It’s a drum we’ve banged before. We make no apologies for that, per se. After all, the fact remains – we’re still on the hunt for the missing and incomplete Stevenage line-ups in our database. So, why are we harping on about it again? Well, we’re starting to fall very flat when it comes to our options. You could say that our search is drying up quicker than the Rhine river. This is, therefore, yet another call to arms if anyone out there can lend a hand (or knowledge) that’ll get us over the finish line. We aren’t asking for money. Nor do we plan to seize the carefully-created programme collection you’ve put together. We only need names to fill gaps.
Our problem is that we’ve reached an impasse. We’ll elaborate on that shortly. In the last 18 months or so, progress became much slower. The good news, we guess, is that we’re only missing 80 line-ups now. The alright-ish news is that many of those 80 are mostly complete. A single name here and there is all it’ll take to probably halve that number (if not more). The bad news, perhaps, is that we’ve already taken more liberties than we’d like. To get to this stage, we’ve applied logic and educated guesswork. If the same starting XI, for example, played for six straight games before and after a match where our line-up was incomplete, we’d assume that starting XI was the same there too.
Logical, yeah. Accurate? Well, it’s certainly not 100% watertight. And people depend on our data.
What’s wrong with the British Library Newspaper Archive?
The British Library Newspaper Archive served us very well with the bulk of our research. But we’ve now reached the end of that road as far as we can tell. There are a multitude of reasons for this. The main one is midweek games that overlapped with print deadlines. A match on Tuesday night would miss the cut for a Wednesday print run, for example. If space allowed, a report might feature a week-and-a-half later. That rarely happened and, if it did by some miracle, the team line-up was normally sacrificed to buy a few column inches.
Other reasons why the newspaper race is now all but run?
- Strikes. Yep, sometimes an issue wouldn’t go to press due to industrial action. If it contained a line-up we need, we’ll never know.
- Missing issues. On more than one occasion, the newspaper archive is missing an issue we need.
- Christmas/New Year deadlines. The nature of festive newspapers meant that a lot got cut from the usual fayre, like football reports.
- Time. We could plough through every conceivable opposition line-up. But that would almost certainly be a fruitless task.
Can’t you get these Stevenage line-ups from old programmes?
Old programmes was our next port of call for the missing Stevenage line-ups we’re still chasing. Yet, it turns out this route wasn’t as useful as first hoped. Quite simply, programmes from the 1980s (in particular) were heavy on ads and light on content. Any reference to a previous match was restricted to a brief mention of what happened and who scored. A full debrief (with line-ups) would sometimes turn up in those programmes published between 1980 and 1986ish. Even rarer were the rollcalls that used to pop up in the mid-1980s. Now, however, we are less confident about programmes being much use.
We’ve even mistakenly purchased multiple copies of the same match programme in the vain hope that our prayers will be answered.
Spoiler alert: They were not.
What else are you doing and how do you expect us to help?
Believe it or not, we’ve emailed dozens of clubs and the United Counties League to see if they kept records that may be able to help us. In the rare case that we received a reply, the answer was no. It turns out that few (if any) clubs kept reliable records. And it suggests that, just maybe, we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. It’s annoying too because we’ve come so far.
Maybe we’re not done yet, though. Maybe there’s something you can do to help us? What that is, we don’t know. It really could be anything. Do you have your own records we can lean on? Or someone in-the-know? Is there something we haven’t yet thought of?
Why are we so persistent? The bottom line is that we can’t bear to leave a job incomplete. And that’s where we’ll find ourselves if we aren’t able to turn those 80 missing Stevenage line-ups into 0. It is as much a case of personal pride as it is professional dedication. We ended up taking on this task by chance and we’ve come too far to give it up now. Then, with a bit of luck, we can be as sure as it’s possible to be with regards to player statistics – without any other consistent or consolidated records at our disposal otherwise. You can be a part of that with any information you can supply us with. So, have a look at the gaps in our knowledge and see if there’s any that you can help fill…
Total of Incomplete Stevenage Line-Ups By Season
- 1980-1: 6
- 1981-2: 16
- 1982-3: 15
- 1983-4: 15
- 1984-5: 10
- 1985-6: 11
- 1986-7: 4
- 1987-8: 1 – Lewes 3-0 Stevenage Borough, 19 April 1988 (two names!)