Saints And The The Big Freeze Of 1963
Friday, 27th Mar 2020 09:06
We are currently left twiddling our thumbs with no football to watch, but in 1963 it was a similar story but this time it was the weather to blame.
The winter of 1962/63 was savage and those Saints fans that watched Saints draw 1-1 at the Dell against Scunthorpe on December 15th 1962 had no inkling that they would not see their team play at home again for nearly two months, Saints would travel to Swansea Town on Boxing Day and this would be their last competitive action until February 13th, although they did start a game at Charlton Athletic on 19th January but this was abandoned in a blizzard.
On many of those occasions even the help of Saints fans who were asked to come along to the Dell and try to get the pitch playable did little and Saints centre forward George Kirby also as the excellent book In That Number recalls "mischievously suggested" that on one of those occasions manager Ted Bates had actually watered the pitch to ensure that it was frozen, Kirby was serving a suspension and in those days the bans were not given in games but in days/weeks, so Kirby's suspension would have been served without missing a game.
The first action as the freeze thawed was in the FA Cup, just how they got the cup tie in the 3rd round of the FA Cup against York City played at the Dell on 13th February is unknown, but by then the thaw must have been starting, the game had been originally scheduled for January 5th and had been postponed 9 times.
The 11,722 who turned out for this midweek game on a Wednesday were rewarded with a 5-0 win the first game in what would be a memorable run in the cup ending at Villa Park in the semi finals.
Saints would not play on the Saturday following the York game so the first League action in two months to be completed was a trip to Preston North End on 23rd February, our 2 month unbeaten run was ended when we lost to a 90th minute goal. The big freeze was almost over but it was a rock hard pitch and Saints keeper Ron Reynolds wore tracksuit bottoms.
The first Division 2 game in 2 1/2 months to be played at the Dell was ironically the visit of near neighbours Portsmouth were 25, 463 welcomed back league action to Southampton.
Most of them went home happy with a 4-2 win and for those who like a little bit of trivia, the for the 11 that played that day this was their 10th consecutive League game with an unchanged side, 12 if you include the two cup games as Saints had also hosted and beaten Watford in the FA Cup on 27th February, can you imagine that these days.
By now football was back, although the winter had taken a hard toll on pitches both due to it's severity and the attempts to make them playable which in those days were basically putting straw and sand on them and using braziers to try to thaw them out.
Despite so many games being postponed the season was due to end on 27th April but was extended by four weeks , in the three months between resuming the league programme at Preston (including this game) and the final game on 22nd May at home to Stoke City discounting cup games we would play 19 games, bizarrely 8 of these would be played in the last 22 days of the season where five wins would take us up to our highest position all season our final spot of 11th.
So a big break from football is not so far back in history as we would think, this was not of course a pandemic as we are in ow but back then it disrupted life almost as much.
The average temperature for January was -2.1, the sea froze over one mile from shore just off Herne Bay in Kent and of course many rivers and lakes also froze.
The upper reaches of the River Thames froze over, although it did not freeze in Central London, partly due to the hot effluent from two thermal power stations, Battersea and Bankside. The removal of the multi-arched London Bridge, which had obstructed the river's free flow, and the addition of the river embankments kept the river from freezing in London as it had in earlier times.
There was constant snow throughout January and the early part of February, the 6th March was the first day of the year that we had not had frost and temperatures rose to 17C and the remaining snow finally melted.
Back then most houses did not have central heating or double glazing, many had only coal fires, there were still only 2 TV channels as BBC 2 would not launch till the following year and many families did not have TV anyway.
So spare a thought for those back then, they were isolated perhaps more than we are now and they did not have the luxuries that we have today.
Photo: Action Images
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