Carlisle get with the programme

I bought a Cumberland News on the way to Brunton Park, home of the famous Carlisle United. I always say that, in my head, thinking of the overexcited north London bloke on the PA system at Tottenham who exclaims: "Welcome to White Hart Lane, home of the world-famous Spurs!" All football clubs are world-famous - in their own little worlds.

There was an obituary of someone called Fred Armstrong, who had died aged 90. I cut it out to file with my CUFC memorabilia, once I had spotted the subheading: "A war hero and Bill Shankly's window cleaner". Shankly was Carlisle's manager from 1949-51. Surely being his window cleaner should have had top billing. Sub-editors these days, eh?

The first surprise on reading the programme was to find that Carlisle have a new striker, Zoko. I do like names that look sharp and neat when spelled out on the back of their shirts. And also good to shout: "Zo-ko! Zo-ko!" Could he be Brazilian?

The second surprise was the programme itself - only £1. Last season it was £3, like so many football progs. It drives me mad at Spurs and Arsenal when I pay a fortune for their prog and it's full of adverts for their boring sponsors, lists of box holders, corporate prawn eaters - as if ordinary fans want to know any of that shit.

Carlisle's new programme is smaller, only 16 pages - compared to 76 last season - but over three-quarters of it is editorial. There were lots of stats and stuff about the opposition and, most unusually, a prediction of the exact line-ups of the two teams. Taking a chance there, son. Anything can happen between going to press and the lads trotting out. In the event, there was one mistake in the Carlisle line-up and two in Brentford's, which is quite a good success rate. Carlisle's programme is probably now the cheapest at any of our 92 league clubs - but they had to beg to be allowed to do it. Apparently, the Football League insists that programmes should be a certain size, with a certain number of ads, so when they promise big exposure to some big corporate cheese, like npower, the Football League's new sponsor, they can deliver.

Afterwards, I talked to Carlisle's managing director, John Nixon, who said the reason for the £1 prog was to help fans in hard times. People will fork out a quid, but not three. So far they have been selling twice as many of the new, cheap, small ones - around 1,500. They are also going to do a big glossy magazine every six weeks.

I was leaving the ground when I bumped into Zoko. He had come off ten minutes before the end to a standing ovation, helping Carlisle to win 2-0. He turns out to be not Brazilian, but from Côte d'Ivoire, where he played for their under-20s. He's 26 and had previously been playing for a Belgian club I had never heard of. Before that he played in France and Turkey. Don't they get around?

I wished him good luck and got him to sign my little programme. All in all, a good day for my CUFC archives. PS: Now they are joint top.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 20 September 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Catholicism in crisis