For 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.
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 are 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 has revealed that in fact they go all the way back into the 1920s!
Lets start with an inventive group called THE FOOTBALL ATTIC 2013-14 who, in August 2013, to celebrate the 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) be rest assured the details and team colours shown are accurate as any examination of Ayr United’s colours for then will show.
It shows Ayr United in perfect 1913/14 colours just after they entered the league in 1910 and gained their first promotion.
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. It seems that between 1955 and 1965 the League Ladders published were alternated between LION and one of TIGER and VALIANT comics.
Below I have arranged the year tabs to show colours representing the division that Ayr United played in for that season e.g a red outline means that Ayr United were in the top tier of Scottish football for that season, blue the second tier and green the third. 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, all detailing the colours of the clubs’ strip.