St. Mirren in the Isle of Man Football Festival Ė 1982 - 1989
(first published in the match programmes for St. Mirren v Arbroath 9th July 2022 and St. Mirren v FC Edinburgh 23rd July 2022)
St. Mirren in the Isle of Man 1982
In the summer of 1982, St. Mirren accepted an invitation from the Isle of Man Tourist Board to hold a pre-season training camp on the island and to compete in two matches against sides provided by the Isle of Man Football Association. English First Division side Sunderland was also invited over to play a match against Saints before they embarked on a pre-season tour which would include matches against Carlisle United, Ayr United, St. Johnstone and Dundee United.
Saintsí first outing was against an Isle of Man XI in Douglas on 30th July 1982. The sides were evenly matched for the first 40 minutes until Billy Starkís opener gave the visitors a half-time lead. The home teamís young defenders tired after the break and further goals from Frank McDougall (2), Frank McAvennie and an Ian Scanlon penalty made the final score 5-0.
Three days later at the same venue, St. Mirren took on an Isle of Man League Select which featured four of the same players from the first match. The first half belonged to two players; home Ďkeeper John Horbury, who miraculously dealt with everything that Saints could fire at him, and the Selectís captain Gareth Jones whose magical run set up their opening goal, scored by Alan Gawne. The second half was more evenly matched and it took a late defensive error to allow Frank McAvennie in to make it 1-1. The Select could have taken the honours in the last minute, but Chris Taggart fired wide with only Saintsí goalkeeper Campbell Money to beat.
The final match was against the men from Wearside on 5th August, played before a holiday crowd of 600. Lex Richardson gave St. Mirren the lead after 14 minutes only for Sunderlandís Joe Hinnigan to equalise six minutes later. Just before half time, Frank McAvennie latched on to a Tony Fitzpatrick through ball to score what would be the winning goal and bring the Buddies' tour to an unbeaten end.
The Isle of Man Tourist Board produced a 12-page programme to mark the tour costing 25p. A foreword by the Chairman set the scene and welcomed the participating teams. This was followed by a very interesting, and still very relevant, article on programme collecting.
A page was devoted to each of the sides, consisting of a team photo and pen pictures of the principal players. The centre pages presented photo action from the Paul Fletcher Testimonial match played in the week prior to the tour. On the back page, the details of the three matches were listed and space was left for the team line-ups to be filled in.
The 1983 Isle of Man Football Festival
A four-page insert was included for the final match against Sunderland, the centre spread of which featured photos from the previous two matches and the back page gave full line-ups and match reports.
Heartened by the success of the tour, the Isle of Man Tourist Board decided to organise its first Football Festival in 1983 and the sides from the previous season, together with Burnley, were invited to participate in a four-sided league. Gore Promotions were approached to act as sponsor and they provided a Gold Cup to be presented to the winners.
The matches took place between 4th and 9th August 1983, but St. Mirren did not fare so well on their second visit to the island. After going down 2-1 to Burnley in Ramsey in the opening match, they defeated the Isle of Man side 3-0 in Castletown. The final match against Sunderland in Douglas would decide the winners of the new Cup, but Saints went down 1-0 to a first-half goal.
A twenty-page A5-sized Festival programme was produced and was printed black on white semi-gloss paper, with a glossy colour cover. Following an introduction from the Tourist Board, single pages were devoted to each of the participating sides and the centre pages presented a detailed schedule of the tournament.
Individual programmes were also produced for the first four matches, together with a double issue for the last pair of matches. These were A4 sheets, folded to produce a 4-page issue printed on pastel shades of paper. Each issue had an identical cover, detailed information in the centre pages, and team line-ups on the back. The two issues for the second set of fixtures contained different versions of the match reports from the opening games, with emphasis on the sides who featured in each issue. The double issue for the last round of matches included a four page insert of team photos and action from the earlier games.
These issues are not too expensive or difficult to find, but some patience may be required to collect the full set of six programmes.
The 1984 Isle of Man Football Festival
The second Isle of Man Football Festival took place from 30th July to 4th August 1984. The number of participating teams was increased to six, forming two groups of three. The winners of each group would meet in the final, with consolation play-offs between the two second-placed and two third-placed sides.
Group A featured Sunderland, Carlisle United and Athlone Town, who were the first Irish team to participate in the festival. St. Mirren featured in Group B alongside Blackburn Rovers and the Isle of Man XI.
Saints were immediately on the back foot, losing the opening match 3-1 to Blackburn Rovers in Douglas on 30th July, all the goals coming in the second half. St. Mirrenís counter came from a 68th minute Ian Scanlon penalty. A goalless draw in Peel four days later against the Isle of Man XI meant that that Saints finished bottom of their group. As a result, they faced Carlisle United as the other third placed side in a play-off in Ramsey on the following evening and again lost by 1-0. In the final, Sunderland defeated Blackburn to retain the trophy.
A sixteen-page A5 programme was produced to cover the group matches and was printed black on white glossy paper with green spot colour on the cover. Each of the sides featured on a page consisting of a team photo, squad list and brief details of their recent form. The centre pages listed the dates and venues of the matches and half of the issue was allocated to adverts.
A separate issue was produced for the final, using the same cover design but with gold spot colour. This contained details of the finalists and included full details of the group matches and four pages of action photos.
The 1989 Festival and Final programmes
St. Mirren returned to the island at the start of season 1989/90 to participate in the sixth edition of the Football Festival, by now sponsored by Isle of Man Breweries and competing for the Okellís Barrell. The six sides were again split into two groups; Group A consisting of Motherwell, Bolton Wanderers and Dundalk, whilst St. Mirren faced Swansea City and regular opponents Isle of Man in Group B.
In the first game, St. Mirren defeated Swansea City 1-0, Billy Daviesí goal after seven minutes earning him the Man of The Match award. Against the Isle of Man XI, Saints ran riot and Paul Lambert scored four goals in a 6-0 win. Unsurprisingly, Lambert also earned a MOTM award and also ended as the Festivalís top goalscorer.
The final between St. Mirren and Motherwell was played in Douglas on 29th July. Despite Saints taking the lead through a Brian Martin goal towards the end of the first half, the Steelmen fought back after the break and goals from Dougie Arnott and Bobby Russell gave them the trophy with a 2-1 victory.
The tournament programme was an A5 sized issue printed black on white semi-gloss paper. Following welcome messages from the Festival Organiser and Main Sponsor, there was a brief history of the tournament. The remainder of the sixteen pages looked back at the previous Festival in 1987 and provided full match details and action photos. The only information about the current tournament was in the centre pages, which presented the match schedule.
A new programme marked the Festivalís first all-Scottish final and was printed black on pale yellow paper. Much of the opening content was duplicated from the tournament issue. Team photos of the participating sides and action from the tournament bookended squad lists and team photos of Motherwell and St. Mirren in the centre pages. The latter part of the issue provided detailed results of the group matches, Man of the Match awards and goalscorers. There were only four pages of adverts.
In addition to the two programmes, A4 coloured teamsheets exist for all three St. Mirren matches.
All of these items appear on dealers lists from time to time and, although not expensive, some patience will be required to obtain all of them.