LONG queues would form outside newsagents’ shops in many Oxfordshire towns and villages on Saturday nights.

Why? Football fans were waiting for the arrival of the ‘Green ‘Un’, the Oxford Mail’s popular Saturday sports paper.

The Sports Mail – nicknamed the ‘Green ‘Un’ because it was printed on green paper – gave national and local results, as well as reports on Headington United (later Oxford United), Oxford City, Banbury Spencer (later United) and other leading local teams.

In the 1950s and 1960s, radio and television did not carry local scores, and fans would not know many of the results until they opened the paper.

Those first in the queue could impart the good – or bad – news to those behind.

The six inside pages of the paper were prepared earlier in the week, but the front and back pages were hastily compiled as the matches were taking place.

A small army of reporters would be despatched to grounds around the county and to places further afield, where local teams were playing.

They would dictate their reports over the phone to typists in the Oxford Mail office, in New Inn Hall Street and later at Osney Mead, and printers would prepare the text and pictures for the paper.

Timing was crucial – many matches didn’t finish until 4.45pm and everything had to be ready for the paper to be printed at 5.30pm and despatched immediately in a fleet of Oxford Mail vans to the newsagents and readers waiting patiently outside their shops.

Oxford Mail van driver Roy Walton, of Berinsfield, who died at Christmas, once recalled his regular Saturday night duty.

“I had to take the papers to Newbury and the big challenge was always to be there before the rival paper, the Swindon Pink, arrived.”

Covering the matches, before the era of mobile phones and computers, was often a tough job for reporters.

Often they had to rely on public telephone kiosks outside the ground to telephone their reports to the office, or persuade a local householder to allow them to use their phone and reverse the charges.

Reporters telephoned their first-half reports at half-time so that the printers could get to work, and if there was a delay, they would often miss part of the second half, having to rely on other reporters or even supporters to update them on the score.

One Mail reporter covered matches at Wolvercote where the pitch was on one side of the level crossing and the public phone box was on the other.

He reckoned the crossing keeper deliberately closed the gates when he saw him coming!

Any memories of the ‘Green ‘Un’ to share with readers?