Super Blues who went from sub zero to hero
Milton LindsayIntroducing the big freeze beaters of '63 - the Lowestoft Town team that kept their fixtures while others all around were losing theirs - and went on to win the league title.Milton Lindsay
Introducing the big freeze beaters of '63 - the Lowestoft Town team that kept their fixtures while others all around were losing theirs - and went on to win the league title.
The worst winter for over 200 years left most clubs up and down the country idle for up to 12 weeks from Boxing Day 1962 to mid March 1963.
But amazingly for most of that time it was business as usual for Britain's most easterly club - as the salty sea air kept the Crown Meadow ground relatively snow free.
It meant that the Blues, managed by ex-Norwich City star Noel Kinsey, were able to steal a march on their Eastern Counties League rivals, building up a big psychological and points advantage.
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'It was surprising how we got used to playing on those hard pitches,' recalled Dave Etheridge, the team's 30-plus goal star striker of the day. 'Obviously there wasn't the choice of footwear we have these days but we adapted well to the conditions - another big advantage over other teams who only played the one game during the frozen spell. The main diffference was that we were enjoying playing those matches whereas our opponents dreaded the experience and just wanted to get the game over, have a soak in a hot bath and get home.'
Although snow was not a problem, constant rock hard pitches, which would never have been playable nowdays because of health and safety regulations, were a bone-jarring feature - but Town's iron men just gritted their teeth and got on with it. 'I can't recall any serious injuries during that cold spell - apart from frostbite! - no more so than we had with any other games with the usual minor knocks and bruises. Players from both sides made allowances for the conditions,' said Dave, who recalled newly-appointed England manager Alf Ramsey, fed up with being starved of live football turning up to watch the Suffolk Premier Cup quarter-final against his old club Ipswich. Lowestoft's title triumph that year wasn't all plain sailing though as the campaign went down to the wire.John Butcher scored a hat-trick and Etheridge netted twice as they won their final game of the season at Harwich 5-2 to pip Chelmsford City Reserves to the crown on goal difference.
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The points garnered during the bleak mid-winter days, while their rivals were cosying up by the fireside, had proved absolutely crucial.
t LOWESTOFT'S CHAMPIONS OF THE DEEP FREEZE of 1962/63
t Noel Kinsey, player coach - Welsh international, capped seven times. Born Treorchy. Joined Norwich City from Cardiff just after the war. Outstanding inside-forward in Division III (South). Made 243 appearances for City, and scored 64 goals. Joined Birmingham in 1953 and played in 1956 FA Cupfinal scoring in the 3-1 defeat by Manchester City. Moved to Port Vale 1957, later became player-coach there. Town's right-half and player-coach since start of this season. Fine tactician. Can dictate course of game.
t Dave Mutton - Fearless, agile goalkeeper signed from Reedham, 1958. Turned pro month later. Gained preference over Stan Evans mid-season. Has made 102 appearances for Lowestoft.
t John Wilson - Classy right-back with attacking flair. Signed last summer from King's Lynn. Ex-Norwich City and Chesterfield. Played at Everton in Lynn's great cup run. Played for Norfolk at 16.
t Mike Cole - Signed in August from Biggleswade. Ex-Norwich City and Chelmsford. Reliable left-back, also likes to move up with attack.
t Charlie Peck - The veteran centre-half who regularly makes a comeback after being 'written off' as finished. Joined club in 1949-50 season. Town Boys' captain, Lowestoft Corinthians captain. Played 21 times for Suffolk and captained the side. Benefit match April 1961. Has made 567 appearances for Lowestoft. Effective and commanding.
t Rex Butcher - Strong, enthusiastic left-half. Tireless worker. Joined Lowestoft from Fakenham 1953 but received calling-up papers almost immediately. Played regularly since 1955. Has played 283 games for Lowestoft and scored 22 goals.
t John Butcher - Versatile, tricky forward now on right-wing. Rex's brother, also from Fakenham, November 1952. Left for Yarmouth 1954 but returned 1957. Has made 273 appearances for Lowestoft and scored 120 goals.
t Derek Turner - At 20 the 'baby' of the side. Signed August from Norwich City ground staff. Still works at Carrow Road. Made great progress at inside-right with help of the more experienced players.
t Dave Etheridge - Tall centre-forward signed as amateur from Yarmouth last August. Had trials with Ipswich and Millwall. By far top scorer for Lowestoft. Gained Norfolk county badge and this year selected by Suffolk.
t Albert Foan - Inside-Left. One of the finest ball-players in non-League football, although in veteran bracket. Great understanding with Kinsey. Signed last August after a season's break from football for business reasons. Ex Norwich City and West Ham. Regular League player during most of eight years with Hammers. Later with Southern League Margate.
t Robin Mills - Wing-half or inside-forward converted to outside-left with great success. Made position his own with displays that improved with every game. Ex Norwich City and Northampton. Signed as amateur last November. Selected for Suffolk this year.