24. 1920 – Villa win FA Cup after extra time

April 24, 1920 – Villa win the cup

The West Midlands well and truly owned the Beautiful Game that season, with Villa winning a record 6th FA Cup just 14 days after Albion claimed the league title.

The front-paged featured a cartoon of a Villa supporter who had missed the game anxiously telephoning to hear the result.

It took Villa until extra time to break the deadlock against, with Billy Kirton on the mark. It was the 45th FA Cup final and the first time the competition had been played since 1915. It was Villa's sixth FA Cup win, making them the most successful team in the competition since it was launched in 1871.

Albion also reached their hundredth goal of the season in a 1-1 draw at home to Liverpool.

April 24, 1954 - Wolves pip Albion to title

April 24, 1954 – Wolves beat Albion to First Division title

This would be the first of three league titles Wolves won during the 1950s, unquestionably the greatest period in the club's history.

By the time the Saturday came around, Wolves had already secured the title in midweek. But they were determined to finish the season off in style, a 2-0 home win over Tottenham meaning they finished four points ahead of their arch rivals.

Albion, probably more focused on the following week's FA Cup final, lost 3-0 away to Portsmouth.

Captain Billy Wright spoke of 'one of the proudest days of my life'.

May 1, 1954 - Albion win FA Cup

May 1, 1954 – Albion win the Cup

Having endured the disappointment of missing out on the league title, Albion made up for it by winning the FA Cup the following week.

A Frank Griffin goal two minutes from time was enough to secure a 3-2 win over a Preston North End side featuring Tommy Docherty in a pulsating finale to the season.

Ronnie Allen opened the scoring, but Preston quickly equalised through Angus Morrison. Charlie Wayman then put Preston ahead, but Allen scored again, this time from the penalty spot.

It was the second time the sides had met in the final, with Albion having triumphed 2-1 in 1888.

May 4, 1957 - Villa win FA Cup for seventh time

May 4, 1957 – Villa's seventh cup triumph

Aston Villa made FA Cup history by winning the title for a record seventh time.

Peter McParland put Villa ahead of Manchester United's "Busby Babes" in the 68th minute, and he doubled the lead five minutes later. Tommy Taylor pulled a goal back for United on 83 minutes, but Villa held onto their lead to claim a 2-1 win.

The game was marred by an injury to United keeper Ray Wood following a collision with McParland in the sixth minute. Wood left the pitch, and Jackie Blanchflower took over in goal. Wood later returned in an outfield position, but had little part in the game.

It is the last time Villa won the competition, but they held onto their record until it was equalled by Tottenham Hotspur in 1982.

May 7, 1960 - Wolves win FA Cup

May 7, 1960 – Wolves' turn to win the FA Cup

A Norman Deeley double-strike helped Wolves to their fourth and most recent FA Cup win.

Wolves triumphed 3-0 over Blackburn Rovers, with an own-goal from Blackburn's Mick McGrath giving Stan Cullis's men the lead on 22 minutes.

The result was a big consolation to Wolves five days after they were denied a third successive league title by Burnley.

May 18, 1968 - Astle helps Baggies win FA Cup
May 11, 1968 - preview of FA Cup final

May 11, 1968 – West Bromwich Albion's FA Cup Final

There was no Sporting Star on the day of Albion's last FA Cup win, but there was a four-page preview ahead of the clash with Everton.

The paper highlighted Jeff Astle as the man to watch, having scored in every round of the competition.

And so it proved on the day, with Astle getting the only goal of the game in extra time. Although there was no Sporting Star on the day of the final, there was a special 'pink' edition of the Express & Star celebrating the achievements of Alan Ashman's men. It remains the last time a club from this region has lifted the FA Cup.

March 10, 1979 – Shrewsbury hold Wolves to a cup replay

March 10, 1979 – Shrews earn FA Cup quarter final replay at Wolves

A late equaliser from Ian Atkins earned Shrewsbury Town a well-deserved replay in the quarter final of the FA Cup.

Town were trailing First Division rivals Wolves 1-0 on 79 minutes after Bill Rafferty opened the scoring, but Atkins drew the scores level with five minutes to go.

The Shrews hosted Wolves at Gay Meadow the following Tuesday, but would progress no further, losing the tie 3-1.

There was still plenty more to come, though, in what would be a sensational season for Graham Turner's side. Town would go on to win both the Third Division title and the Welsh Cup.

March 15, 1980 - Wolves win League Cup

March 15, 1980 – Wolves win League Cup

Record signing Andy Gray earned a large chunk of his transfer fee after scoring the only goal in Wolves' 1-0 League Cup Final win over Nottingham Forest.

It wasn't a classic strike by any means, but it went a long way to justifying the £1.4 million Wolves had paid Aston Villa for the Scottish striker the previous September.

Forest's Dave Needham had failed to clear a high kick from Wolves' Geoff Palmer, and goalkeeper Peter Shilton also missed. Gray latched on to the lose ball to put Wolves ahead.

Forest trainer Jimmy Gordon made history by leading the team out, with Clough once more standing aside. The previous year Clough had given the honour to his assistant Peter Taylor.

May 2, 1981 - Villa win league title

May 2, 1981 – Villa clinch league title

Aston Villa lost 2-0 away to Arsenal, but there weren't many complaints from the travelling fans as the Midland club claimed their first league title in 71 years.

Ipswich Town's defeat to Middlesborough left Bobby Robson's men four points adrift of Villa, with one game to go.

The game had begun with an appearance from Brazilian legend Pele, which bizarrely led to clashes between rival supporters.

Wolves legend Stan Cullis paid tribute to Villa manager Ron Saunders.

"Like wine, the Villa players have matured and improved individually and collectively during the season," he said.

February 16, 1985 – Telford give cup holders Everton a run for their money
Everton 3 Telford United 0, FA Cup Fifth Round, at Goodison Park, Everton, Saturday, February 16, 1985.
Some of the Telford United fans at Goodison Park on Saturday, February 16, 1985, to watch Telford United play a historic FA Cup Fifth Round match against Everton. Telford lost 3-0.

February 16, 1985 – Telford take on holders in FA Cup fifth round

More than 47,000 turned out to watch Alliance Premier League minnows Telford United take on holders Everton in the fifth round of the FA Cup at Goodison Park.

It was the culmination of a remarkable run which had seen the Bucks knock out Lincoln City, Preston North End, Bradford City and Darlington.

In the end, the First Division table toppers proved too much for Telford to overcome, although they managed to hold out for 69 minutes before Gary Stevens put the home side ahead. Kevin Sheedy scored from the penalty spot three minutes later, and Trevor Steven wrapped up the scoring with a minute to go.

Everton went on to finish runners-up.

May 7, 1988 - promotion for Villa and Wolves

May 7, 1988 – Promotion for both Villa and Wolves

Probably accolades that both sides would wish to be forgotten in their respective rolls of honour, but they did mark a turning point in the fortunes of both clubs.

After years of plunging through the divisions, Wolves finally showed that they had turned the corner by winning the Fourth Division title at a canter, finishing five points ahead of second-place Cardiff. Just over three weeks later, they would top off their triumph by winning the Sherpa Van Trophy, although you probably won't hear too many fans boasting about that today.

Wolves' renaissance was spearheaded by free-scoring centre-forward Steve Bull, who scored an incredible 52 goals in 58 appearances.

Villa, now managed by Graham Taylor, returned to top flight at the first attempt having suffered the humiliation of relegation to the Second Division the season before.

May 1, 1999 – Saddlers promoted

May 1, 1999 – Saddlers promoted to First Division

Walsall secured promotion to the First Division with two games to spare.

A 3-1 win at home to Oldham Athletic put them out of reach of rivals Manchester City, who would have to settle for a place in the play-offs.

It topped off a remarkable season for Walsall who had been tipped by many for relegation.

Manager Ray Graydon, appointed less than a year before, had spend just £30,000 on players, compared to the £12 million spent by Kevin Keegan at table-toppers Fulham.

Kidderminster Harriers finally promoted to the Football League

April 25, 2000 – Kidderminster promoted to Football League

Kidderminster Harriers became Worcestershire's first-ever representatives in the Football League, having secured the Conference title.

After years on the brink, Jan Molby's men finally made it into the big time.

They did it the hard way, succumbing to a 1-0 defeat away to Woking. But two points dropped by second-placed Rushden & Diamonds was enough to ensure Harriers finally made it into the League.

Meanwhile, a hard-earned win by Walsall over Portsmouth meant the last day of the season would be a battle for First Division survival with neighbours West Bromwich Albion.

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