On FA Cup Third Round day we remember the year when the weather wreaked havoc with the sporting calendar and in particular the Cup for that season. In the coldest winter in more than 200 years the clubs and fans struggled with the chaos.
First I’m going to put a jumper on and turn the clock back to 1963 and it was snow joke being a goalkeeper.
At least we ‘shouldn’t’ have a FA Cup competition this season like we did in 1963. In the coldest winter since 1740 there were 261 postponements for just the Third Round games, Lincoln and Coventry topped the table with their game called off 15 times as the first hurdle to Wembley dragged on for 66 days! I don’t know about 1740 but I can tell you that winter was cold; the records state it was -20C at times and Tottenham were due to play Burnley for the third season running.
The competition that should have started on the 5th January (only three games survived) finally ended on March 11th. At Blackpool the players went ice skating on the pitch. At Halifax they actually opened the ground as a skating rink, while in London people cycled on the River Thames and at Oxford someone drove their car across the ice to the other side.
But it wasn’t all fun and freezing some clubs didn’t have a home gate for two and a half months that winter and the FA even provided loans to some clubs. The Pools companies introduced a new idea, the Pools Panel, they predicted the results of the games called off.
These left fans and punters the length of the country speechless with some of their forecasts.
It was widely reported at the time that when the Panel issued their first set of results a sportswriter pointed out to a MP on the panel “How the **** could you say Port Vale would beat Northampton? You wouldn’t know a football if it hit you in the ***ing face.” The member replied “No comment. And you can quote me on that.”
As the snow piled up even the Cup Final was moved back three weeks. It wasn’t just the Cup, the League had started to find fixtures piling up since just before Christmas as over a foot of snow fell.
As water pipes burst, prices soared and the country stayed indoors, chaos was looming.
You must remember only a few of the ‘rich’ clubs had installed under soil heating at this point in time. Then even if a club got the pitch clear the terraces and even the roads around the grounds were deemed unsafe.
The FA did go ahead with a 4th round draw. In fact at one point later in the season we had third, fourth and fifth round games on the same day. Later on they would cancel the draw for future rounds several times. Clubs turned to snow ploughs, watchman’s braziers, tar burners and at Norwich a club determined to play they used flamethrowers! Sadly this didn’t work it melted the ice which then froze again, but full marks for trying. Wrexham brought in eighty tons of sand so they could play their match with Liverpool, shame they lost on what must have looked liked a game on the beach.
At Leicester Gordon Banks took two pairs of boots on to the pitch as he saw half the pitch was still frozen. It was only after the toss was made and he knew which end he was defending he put on the pair of boots with the right studs.
There was some fun for the fans, indoors in front of the fire and with all school games cancelled.
Chelsea flew to Malta for warm weather then couldn’t get back as the airports were closed which cheered a few people up.
While Coventry wanted to play their home games in Dublin.
As for Tottenham, the Spurs game was called off twice. It finally went ahead on Wednesday 16th January the kick off being moved from 7pm to the afternoon as the Electricity Board said there would be power cuts in the evening. In a bad tempered game which one of the 32,000 present told me was ‘the most unSpurs performance I can remember’ The fans did their part as twice the Burnley goalie called the police as the fans behind the goal rained down snowballs on him, see top image.
Burnley having being knocked out by Spurs for the last two seasons, in the semi and the final, won by 3-0, despite Spurs hitting the bar early on and having a goal disallowed. Was it just the bad weather? It was suggested that maybe having gone out of the European Cup the year before one fan of the time felt they had their minds on ensuring they won the Cup Winners Cup. The newsreels do show that it was a dreadful playing surface and players couldn’t keep their feet.
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