Wednesday, 27 July 2011
Sorry for the lack of activity on "The Football Adventurer". Pre-season gave me the chance to swap football grounds for the keyboard and I am now pleased to tell you that my new book "Airships, Engines and the FA Cup" should be available from Saturday 6th August. Many thanks to everyone who has shown such amazing support. Stay tuned to find out where you can pick up a copy. Cheers - Brian:-)
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
In October 2010 Southend United became the 7th club to visit Chesterfield’s brand new B2 Net stadium. The Shrimpers’ recent good form (soon to end!) – as well as the chance to tick off a new ground – meant that a healthy contingent of Southend supporters made the pilgrimage to Derbyshire.
But what of the past? The Spirites’ recently vacated home, the Recreation Ground otherwise known as Saltergate, is still standing just a couple of miles down the road, so a few of us decided to make an early start and pay a final visit to the ground that had been Chesterfield’s home for 139 years.
As you can imagine, in such a long period of time the ground has hosted some great matches as well as serving as a home to a fair few excellent footballers. Indeed, one of my most memorable away trips with Southend came in 2006 when, inspired by a Freddy Eastwood hat trick, the Shrimpers won a topsy-turvy battle against Chesterfield’s brave ten men by the odd goal in seven
In recent years both West Ham United and Manchester City came a cropper at Saltergate in cup-ties. Going back a little further to 1981, Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers were thrashed there by three goals to nil in the Anglo/Scottish cup, a competition that ran for six seasons between 1975 and 1981. Competing clubs came from North and South of the border. Chesterfield went on to win the competition that year with a 2-1 aggregate win over Notts County in the final. As the final winners of the competition the Cup remains with the Spirites to this day!
On the pitch, Chesterfield’s most famous player was undoubtedly goalkeeper Gordon Banks. Although Banks made only 23 appearances for the Spirites (all during the 1958/59 season), he would move up the leagues to make 293 appearances for Leicester City and 194 games for Stoke City. Banks gained 73 England caps including of course the 1966 World Cup finals, where Banks featured in all of the host nation’s matches as they went on to beat West Germany 4-2 in the final.
But for all the goals scored, and despite thousands of fans who have flocked to Saltergate, today the old place lies in dereliction awaiting its fate.
We entered the stadium via a broken down turnstile door. Strangely, from beyond the covered home terrace stood in front of us came a ghostly echo from the pitch the other side. A game between Chesterfield’s legendary spirits of the past perhaps? At closer inspection we were surprised to discover the ground was still being used by local school children as part of the club’s community trust scheme.
The kids are put through their paces by the club’s community officer Andy Morris, a familiar name in these parts. He scored 56 goals in 225 appearances for Chesterfield during a ten-year spell. Affectionately known to the supporters as “Bruno”, Morris joined the club from Rotherham in 1988 for just £500 and a bag of footballs! He became a cult figure thanks to his bustling style. In 1997, Andy Morris and his fellow Spirites became household names when the club reached the semi-final of the FA Cup. Having put out Bury, Scarborough, Bristol City, Bolton Wanderers, Nottingham Forest and Wrexham, Chesterfield faced Premiership Middlesborough at Old Trafford, with a place at Wembley at stake.
Andy Morris takes time out to tell me about his FA Cup goal.
The game turned out to be an epic with Andy Morris having an eventful afternoon. Following a free flowing move down the right flank, the ball arrived at Morris’ feet just a couple of yards from goal. He sent the whole of Chesterfield (and a large percentage of the country) into delirium by firing the third division club into the lead. Soon after Morris looked sure to add to his tally when sent clear on goal. Boro’ goalkeeper Ben Roberts hauled Morris down for a penalty, but amazingly despite the apparent professional foul Roberts wasn’t sent off! Sean Dyche scored from the spot but the Premiership side hit back to lead 3-2. Chesterfield took the game to a replay with a goal in the final minute of extra time from Jamie Hewitt, but further controversy shrouded the game when the Spirites’ Jonathan Howard clearly scored a goal that would have given them a 3-1 lead with only 20 minutes to play. Once again the match officials missed the incident and waved play on. Middlesborough won the replay 3-0 at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough, and the more romantic football supporters amongst us cried, “Foul!”
Andy Morris still feels bitter about the decisions. Although I tried to soften the blow by explaining they had made FA Cup folk law, he told me they would have rather been remembered as the first Chesterfield team to reach the cup final as opposed to the team that was cruelly robbed!
We made our way around the ground, documenting everything as our cameras busily clicked away: the stand, the uncovered terrace, even the gents toilets! Like the visitors’ terrace, the ‘loos’ have no cover. When the weather was hot the smell used to be awful, and when it bucketed down you could find yourself ankle deep in what can only be described as “acid rain.”
The children finished their coaching session, and Morris agreed to give us a guided tour of the underbelly of the main stand, taking in the board, dressing and boot rooms. It was here that much of the filming for ‘The Damned United’ was shot. The movie somewhat controversially told the story of Brian Clough’s 44-day stint as manager of Leeds United. Saltergate was used as it was believed to look similar to Derby County’s now demolished Baseball ground, where Clough had led the Rams to the football league championship. As we enter the boardroom I was surprised to find the club’s trophies still there, all wrapped in newspaper ready for a move to Chesterfield’s new home. “They’ve not built a trophy cabinet at the new ground!” Morris explained.
The rusty old grandstand.
Before we left, I asked our hero of the hour to sign one of the 71-year-old seats from the main stand. He wrote “Andy Morris - FA Cup semi-final goal scorer” It remains one of my more unusual football artifacts!
Across town at the B2 Net Stadium, Chesterfield and Southend played out an entertaining match with the home side grabbing a late winner mainly thanks to a howling decision from the linesman. Those of us in the visiting stand holler our discontent at the ‘sleepy’ official. The only similarity between today and the Spirites’ cup semi final heartbreak seemingly being that neither the officials, nor for that matter the men in suits who appoint them, really care!
But let’s talk no more about those we choose to curse. This is an ode to Saltergate, for 139 years the home of football in Chesterfield. Sadly, by the time you read this story, memories of Saltergate will be just that, Memories!
Another ground that offered spectators that unique “real” match day experience will have vanished. The more romantic supporters will have lost another footballing church as the modern, somewhat less than beautiful game caters for a new breed of football follower.
Phil Cox and I on the crumbling terraces.
Bad smell or acid rain - The outdoor gents toilet.
Alfie finds the net at Saltergate.
The weekend of 10th and 11th November 1923 is one that stands alone in the history of English football.
On Saturday 10th November, Aston Villa won a First Division encounter against highly regarded Notts County at Meadow Lane by a single goal. The win allowed Villa to climb above their East Midlands hosts into 3rd place. Amongst their number was 24-year-old Thomas Edgar Ball, who, along with his Villa team, produced a resolute rearguard action to keep the Notts’ attack at bay.
Villa’s 1-0 victory is clearly recorded in football’s record books. However, the events of the next thirty hours or more remain unclear.
Reports seem to have been clouded as to the exact date through the passage of time but during the late evening of either Saturday 10th or Sunday 11th November, Ball, who had joined Aston Villa three years earlier from a colliery team in the north east (some suggest from Newcastle United) was visited at his home in Perry Barr, Birmingham by landlord and former policeman George Stagg.
Despite being a neighbour, Stagg had argued with Ball on several occasions over the footballer’s dog and chickens “trespassing” on his land. To think – in 2010 many top-flight players own racehorses, but in 1923 it was chickens!
On arriving at Thomas Ball’s home, Stagg shot the Aston Villa defender dead. Once again, mystery shrouds this tale of events. Some say that Ball was returning from walking his dog when an argument with Stagg ensued. The former policeman fired a shotgun to scare Ball but when the footballer tried to grab the weapon Stagg shot him twice. George Stagg was then reported to have helped Thomas Ball to his home in Brick Kiln Lane, but he died before help arrived.
Again this is disputed. Ball’s wife Beatrice, of whom it is said she spent the early evening with her husband at the Church Tavern in Perry Barr, claimed that after hearing a shot she rushed out of the house to find her husband staggering along the road bleeding profusely. Mrs Ball reported a second shot was fired, that passed over her head.
What is clear is that George Stagg was arrested and charged with the murder of Thomas Ball at West Bromwich police station. At his trial, forty-five year-old Stagg was found guilty of killing the footballer and sentenced to be hanged.
Yet again mystery surrounds the case. Some say that George Stagg’s life was spared when his death penalty was “reduced” to a life sentence and that he died on February 1st 1966 at the Highcroft Mental Hospital in Birmingham. Others suggest Stagg was hung in Stafford soon after his trial.
Thomas Ball made 77 first team appearances for Aston Villa without once troubling opposing goalkeepers. He was buried at St Johns Church, Perry Barr, where his grave is decorated with stone footballs.
Ball’s shocked team-mates recovered from the devastating death of their colleague to finish 6th in the First Division, with Huddersfield Town winning the Championship. Villa would also reach the FA Cup final before going down 2-0 to Newcastle United at Wembley. At the time of writing this tale, Thomas Ball remains the only English professional footballer known to have been murdered.
August 2010, and a trip to see Southend United at Wolverhampton Wanderers gave me the chance to stop off at St Johns Church to visit Thomas Ball’s grave. On finding Ball’s final resting place, we discover a man maintaining the monument.
The gentleman is Jeff Hilliar, Jeff heard the tale of Thomas Ball many years ago and set about learning more about our tragic hero. On finding the grave, he discovered it to be in a desperate state. Mr Hilliar set about restoring it. Today, football followers from all over the country visit Thomas Ball’s grave, it is St Johns main attraction. Jeff Hilliar tells visitors the tale of Ball’s final day in such detail you could almost believe he was there!
Jeff’s turn of events (which I believe to be the closest to the truth), along with tales from Birmingham folk law will ensure that English footballs first known martyr will never be forgotten.
Jeff Hilliar takes time to tell Alfie and I the Thomas Ball story.
Wednesday, 11 May 2011
Imagine the telephone ringing. It’s the manager of your local team and he’s in real trouble. He asks you the question every lad the world over dreams of being asked: “Can you play for us today?”
I know what you’re thinking. It’ll never happen. Why would a professional football club phone someone almost completely out of the blue offering them a game in the first team? But way back in March 1983 it did!
In the depths of the Southend Borough Combination League, Barrie Delf was turning out as a centre forward for Leigh Ramblers 3rd team. In fairness he did have some experience as a goalkeeper. Some years earlier both Southend and Aston Villa had shown an interest in his custodian skills. But with no firm offer on the table Barrie returned to the Ramblers and the unglamorous park pitches of South-East Essex.
Monday 21st March 1983 seemed like any other day for Barrie Delf. He was working as a civil servant in Southend. He had played for Leigh Ramblers on the Saturday and was waiting for a telephone call telling him whether he was wanted by the 3rd or 4th team the following week. The phone duly rang, but it was not Leigh Ramblers at the other end of the line.
During the 1982/83 season Southend United had two well-established goalkeepers on their books in the shape of Mervyn Cawston and John Keeley. Both had a wealth of Football League experience. Both had picked up niggling injuries and the Shrimpers had little in the way of back up. With the transfer deadline passed and other clubs reluctant to lend them a keeper, Southend were in a spot of bother, but with the doctor's report informing manager Dave Smith that Cawston’s injury should clear up the club believed a new man between the sticks would not be required. To be on the safe side, Smith turned to Barrie Delf. He had remembered his trial from some years earlier and asked if he would like to sign on non-contract terms to cover the situation.
This was perfect for Barrie. Southend told him that he was unlikely to be needed, but that they would give him a few games in the reserves for helping out. Signing as a non-contract player also meant he could continue to work for the civil service.
As the week progressed the local newspaper reported that Mervyn Cawston’s thigh injury had shown little improvement and that manager Smith was considering handing the position to Delf. Barrie had given the match little thought – in fact, he didn’t even know who the Shrimpers were facing that weekend – but with the papers speculating on his unexpected appearance, he thought that he should do some homework.
Sheffield United were to be the visitors to Roots Hall that fateful Saturday afternoon. They were without question the biggest club in the Third Division at that time and would arrive in Southend with five straight wins under their belts. On the other hand the Shrimpers were floundering in mid-table with just one victory from their previous six games. It was turning into a story even “Roy of the Rovers” couldn’t have made up!
The morning of the match arrived and Barrie received an early telephone call from Roots Hall. Mervyn Cawston had not recovered from his injury and Barrie was to play… talk about being thrown in at the deep end!
Delf then had to make a phone call of his own. He had to inform Leigh Ramblers that he would be unavailable for their 4th team fixture that afternoon.
Barrie turned up at Roots Hall. It was then that he encountered the first hurdle of the day. He had little idea where the players’ car park was. He asked a man on the gates for directions, but discovered the steward had no idea who he was and was reluctant to let him in! Delf finally persuaded the gate man that he was Southend United’s goalkeeper, even if it was only for that day.
Barrie made his way to the home dressing room. He was introduced to the rest of the players – in most cases he had not met with his teammates before. Stricken keeper Mervyn Cawston offered some words of encouragement and asked if his young stand-in had any gloves? Delf showed him his somewhat worn and dirty gloves, which had only seen action in a few park matches. Cawston then presented him with a brand new pair that had been provided for him by his sponsors.
Delf sat in the changing room in a bit of a daze. Could this really be happening? What were the players thinking about having a “rookie” amongst them? What if it all went wrong, would the good people of Southend ever forgive him? I guess either way they’d never forget him!
Barrie’s mind was spinning, but he soon realised he was one of the first team when a group of local school children were shown in and along with the other players he was asked to sign autographs.
The teams ran out on to the Roots Hall pitch with Barrie still barely believing the events of the previous six days. But he was really here now, living out every football mad kid’s dream. He was determined not to let anyone down.
The match started quietly for Barrie. Sheffield United did not threaten his goal in the opening exchanges, but with former Southend favourite Colin Morris and high profile strike partner Terry Curran leading the Blades attack he knew he would need to be on his toes.
His first duel with the deadly Blades attack came midway through the opening half when Sheffield were awarded a penalty. Nobody had given Delf any information on the visitors’ dead ball specialists. He made up his own mind which way to dive for the kick, which was to be taken by ex-Shrimper Morris, and guessed wrong. The Blades had the lead.
The goal kicked Southend into life. Top goal scorer Steve Phillips tore into the Sheffield defence claiming the match ball with a stylish hat trick. The visitors’ day worsened when talisman Terry Curran was sent off after inciting the Sheffield United supporters after a clash with the young keeper. Delf had clawed the ball back from the goal line following a mad scramble, Curran had tried to kick both the ball and keeper into the back of the net as the Blades went in search of a way back into the game. The Sheffield player had tried to hoodwink the referee by rousing the Blades fans into believing he had scored. In the madness that followed, Curran was given his marching orders and with him went any chance Sheffield United had of winning the match. To this day Delf is unable to tell whether the ball had crossed the goal line or not.
Southend won the game 3-1, the local press and Shrimpers manager Dave Smith heaped praise on the young custodian. But he would never play for Southend United’s first team again. The following week he was back in the Southend Borough Combination League with Leigh Ramblers’ 3rd team.
The name Barrie Delf had not gone unnoticed. Former Southend player Peter Taylor invited him to play between the sticks for the club he now managed, Dartford. From there he returned across the Thames to Essex, joining Grays Athletic before returning to the Southend Borough Combination League with Second Division Little Theatre Club FC.
At Little Theatre Delf served the club as a central defender during their promotion to Division One; his long, accurate passes forward setting up a number of goals for a young striker by the name of Jeeves!
Barrie Delf in action for Grays Athletic.
So my childhood dreams of being a professional footballer deserted me. Instead I’ve spent almost my entire career in the somewhat less glamorous surroundings of the print industry. My day to day regime of no thrills and in some cases little reward is a far cry from the champagne lifestyle of the Premiership or even the Conference League, but I have had the privilege of working beside some great characters.
One such chap is Steve Jackson, the son of former player Cliff Jackson. Cliff made 364 Football League appearances between 1958 and 1974. He played for Swindon Town, Plymouth Argyle, Crystal Palace and Torquay United and is part of a unique band of footballers that have played in all four divisions of the Football League.
Despite the fact that Cliff didn’t play for one of the country’s ‘glamour clubs’, one would expect that he and the family led a pretty good lifestyle. But back in the 60s, footballers didn’t earn the fortunes of the stars of today. Sure he did OK, but like for many other journeyman players of the time, the game did not make him a fortune.
Cliff Jackson was born in Swindon, Wiltshire on the 3rd September 1941. As a teenager he played for Swindon Schools and was capped by England Schoolboys when they met their Scottish counterparts at Sheffield Wednesday in 1957.
Cliff signed a professional contract at Swindon Town in September 1958. Chelsea had wanted the talented youngster but his parents were not keen on him moving away to London at such a young age. Later that month he made his League debut for the Robins, scoring a goal during a 2-2 home draw with Bradford City. Although he made only one further appearance that season, the early 1960s saw him emerge as one of manager Bertie Head’s great discoveries. Jackson went on to make 91 Football League appearances at Swindon netting 28 goals, before moving to Second Division Plymouth Argyle in 1963.
In a three-year stint at Plymouth, Cliff made 69 appearances scoring a further 19 times. He developed a love for Devon that would see him return there later in his career. But while at Argyle, he became a firm favourite with the Home Park crowd.
Son Steve was born during 1963 and does not remember his father’s days at Plymouth; but the next move provided his earliest memories of life as the son of a professional footballer.
Bertie Head had worked wonders at Swindon Town and it hadn’t gone un-noticed. In South London, Crystal Palace were a club on the up. Head was appointed manager and immediately signed a number of his former Swindon fledglings including Don Rogers and Cliff Jackson.
Palace had become quite a fashionable club. They played entertaining football and were on the brink of promotion to the First Division.
Steve recalls, ‘Dad was Palace’s top goal scorer during the 68-69 promotion season’. The team played in front of big crowds and Steve was often at Cliff’s side, not only on a match day but also at club events. “We went to one or two posh functions rubbing shoulders with some of the country’s top footballers. I even got photographed with Dad in the London Soccer Annual!” he adds.
Steve also recalls a day at legendary Palace goalkeeper John Jackson’s house. “We were at John’s house for a barbeque or something, I can only have been about 3 or 4. I was probably messing about and managed to fall into his garden pond – a unique claim to fame you might say!”
Despite being very young, watching his dad in the First Division was a fantastic experience, although in truth, Steve felt that he didn’t really appreciate what he was witnessing until he was older. Cliff was playing against the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and West Ham with players such as George Best and Bobby Moore. It was a golden era for football.
Cliff made 100 Football League appearances for Crystal Palace scoring 26 goals, 17 of which came during that Second Division promotion season. But with a regular first team spot becoming harder to nail down, Cliff decided to move on.
Being a First Division player, one would have expected Cliff to perhaps move down a division for regular football. Despite there being a few interested parties his heart was set on a move to Devon, not back to Plymouth, but rather surprisingly to Fourth Division Torquay United.
Undoubtedly, Cliff would have taken a big cut in wages making such a drop down the divisions. Today players would find other forms of income such as sponsorship, TV work or through the newspaper columns. The Jacksons made up the shortfall by investing in a number of caravans, which they let out to holidaymakers.
It was the Torquay years that Steve remembers most of all. “I think Dad found the drop in standard a bit frustrating.” He recalls a match at Plainmoor when Cliff received the ball on the halfway line. “Dad had nobody to pass to so he simply turned and gave it back to the Torquay keeper. The crowd howled their disapproval, one particular spectator becoming quite animated. Little did the fan realise he was sitting directly in front of my mum who gave him an ear bashing!”
Steve recalls another incident involving his mum. “During pre-season, the players were out on a road run. Mum was driving back from the town, and seeing a group of the lads, she pulled over to say hello. The players all jumped in the car and asked her to drop them further along the route, thus getting them out of a few miles of gruelling running. She had not noticed that Dad was not amongst that particular group. He was forced to complete the run. I don’t think he was too impressed that the other lads had skived training thanks to Mum’s help!”
Between 1969 and 1974 Cliff Jackson made 114 league appearances for Torquay, scoring 13 goals.
But all in all Torquay United was a good little club. Steve enjoyed going to Plainmoor but he insists, “I didn’t feel special having a dad who played League football – to me it was just the job he did.” However despite it being ‘just a job’ Steve admits that seeing his father score a goal gave him a tremendous buzz.
After Torquay, Cliff briefly joined non-league Cambridge City. On retirement from the game he worked in community sports projects and had a spell living in Spain. Today the family have settled in Essex. Despite recent ill health, Cliff tries to keep up with his former teams.
The game might not have offered Cliff Jackson and his family the riches of the modern day professionals, but ask any football fan up and down the country and they’ll tell you, playing League football, whether it be Torquay or Tottenham, is worth more than gold!
As a youngster, I would long for the weekends during the football season. My beloved Southend used to play most home fixtures on a Friday night leaving Saturday free for Dad and I to take in another match somewhere in the area. Ipswich, Norwich, Colchester and Orient were the regular venues for our “bonus day”; but at the beginning and end of the season we would mostly be at New Writtle Street, Chelmsford.
New Writtle Street was wonderful. Chelmsford City and Essex County Cricket Club were next door to each other and the prospect of watching both on the same day was too much to resist. Saturday would start at 11am when Essex’s County Championship matches got underway. After watching the likes of England all rounder Graham Gooch smash the visitors’ pace attack to the four corners of the ground, we would take a break from cricket and pop next door. At 2:55pm we would take our place on the Woolsley Road end to watch City.
Although City were only a Southern League team, they had some fabulous players and crowds were often well over 1000. My favourite was goalkeeper Willie Carrick, who had played out some of his early years at Manchester United. Carrick had a great rapport with the City faithful, who would sing “We’ve got the biggest Willie in the league”. I even seem to recall him scoring a penalty against Dorchester in one of his final matches for the club.
In attack City had Frank Bishop, a regular goal scorer and quite a character, it always surprised me that he never played in the Football League.
Regular visitors to New Writtle Street included the likes of Cheltenham Town, who progressed into the Football League; but the game everyone looked forward to was Dartford. Both were seen as “big” clubs by Southern League standards and both had aspirations of playing in the Football League, however it never happened – the tag of under-achievers attached itself and in truth never seems to have gone away.
The Stadium at New Writtle Street was in its day one of the finest outside of the League. In the early 70s, 16000 packed in for an FA Cup tie with First Division Ipswich Town. During my regular City visits I can often remember crowds of over 2000 for Cup-ties and almost 5000 for a friendly against Aston Villa.
A way beyond both the grounds is the railway viaduct. A haunting noise would filter across as the big diesel locomotives pulled freight trucks over it. To this day the noise reminds me of those sporting days with Dad, particularly as he is no longer with us but was a railway engine driver himself.
Sadly the Stadium’s future always seemed to be in doubt and eventually City moved out, sharing with Maldon Town and Billericay before returning to Chelmsford and playing at Melbourne Park.
At 4:45pm the referee would bring proceedings at the Stadium to a close. Dad and I would return to the cricket for the final session of the day. I often remember the kids at my school boasting about their day at Highbury, White Hart Lane or Upton Park and mocking my visits to less glamorous surroundings, but football and cricket on the same day…. unbeatable!
Christmas has always been a busy time of year for football players and supporters alike. With so many games crammed close together it can be the make or break of a club’s season.
Possibly the most famous football match to have taken place at Christmas was played in the icy mud of No Man’s Land on 24th December 1914 when British and German soldiers laid down their weapons and faced each other during a short armistice.
Eye witnesses talk of the soldiers sharing drinks and cigars as well as playing a football match with as many as a hundred players in each team joining in the historic ‘kick-about’, another tale of football bringing people together in the wake of political madness.
Unfortunately many senior officers were so incensed by the actions of their troops that they ordered any repeat would result in soldiers being shot for fraternising with the enemy.
Until the late 1950s English League football still took place on Christmas Day. The final fixtures took place in 1959 when Blackburn Rovers beat Blackpool 1-0 in the First Division and Coventry City defeated Wrexham in a Third Division thriller that ended 5-3.
Christmas Day fixtures in Scotland continued until as recently as 1976, although many clubs switched matches to the 24th, 26th and 27th December due to reluctance to play and bad weather conditions. However two fixtures survived as Clydebank drew 2-2 with St Mirren and Alloa Athletic defeated Cowdenbeath by the odd goal in three.
In December 1983 Brentford attempted to move their Boxing Day fixture with Wimbledon back twenty-four hours in order to attract more spectators. Many supporters of both clubs stated that they would not attend a Christmas Day fixture so it was moved back another day to Christmas Eve. Wimbledon triumphed 4-3 in front of more than 6,000 fans.
My team Southend United played no fewer than twenty-two matches on the 25th December between 1920 and 1957. In 1931 Southend played Exeter City on Christmas Day before travelling west for the return fixture 24 hours later. This is quite incredible when you consider the mileage and the lack of transport methods available to the clubs. Exeter won both matches with around 22,000 supporters witnessing the two fixtures.
Without doubt the players of both Southend and Exeter would not have seen too much of families and loved ones over the festive period of 1931 due to travelling etc. It makes me sick to the stomach to think that today’s Premiership overpaid underachievers want a mid-winter break to save them from burning out. What with the money they are paid we fans should be able to demand that they play football every day of the year!
On Boxing Day 1963 a total of 66 goals were scored in the First Division. The results were as follows:
Blackpool 1 Chelsea 5
Burnley 6 Manchester United 1
Fulham 10 Ipswich Town 1
Leicester City 2 Everton 0
Liverpool 6 Stoke City 1
Nottingham Forest 3 Sheffield United 3
West Bromwich Albion 4 Tottenham Hotspur 4
Sheffield Wednesday 3 Bolton Wanderers 0
Wolverhampton Wanderers 3 Aston Villa 3
West Ham United 2 Blackburn Rovers 8
If this particular sequence of results were not strange enough, the return matches played two days later were quite extraordinary.
West Ham, who had lost 2-8 at home to Blackburn, travelled north and won 3-1, while Manchester United beat Burnley 5-1 at Old Trafford only 48 hours after the Clarets had walloped them 6-1! Christmas had clearly taken its toll on Ipswich, who lost by double figures at Fulham. However by the time they met on the 28th December the hangovers had gone and Town won 4-2!