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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,[8][11] 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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underweststand added 13:25 - Mar 28
A good resume of that vastly-delayed winter seaso n Nick, BUT you failed to mention the most exciting part of our tremendous FA Cup run. Going into the 6th round we drew Notts Forest (a top Div.1 side at the time) . We managed a late goal to come away at 1-1 and a packed Dell crowd saw us concede 3 goals by the 60 min.mark. Then came one of the most memorable fightbacks when we first scored in the 74th minute and went on to draw level by 90 minutes. No-one knows how we didn't manage to win during extra time but that glory was left for the SECOND replay at neutral White Hart Lane.

The majority of the 42000 crowd who turned up that evening were Saints fans - and many more came late and stood outside the ground listening (as Spurs expecting a low turnout had only opened up part of the ground). One of the Saints most memorable Cup games saw up slaughter Forest 5-0 (and it might have been more) .
I was one of the 30-odd thousand Saints fans who travelled to Villa Park for the Semi Final v. Man Utd. Sadly one of the most disappointing games I've ever watched as neither side cound string 3 passes together and United won 1-0 after the ball struck Denis Law's knee and was deflected past the grounded Saints keeper Ron Reynolds.

The highlights of that game are on You Tube ...somewhere . FA Cup semi final 1963 ?

A memorable season for Saints who had a disasterous start and were still in bottom place after 10 games, but turned things around part due to Ted Bates signings of veteran FB Stuart Williams. MF David Burnside and the "robust " CF George Kirby. By the end of the backlogged season we finished a respectable 11th place (of 24 teams).
That season's top scorer ?...the late-lamented George O'Brien ...(22 league goals 7 in the Cup run). Maybe modern day fans will tell their grandchildren the story of the 2020 season Corona stoppage - if we all live long enough.


aceofthebase added 15:03 - Mar 28
Underweststand You have awakened my memory. I can remember going to Notts forest to see that draw. Did someone score for us from near the halfway line for that equaliser? I have forgotten the home match but My dad and I travelled to London to watch that slaughter of Notts forest.
I was also at the semi-final, blowing on my little horn behind the goal where I saw one of my schoolboy heroes knee in that goal.
Both of these latter away games were an eye-opener to the size of grounds (spectators) that other team played on.
In 1964 I lost touch with Saints as I joined the Royal Navy and travelled the world, eventually moving to Dorset. In my retirement years I follow the games avidly, thank goodness for streaming and the odd cheap game and travel.

underweststand added 16:37 - Mar 28
to.. aceofbase.....not TOO many of our generation on here , but our goal at Forest was an 80th minute effort from Terry Paine, who lobbed Peter Grummit in the Forest goal.

The Dell replay was a totally one-sided game in the first half and many thought it was all over when Forest scored their third. The dramatic comeback to 3-3 was so dramatic and the crowd noise was as a loud as I ever heard at The Dell, and the extra time was just as exciting and the next day people in Shirley said they could hears the crowds roars.

I didn't get to the replay at White Hart Lane, but have heard many stories from others.
Knowing that both clubs were far from London, and it was an evening kick-off, Tottenham ground staff only planned to open part of the ground and had a limited staff at the gates.

The official attendance (42,000) wasn't the real figure as around 3,000 Saints fans (arriving late) got in at HT, and several thousand more who never got in, but remained standing outside whilst fans called over the wall to keep them informed of the score.

I recall seeing a few minutes highlights on the evening TV sport programme, and fans at the match said that it was the finest game that Ken Wimshurst ever played for Saints.

Had we played half-as-well in the Semi Final it would have been Saints going to Wembley and not United.


underweststand added 16:52 - Mar 28
P.S. ..for anyone interested? see You Tube Manchester United V Southampton (1963)

aceofthebase added 21:06 - Mar 28
I wanted to say it was my real hero Terry Paine but questioned my own memory. I was on the half way line and he scored in the goal to my left. I wish I had all these facts at my fingertips like you Weststand.

underweststand added 11:54 - Mar 29
To ...ace of the base. To be honest much of this info. comes ..when my fingertips thumb through my copy of ..IN THAT NUMBER. A real gem from Hagiology Publishing in 2003. This was a mammoth work compiled by Duncan Holley and Gary Chalk plus some wonderful material and editing by club historian David Bull. My memory is also a little vague on some things, but have to see the book to really appreciate it.
I have seen odd copies for sale online and at one time Duncan Holley said ...he had some copies in a box in his garage ..(well something like that). It may only be a Saints history book to younger fans, but a treasure trove for "oldies" who lived through the old days. My first game was in 1959.. so there are many good memories to recall.

aceofthebase added 18:10 - Mar 29
I still can remember my first game it was against Southend in the third division South. I thought it was about 52/3. I don't think I saw much of the game because I had these big adults in front of me. My dad took me on the back of his BSA Bantam, we used to stop at the market end of six dials, King x Market?? and devour loads of grapes. Luxury in those days Twinkle toes Hoskins and Brian Flood, Christie in goal and the right back Left for Canada. Was his name Wilkins Tommy Traynor at left back.

Thanks for the book info, I will look out for it

underweststand added 19:44 - Mar 29
ace of the base...this is beginning to look like our personal site. BUT as for your quotes

"Twinkletoes" Hoskins, (John - by name ) ....played 238 games and scored 67 goals between 1952-59 .....and played left-wing (no.11 pre-Sydenham).
whilst LEN Wilkins played mostly as "centre half (no.5) and later right back between 1948 -58 and played 275 games. Len Wilkins moved to Canada after retiring.

Both men were born in Southampton ...don't see many of those nowadays.
I take no credit for these stats. they come from the aforementioned ..IN THAT NUMBER.

aceofthebase added 20:11 - Mar 29
This is our site! I have just found the internet site and wow what a tremendous amount of information. I used to be able to quote teams from those early days but struggle to remember their names today. I can though picture them playing when reminded of their names. Wilkins going to Canada was announced over the loudspeakers and somehow I always remembered it Thanks for the advice.
It's a pity but my working career prevented me watching Saints and I regret I never saw Matt Le Tissier play but so pleased I saw Paine Chivers Channon and even Matthews and Best and so many other great players. I can remember Clough playing and I think he scored a dynamic hat trick including a powerful header that nearly broke the net. ah! such memories

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