‘The commentator must say what the picture doesn’t’ – A brief guide to David Coleman’s World of Football annuals

Posted: 24th December 2013


David Coleman’s World of Football annuals were published in 7 editions between #1 in 1969 and #7, published in 1975.

To many football fans of my generation, the man behind these annuals, David Coleman, was the voice and face of football as we grew up.

Along with many people, I was saddened by the news of David’s death over the weekend. He was 87.

My own formative football years between 1963 and 1977 were the ones in which Coleman dominated BBC Sports coverage including football; he became the Corporation’s lead commentator from 1971.

This edition of the Football League Review from the 1969/70 season (#427) shows Coleman on the gantry;


But before that, Coleman had been the face of TV sport and football for over decade.

On Saturdays from 1958, he had been the presenter of Grandstand, a programme he would leave in 1968 and then return to front in 1983.

Between 1968 and 1972, Coleman would present Sportsnight which later took on his name, Sportsnight with Coleman and this show often included highlights of a top midweek match, usually cup replays or England internationals.

I remember at some point in the late 1960’s when our family received its’ first colour television. The colours were so bright as the highlights of a Tottenham Hotspur home game were shown on his programme.

Coleman’s sports broadcasting career was quite phenomenal. He covered every Olympics from Tokyo in 1964, a games I remember watching as an 8 years-old, and every football World Cup right through to his retirement in 2000.

In many ways, especially during the 1960’s and 1970’s, when  TV sports broadcasting was being created, Coleman was the man leading that development and in addition to his presenter role for Grandstand and Sportsnight, he covered the major games (as above), athletics, the Derby, the FA Cup Final and events outside sport; it was Coleman who was chosen to cover the return of the Beatles back from their first trip to the United States in the mid 1960’s.

But as has been was remarked, David always regarded himself as a journalist and in many ways, his finest hours were when thrown into the commentating cauldron of covering the 1972 Munich Olympics when the Palestinian Black September group carried our their terrorist attack on the athletes’ village killing Israeli athletes.

Coleman switched brilliantly and seamlessly from general sports commentator to news broadcaster adopting the appropriate tone to relay to the nation the ongoing developments of this tragic event.

For 18 years in the latter part of his broadcasting career, Coleman was the presenter for the very popular sports quiz show, A Question of Sport.

Coleman had appeared in a boys’ annual before his World of Football titles began.

Back in 1960, we see him as editor of the Grandstand TV Book of All Sports.

General sports annuals like this one had been quite popular alongside all the football titles in the 1950’s with titles like, The Big Book of Sports, the News Chronicle Boys’ Book of All Sports, Raymond Glendinning’s Book of Sport for Boys, the Eagle Sports annual and Every Book of Sport for Boys.

Although they covered many sports, these annuals usually had good and reasonably heavy football and cricket content.

In the mid 1950’s, we’d seen a one off book, Peter Dimmock’s BBC Sportsview, and in 1959, the Grandstand Sportsview TV Book of Sports was published with Dimmock as the editor.

Coleman had taken over from Dimmock as the presenter of Grandstand in 1958, so it made sense to make Coleman the editor of the 1960 version of the annual, seen here;


In many ways, that he was a general sports broadcaster was apt as he loved all sports.

He had been an athlete himself and Athletics was always his number 1 sport despite his elevated position as the BBC’s top football commentator from 1971.

I’ve just read a comment on an internet forum where someone says that every time they watch that grainy clip of Ann Packer in her 800m final victory in the Tokyo games in 1964 with Coleman ‘s commentary accompanying her home, she cries.

Actually, looking back, I feel almost embarrassed to say that I remember not always liking Coleman at the time. I though he was a bit smug and almost too smooth. I didn’t mind him on the football but reacted when he was appeared in perfect trilby wearing Horse Racing mode for his role in covering the Grand National every April (what did I expect him to wear?)

I was a bolshy and contrarian teenager back then. Now, looking back, I can see what an amazing professional he was, a point reinforced by a recent documentary, The Remarkable David Coleman.

His ability to wear different hats (literally and figuratively) were a mark of his talent.

He didn’t suffer fools and could be harsh on those making mistakes.

Unsurprisingly, bearing in mind the nature of live television, Coleman made mistakes or gaffes as they were always referred to and Private Eye produced a range of small books titled Colemanballs, a name Coleman had coined.

There were many of these little books produced (at least 16 of them) including this one, the first;


Apparently, he was quite amused by these books and although a hard taskmaster was able to laugh at himself.

He was not sparred by the Spitting Image team who parodied him here conducting an interview for the role of TV commentator for Skiing;

But he not only lead the development of TV Sports broadcasting (it was Coleman who introduced the practice of commentating on the football results as they came through the teleprinter, something which we almost take for granted if we Jeff Stelling today) but in doing so, he set, maintained and then raised the standards almost single-handedly.

Coleman was revered and respected by those around him and coming up behind him, as evidenced by respectful comments from John Motson about his own early days as a commentator after Coleman had suggested that Motty be brought across from his sports reporter role on BBC Radio. The quote in the headline of this post is taken from some advice he gave to a fellow commentator.

There have been many comments about David in the short time since his death but one that comes out is his ability to be succinct. He resisted the current practice of filling the air-time with his commentary

Listening to his commentary in Youtube clips, I think he is the master at describing what has happened and summarising it so that you know what is going on.

I especially like his commentary of this 1975 England v Scotland international at Wembley. He tells you what has happened not what should have happened (the clip is introduced by John Motson and early on, there is a brilliant goal by my idol at the time, Queens Park Rangers’ Gerry Francis);

As many will remember, there are many other moments which Coleman will be remembered for including his ‘1-0’ summary after Allan Clarke’s opening goal in the 1972 FA Cup Final and his summary of the score after the last Liverpool goal in the 1974 Final ‘Keegan 2, Heighway 1, Liverpool 3, Newcastle 0′.

In the 1992 New Year’s Honours List, Coleman was awarded the OBE for services to broadcasting. He was also given the Judges’ Award For Sport in the 1996 Royal Television Society Awards.

Turning back to the World of Football annuals, these were published in the post 1966 environment in there was a football boom in just about every aspect of the game from rising attendances through to increased sales of all football ephemera including magazines and annuals.

While the publishing trend in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s in these type of annuals was moving away from dust wrappers towards laminated hard cover books, publishers Purnell did things the other way around with the World of Football annuals; the first 2 editions of the annual were this latter format without dust wrappers but from #3, the format changed to a hardback coloured covers with dust wrappers for the remainder of the issues.

Let’s have a look at the World of Football annuals and the World Cup Preview annual published under Coleman’s name before the 1970 World Cup finals;


1. 1969



Published in 1969, this first issue covers up to and including the 1968/69 season and includes a great photo feature on the FA Cup Final between Leicester City v Manchester City.

There is also a feature and some mud filled photographs of Swindon Town’s upset in the League Cup Final when the 3rd Division side emulated the victory of Queens Park Rangers 2 years before when the R’s beat West Bromwich Albion. The Robbins defeated the mighty Arsenal.

There is excellent Manchester United content with loads of player photos, mainly the famous Best-Charlton-Law triumverate including George Best on the front cover (see above)

Also, there are features on Celtic, Derby County, Leeds United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Stoke City, Swindon Town, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United.

A different aspect of this annual is the inclusion of features and photos of people outside the game who have connections inside it including;

Colin Cowdrey, Kent and England cricket captain who played centre forward for Cambridge University 2nd XI and ended up a director of Charlton Athletic;


Film star Honor Blackman, Pussy Galore in the James Bond film, Goldfinger, had various boyfriends and then a husband all keen on football;


Entertainer, Tommy Steele was a very good junior footballer although after entering show business, his playing was restricted to Charity matches and 5-a-side games with his mates;


The annual has 160 pages and is packed with great photographs of the top players.


2. 1970


The 2nd edition of the annual shows an action photograph from a Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool match at White Hart Lane with Spurs’ Peter Collins trying to head the ball past veteran Reds’ goalkeeper, Tommy Lawrence, with the East Stand and Shelf below it in the background.

Published in 1970, the annual covers the 1969/70 season in which Chelsea beat Leeds United after memorable final at Wembley and a tense, hard fought battle in a a replay at Old Trafford with David Webb scoring the winning goal. Everton were League Champions. Manchester City won the League Cup beating West Bromwich Albion.

Again, the annual includes excellent Manchester United content with many photographs including a poignant team picture of Matt Busby with his Babes;


Also, there are Derby County, Everton, Leeds United and West Ham United features.

Like the first issue, this 2nd one has 160 pages


3. 1971


This 3rd edition has coverage of the 1970/71 season in which Bertie Mee’s Arsenal side did the double, beating Liverpool in extra time in the FA Cup Final and secured the First Division title with a Ray Kennedy goal in a packed White Hart Lane against arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

In the League Cup, Tottenham Hotspur beat Aston Villa.

As before, there are many great photographs but one which stands out for me is this tinted one of Liverpool’s manager Bill Shankley watching a match and deep in thought by the look of it;


From this issue, the annuals had dust wrappers and on the front panel, we see an action photograph from a Arsenal / Chelsea London derby.


4. 1972


The 4th edition of the annual was published in 1972 and showed action from the Arsenal v Newcastle United match at Highbury of the dust wrapper’s front panel. Terry Hibbett, Malcom MacDonald, John Tudor and Pat Howard help Iam McFaul take the ball from the head of an obscured Gunner, possibly George Graham.

With an increasing amount of colour photographs, the annual covers the 1971/72 season in which Leeds United won the FA Cup and Derby County were League Champions.

There is excellent Leeds United content with numerous photographs of all their top players and manager, Don Revie, including this one of goalkeeper Gary Sprake taking the ball from West Ham United’s Billy Bonds with Norman ‘Bite yer legs‘ Hunter looking on;


There are also good features on League Cup winners Stoke City and finalists Chelsea including this photograph of veteran Potter George Eastham breaking through midfield with Blues’ Alan Hudson left in his wake and Chris Garland looking on from the background;


A hardback book with dust wrapper, the annual has 93 pages.


5. 1973


The 5th edition of the annual shows a goalmouth incident from the Crystal Palace v Norwich City game at Selhurst Park with various players involved although I think I can spot Canaries’ centre back Duncan Forbes at the back.

The annual covers up to and including the 1972/73 season in which Sunderland created a big upset by beating Leeds United in the FA Cup Final and Liverpool were League Champions. Tottenham Hotspur won the League Cup beating Norwich City.

There is good Coventry City, Hereford United, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Wolves content.

The annual has the usual strong emphasis on the top players, clubs and competitions with many photos including 16 pages of ‘Photos of the Year’.

2 pictures stand out for me.

Firstly, this one in which it looks like Leeds United’s Billy Bremner, combatative as ever, appears to have put a Coventry City player in a headlock;


Secondly, one with more personal resonance is a great photograph of Queens Park Rangers‘ brilliant Gerry Francis weaving his way past a couple of Burnley defenders (probably Colin Waldron and Geoff Nulty) in the 2nd Division top of the table clash at Loftus Road, a match I attended;


With this feature, the annual has even more photograph than before in its’ 93 pages.


#6 1974


The 6th edition was published in 1974 and shows action from the Tottenham Hotspur’s home game against Sheffield United on the wrapper’s front panel, where we see Ted Hemsley, one of the last players to play both professional football and professional cricket (for Worcestershire), competing with Martin Chivers.

Covers up to and including the 1973/74 season in which Liverpool beat Newcastle United to win the FA Cup, Leeds United were the League Champions and Wolves beat Manchester City in the League Cup Final.

There is good Leeds United, Manchester City, Manchester United, Queens Park Rangers, Sunderland and Wolves content.

The stand out photograph for me is this one where Sheffield United‘s Eddie Colquhoun (looking remarkably like actor Alan Alda of TV series MASH fame) and West Ham United‘s Frank Lampard do not seem to be getting on so well;


Again, the annual is 93 pages long.


7. 1975


This final edition of the annual covers the 1974/75 season in which West Ham United without Bobby Moore beat Fulham, with Bobby Moore 2-0 in the FA Cup Final.


World Cup

There was actually one more football annual which appeared in 1970. Purnell had produced an annual to preview the 1966 World Cup Finals in England and in 1970, they published another one but this time included David Coleman’s name in the title, although there wasn’t any content specifically from Coleman himself;



Collecting, values and prices

Considering that the annuals were published at the end of the 1960’s and early 1970’s, most of the World of Football annuals are relatively easy to acquire for a few pounds in all the usual places.

Also, like many annuals of the era published with dust wrappers, these may show the signs of wear and tear and some will be tatty. Editions with dust wrappers in good condition can be snapped up for a bit extra.

In addition to condition issues with dust wrappers, collectors can keep an eye out for the sort of faults that can be found on all the books from this era;

  • split spines especially the spine ends
  • scratches, indentations and marks to the covers
  • split front and / or back hinges inside the annual itself
  • annotations from well wishing family members to recipients of the annuals when given as Christmas and / or birthday gifts usually written on the inside front cover pages or the front end pages
  • writing inside the books, often noting player names beneath photos
  • missing pages or photos often cut out to put in separate scrap books or on bedroom walls
  • age fading to the whiteness of the inside pages, especially the borders
  • orange foxing spots and also signs of damp / water damage


Final word

It is no surprise whatsoever that in an era where boys’ football annuals used the names of top players and media personalities (Kenneth Wolstenholme had an annual under his name for most of the 1960’s and into the 1970’s), that Coleman should have his name attached to such an annual.

Coleman made a significant contribution to the broadcasting of all sport through his career and through his World of Football annuals, we can be reminded of the man and that contribution.

A committed family man, Coleman leaves a wife and 6 children behind and my condolences go to them.

The World of Football annuals are a nice way to remember a top class broadcaster.

RIP David Coleman.




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Category: Football Annuals

Tags: Eagle Sports Annual, Every Book of Sport for Boys, News Chronicle Boys' Book of All Sports, Raymond Glendinning's Book of Sport for Boys, The Big Book of Sports

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