Villa v Everton blog: What goes into producing the matchday programme
Paul Brown talks to Rob Bishop about the workings of the Villa News & Record.
24th Aug 2012
Villa v Everton blog: What goes into producing the matchday programme

It felt miraculous when matchday programme editor Rob Bishop granted me ten minutes of his time in the lead-up to the Everton game to discuss this season's Villa News & Record.

Not only is it a busy time for the man affectionately known as 'Bish' with the first edition deadline looming but there have been several major changes over the summer months with the 106-year-old publication, which have meant more studious attention to detail than normal.

Villa moved from Programme Master to Trinity Mirror after three years and that brought its own challenges, with work flow and production timings slightly different.

"We went for a new-look with a new publisher. I have dealt with Trinity Mirror before through my work on the book 'Perfect 10'. They did that very well and I have known their executive editor Ken Rogers for many years.

"We do the editorial side of things at Villa Park, interviews conducted with players at Bodymoor Heath while we liaise with designers in Liverpool from Trinity Mirror to ensure the pages get finished on time.

"There have been a few changes to deadlines and things like that which myself - and deputy editor Dan Harrison - have embraced. It's like anything else, if it's new it takes time to get used to.

"But in terms of the final product, it's brighter and lighter. We are going to alternate the cover colours, between claret, blue and white.

"For example, the first one against Everton features Stephen Ireland on the front and it has a claret on white masthead which looks clean. But the Capital One Cup game against Tranmere will have Barry Bannan with a blue on claret masthead.

"That's a totally new concept - mixing it up a little. I feel it will keep things fresh.

"It's also bigger. While we have the same number of pages we have more space for features and general content."

Villa's first issue will give fans a flavour for the season and Bish is very hopeful they won't be disappointed, saying the programme is shaping up to be the "best in many, many years."

"It's really coming together. We've just completed the first of the season for Everton and we're delighted," Rob added.

"It's shaping up to be the best in a long time. I don't think people will be disappointed. But to be fair, it's generally appreciated each year."

This season's publication includes some familiar features but also several new ones too.

There will be the manager notes, captain's column, visitors section, reserve and youth spotlight and exclusive player interview as always.

But there's a new four-page kids section in the centre, with quizzes and stats on a particular player, the final word, where club journalists give their thoughts on the news, and vaults - an extensive seven-page look at a particular top-flight campaign from the past.

In fact, in the first issue there are three "very special features" - a summer diary, a look at the newboys and a full page on the summer support for Stan Petrov.

Bish admits there's been a "great sense of satisfaction" seeing the first publication "signed-off", as always, on Friday at 10.30am.

It can be frantic in the final few hours but he's keen to stress it could be far worse if he relaxed over the off-season.

"The process for a new season always begins at the end of the previous one. You're always looking ahead. I don't think some people appreciate that.

"To give an example, we have a new section called vaults, looking at a particular season over seven pages per issue.

"I worked on that throughout the summer and that particular feature for every programme is now complete.

"If I didn't work on it over the so-called quiet months, it would be a nightmare to fit in as the season progresses and the home games come thick and fast.

"In terms of overall workload, we always work on a two week cycle. In the first week we concentrate on nitty-gritty content, including the match report from the previous weekend. I also start thinking about candidates for the exclusive player feature.

"You really don't want too much left for the second week because it can get very hectic with a lot of proof-reading.

"In the second week, we interview the skipper and get his captain's column written, the match report from the previous game and the final job is the manager notes.

"Our head of media Brian Doogan co-ordinates that with the gaffer and he takes it very seriously because Paul appreciates the importance of the fans!

"There's a great sense of satisfaction when it's complete, there's a collective sigh of relief. But it doesn't last long because you're always looking to the next programme.

"For example, this week our deadline for Everton went hand in hand with the Capital One Cup clash deadline for Tranmere."

But what does he think about when he assesses fans needs at the start of every season?

"People want a good read which I feel they get," he added.

"The days of them finding out day to day news are gone because of the emergence of the website.

"But it's either a good read or a souvenir. Fans either store them away for keeps or they bury their heads in it pre-match. It varies.

"I hope programmes carry on. I hope there'll always be a market for them. Things have changed so much so rapidly with technology, I've definitely noticed that.

"But people still like magazines and books. People like something tangible they can hold." Make sure you get hold of Issue One on Saturday. We promise it will be well worth it.

The Villa News & Record will be available around Villa Park on Saturday, for just £3.

Subscribe for only £66 [UK]. For other countries, please use the contact details below.

And, as if the essential guide isn't enough, you also receive a free official beanie hat with all UK subscriptions.

For details, call 0845143 0001, click here or email


avfc, blogs, everton, paul brown,
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