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Team Tabs

League Ladders and Team Tabs

74-75 Shoot1974Tabs1Ayr Utd magnet 81 82For anyone that doesn't remember, League Ladders were a simple device.  Essentially the main part consisted of a thin piece of cardboard with  slits cut into it, on top of which was printed the empty league tables  for England and Scotland. Into the slits you'd slot some thin cardboard  tabs that displayed the names of all the English and Scottish league  clubs. As the league tables changed each week, it was your job to pull  out the tabs and place them in the right slots to show each team in  their new position.

The process of updating your very own full colour league table display  was addictive and hugely enjoyable up until, ooh, the third week of the  season, by which time the novelty of rearranging 130 small pieces of  cardboard had dramatically worn off.

And that was if you had a full set of tabs, by the way. Such was Shoot's ingenious ability to nurture your excitement for the new season (and  for increasing revenue), they'd only give away two divisions worth of  team tabs every week, thereby meaning you had to buy Shoot for four  consecutive weeks to get them all. Chances are you'd fail to get a copy  of Shoot for at least one of those four weeks, thereby leaving an aching chasm of emptiness where Kilmarnock should be.  On reflection, maybe that  wasn't such a bad thing, actually... Anyway, the history of team tabs and league ladders as they affected Ayr United ar explored on this page.

Team tabs for published league ladders are certainly far older than I had ever imagined! Previously,  I had believed that the football magazine SHOOT!  produced the first of these in the 1969-70 season, but my research (primarily through the work of Roger Pashby and his site at to whom im grateful) has revealed that in fact they go all the way  back into the 1920s!

Football Attic League Ladders 1913-14Lets start with an inventive group called THE FOOTBALL ATTIC 2013-14 who, in August 2013, to celebrate their popularity of League Ladders produced their own 'fantasy' set of League Ladders for 1913-14.

You will find a link to their website and a fully printable set of both ladders and tabs in the links below to  show you what they might have looked like had they been available 100  years ago, just before the start of the 1913-14 season.

As you can see, they tried to be as authentic as possible  when it comes to the admittedly minimal styling (give or take the  occasional bit of indulgence here or there), and rest assured the  details and team colours shown are as accurate as we could get them.

Better still is the fact that you can download a PDF version for you to print out onto thin A3 cardboard, you could have your very own  working version of our 1913-14 League Ladders. All you need to do is cut out all the tabs and cut the slits where marked, and youre historic tables are - well ready.

Enjoy. It shows Ayr United in perfect 1913/14 colours just after they entered the league in 1910 and gained their first promotion.

Ayr Utd TIGER 1958-59

‘TIGER’ 1955/56

Ayr Utd VALIENT 1962-63

‘VALIENT’ 1962/63

Ayr Utd 70-71 Lyons Maid

‘LYONS MAID’ 1970/71

Ayr Utd TIGER 1958-59

‘TIGER’ 1958/59

Ayr Utd LION 1963 66

‘LION’ 1963/64

Ayr Utd SMITHS Crisp1978 81

SMITHS Crisps League Ladders’ 1978/79

Ayr Utd LION 1959 60

‘LION’ 1959/60

Ayr Utd Score N Roar 1970 72

‘SCORE ‘N ‘ROAR 1970 71

Ayr Utd 88 89

‘Gary Linekers Hot-Shot League Ladders’ 1988/89

Please note from below that if the tab has been described in RED then I need it  and would be happy to speak to anyone who can supply me with one!

The major producers of these little items were ROVER, CHAMPION, TIGER, LION and VALIANT comics, all published by Amalgamated Press / Fleetway / IPC from the early  1920s and into the 1970s. 

They employed a system for categorising each division of the Football League.  In Scotland this was White lettering on a blue background for 1st Division teams and red lettering on white for 2nd Division teams. It seems that between 1955 and 1965 the League Ladders  published were alternated between LION  and one of TIGER  and VALIANT  comics.  The Tab colours in Scotland were white lettering on a Blue background for Division 1 and red lettering on a white background for Division 2.

From 1960-61 the colours changed for the  first time; certainly in 1962-63 the 2nd Division teams were represented by red letters on a yellow background with black edges.  Also, up until 1962-63 tabs were not perforated for easy 'push-out' use; instead they had to be cut from the printed sheet.

In 1963/64  LION led the way in having team 'colours' on the tabs with the Ayr United tab showing white text on black.

Another innovation in the 1963/64 season was the printing of the previous season's  finishing position - a boon to all collectors trying to date individual  tabs!

By the late 1960s EVERYBODY wanted to get  in on the act and all sorts of commodities were issuing their own  'League Ladders' in a variety of shapes and sizes.  LYONS MAID - All you had to do was  send your name and address along with four tokens from the bottom of the Soccer Star cards that were given away free with their Score lolly. The offer ended on 1 February 1971.

SMITHs Crisps became involved and offered league tables for 1978/79 and ‘HOT SHOT’ in 1988/89.

SHOOT! (issued 1969-70 to 1999-2000)

Perhaps the most fondly remembered and most widely known team tabs were those produced by SHOOT  magazine from 1969 until 2000, although not 1970-71 when they were issued with SCORE'N'ROAR' instead.

As you can see, they underwent quite a change in presentation although  they certainly stuck to using team colours for each of the clubs. 

One  problem for the collector came with the decision in 1970 to drop the  previous season's finishing position, (re-instated by 1990), in favour of  information about where the club played which makes dating these items all the more difficult. 

From 1984/85 the record attendance was added which again did not help in identifying the season.

In 1990/91 the previous seasons league position was re-introduced.

The SHOOT! tabs for the 70s, therefore, were very much the same from one season to the other as can be seen in the tabs shown here. 

1990/91 also saw SHOOT! move from white lettering on a black background to black lettering on a white background which remained until the last produced Ayr United tab.

For collectors in Scotland there was a major change in 1994/95 when SHOOT took the decision to exclude the Scottish second division from their annual publication, providing tabs and League ladders for the Scottish Premier and First Division only.

This meant that (unlike for English teams) league position decided whether or not you're club were included in the following season.

Because of this there were no tabs printed for Ayr for seasons 1994/95, 1995/96 and 1996/97, when Ayr United were in Scotland's third tier.

In August 1999 SHOOT!  printed their final set of League Ladders, leaving MATCH WEEKLY to carry the torch single-handedly for the next ten seasons.

Ayr Utd SHOOT 1969 71
Ayr Utd SHOOT 1970 71

‘SHOOT 1969 70

‘SHOOT’ 1970/71 to 1973/74

Ayr Utd SHOOT 1976 77

‘SHOOT’ 1976/77 to 1980/81

Ayr Utd SHOOT 1984 86

‘SHOOT’ 1984/85

Ayr Utd SHOOT 1981 84

‘SHOOT’ 1981/82

Ayr Utd SHOOT 1985 86

‘SHOOT’ 1985/86

Ayr Utd SHOOT 1989 92

‘SHOOT’ 1989/90

Ayr Utd SHOOT 1992 93

‘SHOOT’ 1992/93

Ayr Utd SHOOT 74 75

‘SHOOT’ 1974/75

Ayr Utd SHOOT 1982 84

‘SHOOT’ 1982/83

Ayr Utd SHOOT 1985 86

‘SHOOT’ 1987/88

Ayr Utd SHOOT 1987 88

‘SHOOT’ 1990/91

Ayr Utd SHOOT 1993 94

‘SHOOT’ 1993/94

Peelable PVC stickers were used for seasons 1992-93, 1993-94 and 1994-95

Ayr Utd SHOOT 1999 00
Ayr Utd SHOOT 1997 99
Ayr Utd SHOOT 75 76

‘SHOOT’ 1975/76

Ayr Utd SHOOT 1983 84

‘SHOOT’ 1983/84

Ayr Utd SHOOT 1988-90

‘SHOOT’ 1988/89

Ayr Utd SHOOT 2001 03


Ayr Utd SHOOT 2003 04


Ayr Utd SHOOT 2002 03


‘SHOOT’ 1997/98

‘SHOOT’ 1999/00

MATCH WEEKLY' (issued 1988-89 to 2015-16)

This magazine appeared as a serious rival to SHOOT! in 1979 and began producing League Ladders of its own in 1988.

Like those of SHOOT! these tabs underwent varying changes in design although they did stick pretty much to using a 'shirt' design and the colours of the club.

By 2005-06  they had also adopted the same design as the shirts of the team, not  just their colours.

Like ‘SHOOT!’, ‘MATCH’ continued the now accepted format of including only the first two divisions in Scotland and by 2009 they had dropped the Scottish first division producing tabs only for the Scottish Premiership.

This effectively meant that the last tab produced for Ayr United was in 2003/04 when the club were relegated to the third tier not returning to the second tier until season 2009/10 when only Premier League tabs were produced.

On a general issue, MATCH inexplicably, did not issue League Ladders in  seasons 2011-12 or 2012-13.

They also failed to produce any League  Ladders in August 2016, fuelling thoughts that such gifts were  considered no longer of interest to the general football fan, which would be a terrible shame.

Nowadays fan-made replicas are available on sites like ebay.  One such is Simon Holderness who has developed a current day version of these league ladders and team tabs to a very high standard, meaning that once again Ayr United has featured on a League Ladders system albeit not from the recognised national magazines.

His 2017/2018 version includes all of the recognised Scottish and English league system but also includes ladders and team tabs for the English National, National North and National South divisions and the Scottish Highland and Lowland leagues.

Bought from his site on Ebay I have been lucky enough to have mine personalised with a League Ladder showing a footballer in an Ayr United shirt as background and having not only the normal Ayr United home tab, but an away version in the 2017/18 away colours.

Ayr Utd SIMON 2017 18 Away
Ayr Utd SIMON 2017 18 Home

Simon Holderness system 2017/18.Home - white background, away - yellow.

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