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Footballers frozen out in the ice age

PUBLISHED: 12:03 13 January 2010 | UPDATED: 07:25 02 July 2010

Milton Lindsay

Local footballers may be frustrated at the current cold snap which has left them unable to kick a ball in anger since before Christmas - but spare a thought for the players of the 1962-63 season who were left idle for almost three months in the coldest winter since 1740.

Local footballers may be frustrated at the current cold snap which has left them unable to kick a ball in anger since before Christmas - but spare a thought for the players of the 1962-63 season who were left idle for almost three months in the coldest winter since 1740.

Players at all levels of the professional and amateur game were hit to varying degrees, while administrators were left tearing their hair out at a frightening fixture crisis which showed no sign of relenting.

The last FA Cup Third Round tie was not played until March 11. Sixteen of the 32 ties had been postponed 10 or more times and a Scottish FA Cup tie between Stranraer and Airdrie was shelved a record 33 times!

That season a record 385 Football League and Cup matches were postponed, easily beating the previous worst of 140 in the wicked winter of 1946-47.

When the weather Gods deigned to release their icy grip in March, the problem of clearing the backlog had to be tackled.

At local level it was a battle that the Norwich Sunday League - then in its infancy, was able to win, with a little creativity.

Ray Kiddell, league secretary at the time recalled: “It started to snow on Boxing Day and it was the middle of March before a game was played, I think at Rackheath involving the Young Socialists. It was not so much the snow that was the problem it was ice, the grounds just froze.”

When the Norwich Sunday League programme eventually resumed, many matches were played as double-headers - with four points at stake instead of the usual two. The parks pitches saw Sunday League games in the mornings and afternoons.

Eventually when the backlog had cleared - Earlham United emerged as champions of the top division, the third of their four consecutive championship wins. That season they also added the Norfolk Sunday Senior Cup for good measure, beating Mackintosh 1-0 at Carrow Road.

Skipper of the double-winning outfit, Bernie Hardiman, said that although going three months without a match was immensely frustrating the soccer-crazy lads made sure they got their football fix come what may - with regular kickarounds and training sessions whatever the conditions.

“We used to put a couple of jackets down and play in the snow. Sometimes you would have up to 20 a side.”

The deep freeze wasn't bad news for all teams though - in fact perversely it may well have given Lowestoft Town, managed by Noel Kinsey, a helping hand in winning the Eastern Counties League title that season. Star striker of the day Dave Etheridge recalled: “We hardly had a game off at all. The ground was rock hard but we kept playing week after week whereas there were many clubs that didn't see any action for 10-12 weeks. The salt air helped to keep us snow-free, although the Crown Meadow ground was very hard and would not have been playable nowadays because of health and safety. We didn't lose many games at all through postponements and that helped us to win the league title because most of the other teams were playing catch-up, playing two or three games a week.”

Etheridge, then 22 and known as “Cannonball Dave” because of his powerful shooting, bagged around 30 goals as the Blues pipped Chelmsford Reserves to the league title. “During that period the other clubs used to dread coming to Lowestoft. They were more or less beaten before they started,” he said.

t FOOTBALL IN THE DEEP FREEZE of 1962/63

From the Pink Un archives

t December 29

Football Pools went into the deep freeze today with 42 English and Scottish League matches put off because of snow and ice and the new Pools ruling was brought into effect. This states that when 30 or over matches are postponed the Pool shall be declared void.

City Catch Cold Because of Snow and Ice. Battling Canaries Lose Their Grip on the Carrow Road Ice - (headlines after 4-3 home defeat by Middlesbrough).

t January 12

Already the Football League programme has been as badly hit by the Siberian-like weather this year as it was in the calamitous 1946-47 season.

It seems stupid that the weather should shut down football. Give pitches metal covers - headline on a Soapbox letter from William R Jennings of Fairstead Road, Sprowston.

t January 19

Norwich City and Blackpool are hoping it will be fifth time lucky for their FA Cup Third Round tie at Carrow Road. Thorpe referee Tommy Dawes came shivering back to the offices this afternoon after braving the easterly gale cutting across the pitch to say: “If anything conditions are worse.”

The season does not need extending nor is a regular mid-season break wanted. All they have to do is reduce the number of fixtures, to give the clubs more elbow room. Easy isn't it? They can scrap the League Cup for a start. That takes care of a few games. Then they can prune the size of the divisions to 20 or even 18 clubs for Division One - Bruce Robinson.

There remain but 15 weeks to the end of the football season and King's Lynn have to fulfil 25 Southern League and 11 Eastern Counties League fixtures.

Net Saturday sales of the Eastern Football News (Pink Un) for the half year ended December 31, 1962, average 45,338. Figures are certified by the Audit Bureau of Circulation.

Taking the field for their first match since before Christmas Lowestoft found Crown Meadow rock hard but free of ice. It took them only three minutes to take the lead, Dave Etheridge heading in Turner's cross neatly - Lowestoft's 3-0 win over Eynesbury.

t January 26

What I am waiting for is someone to blame the City chairman (Geoffrey Watling) for the weather. He takes the can back for everything - Dick Woodcock, Halvergate, Pink Un letter.

Last week young Ron Copeman pleaded with the crowd to sing City's “On the Ball” anthem more in order to urge the Canaries on. The lad means well but that anthem has been in circulation over 50 years and the time is ripe for a new one - the present one is a dirge - Soapbox letter writer, A Skedge, Chamberlin Road, Norwich.

t February 16

It looks as if City will have to fix a 10th date for their FA Cup tie with Blackpool.

t February 23

Norwich City really broke the ice this afternoon. Their first home match of 1963 brought them victory which was also the first at Carrow Road since Ron Ashman took over as acting manager - 4-2 win over Rotherham.

Yarmouth still have 15 first team and reserve fixtures to fit in at the Wellesley and they have almost certainly only 10 Saturdays left before cricket takes over.

Crown Meadow Lowestoft, spoilt its copybook last Saturday. Hailed as the most used ground for many miles all through the big freeze-up, it finally had to give best to the weather in the form of the big thaw.

t March 2

Yet another Saturday without soccer at the Walks and at present it's anyone's guess as to when the next match will be played there.

Two months late but as welcome as ever the FA Cup will be casting its magic at Carrow Road on Monday. Blackpool are the barriers between Norwich City and another home tie in the fourth round - (City drew 1-1 and then won the replay 3-1 aet). The run ended with a 2-0 Sixth Round home defeat by Leicester.

t March 9

Ted Smith, the man who popularised the anthem of the Canaries “On the Ball City” has died at the age of 86 at the Vale, Swainsthorpe. Ted Smith's singing of the anthem at socials and other functions in the early years of Norwich City's history, played a big part in establishing it.

The visit of Lowestoft to King's Lynn Walks today was the first game on the pitch for over two months, but it only attracted a few hundred.

t March 16

The improvement in the weather together with the management committee's acceptance of a reduced programme have made it certain that the Sterry Cup will find a home at the end of the season - Jack Cushion.

While other pitches have been unplayable, Caister have kept going during the great soccer hold-up in the Yarmouth district. Caister sports ground's open nature means that sand blown from beaches and salt in the sea air are useful and wind has blown snow away.

t Do you have any pictures or memories of football in the big freeze season of 1962-63. Why not get in touch on 01603 772315 or email milton.lindsay@archant.co.uk

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