I have recently upgraded my living arrangements from a flat with an attic but no garden to a house with a garden but no attic. Unfortunately, in London my ideal set-up of a house with an attic and a garden costs around £28m, but moving to a place with no storage in the loft means I’m forced to confront a problem that has been nagging away at me for years – what to do with my old football programmes.

Clearing the attic before the big move should be relatively easy. I have no sentimental attachment to the Nutribullet my brother-in-law bought me three years ago, I am quite content to throw the gigantic, mosaic-tiled mirror my partner was given by her best friend as a 30th birthday present into a disused canal and I can live without Christmas decorations. But throwing out hundreds of largely worthless football programmes from the matches I’ve attended since I was a child will prove more challenging. If I hadn’t got round to buying a programme for the Wales v Jamaica friendly Wales played against Jamaica at Ninian Park in March 1998 would I regret it? No, of course not.

Would I be angry at my younger self if I’d bought the programme on the night, checked that Merthyr-born defender Steve Jenkins did in fact weigh 78kg and then binned it as I left the ground, after the game had played out to an entertaining but goalless draw? No, and that is surely what normal people do with these things. But in 2022, with space in the new house limited and difficult decisions having to be made, can I throw it out? No, that’s out of the question, because holding on to that particular programme for this long makes it 24 years old, which means I am a de facto custodian of football history.

It is a static problem, as at the beginning of this season my club Swansea City announced that matchday programmes would be digital only, conveniently accessible on your phone, free of charge. But that doesn’t solve the problem of what to do with the ones already in my possession.

Programmes on sale at Hillsborough for a match between Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea in 2019. Swansea’s home matches now have digital-only programmes.
Programmes on sale at Hillsborough for a match between Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea in 2019. Swansea’s home matches now have digital-only programmes. Photograph: Athena Pictures/Getty Images

The ones from 2002-03, surely I’d want them, we were almost relegated from the Football League, what a memento of survival they provide! What about the ones from our Premier League years, which I initially only started collecting as I assumed our stay in England’s top flight would be fleeting? Well, once you start thinking like that you end up with 40 page keepsakes from games against Southampton you don’t even remember attending, unable to chuck them out in case Swansea never taste life in the top division again.

And then of course there’s the programmes from games that happened before I was born – well the FA Cup semi-final against Preston at Villa Park in March 1964, that obviously goes in a frame, but the complete set of 1977-78 programmes that were bought for me at a car boot sale by a well-meaning friend’s mother? Well, they should be binned… but I’ve just noticed that each one has the advert: “Coal: A Big Industry With A Big Future” on the back page which makes them documents of social as well as football history, so yes – they’ll be going to the new house. Maybe my son can get rid of some of his Duplo or my daughter could reconsider her bike.

When I first started going to football matches it was a treat, an enormous event, and buying a souvenir programme was a big part of the day. In the pre‑internet era they also served as reference guides, providing the final word in any argument: “You SEE? I TOLD YOU Mark Pembridge is the latest in a long line of South Walian footballers to be discovered by Luton scout Cyril Beech and that Dean Saunders is 5ft 8!”

Programmes were mementoes from my first experiences of attending live sport, matches that would have been memorable no matter what happened on the pitch. But once you have attended hundreds of games and you are an adult with a car, a cork noticeboard in the kitchen and a mouthful of aggressive plaque, do the more recent ones pass the Marie Kondo test? Does looking at my programme for West Bromwich Albion v Swansea City from 2 February 2016 “spark joy?” Not really, although on opening a page at random, seeing the phrase “precious Premier League points are up for grabs in this battle between 14th and 15th” did cause my heart to race a little. What I’m actually doing by keeping them, is saving up joy for the future. 2016 still seems so recent, but as long as I hold onto it for long enough, Tony Pulis urging Baggies fans to “get behind the lads” will appear as quaint to me as the summary of referee Bo Karlsson, described in the programme for Wales v Germany in June 1991 as being “a bank clerk in real life”.

I was performing at the Salford Lowry before Christmas, and a kind audience member added to my collection by leaving some 1960s Llanelli RFC programmes at the stage door. Unlike my father I’m not really a rugby man, and in recent years his memory has been blunted by Parkinson’s disease. As we looked through this treasure trove of lineups from Llanelli’s golden age, as well as some remarkably unimaginative adverts (“Do You Need Tyres? Visit Llanelli Tyres”), my father displayed an effortless, if unexpected capacity to recall every player who had turned out for his hometown club during his teenage years. The straightforward language of the “Llanelli Players On The Injury List” section sparked joy in us both (sample entry: “John Lugg: HAND STILL IN PLASTER”), but the sheer passage of time turned these initially unremarkable documents into something spellbinding. I can see why some clubs have moved this stuff online. Printed programmes already appear as antiquated as the typewriters they were once written on. But there are certain things you can’t do with an app.