Huddersfield Town’s Club Statistician Alan Hodgson looks at the 1939/40 season
- Alan Hodgson looked back at the only abandoned EFL season
- 1939/40 campaign was abandoned in early September
- Town’s Statistician ran us through what happened that campaign
With football currently postponed, Huddersfield Town’s Club Statistician Alan Hodgson looked back at the last time the EFL abandoned a season.
The 48th English Football League season kicked off on 26th August 1939 as Huddersfield Town sported numbered shirts for the first time in a First Division clash with Blackpool at Leeds Road. The previous Saturday had seen Town thrash Leeds United 5-0 in a Football League Jubilee game at the same venue, but this time manager Clem Stephenson’s side lost 1-0 before 15,588 spectators. Town then picked up their first points in midweek with a 2-1 win at Sunderland, only to next unluckily lose 1-0 down at Brentford on Saturday 2 September.
Of more concern though were events on the Continent where German forces were poised to invade Poland, and whilst Huddersfield Town played beneath a London skyline dotted with barrage balloons, Hitler’s army was already sweeping across Eastern Europe. After months of speculation and uncertainty, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was to solemnly announce to the nation the following morning that Britain was now at war. One immediate decision taken by government was a ban on the assembly of crowds until further notice, and the closure of places of entertainment.
On 6 September the English and Scottish Football Leagues held separate meetings at which both decided that all contracts between clubs and their professionals should be suspended, and thus “all organised football remains in abeyance” for the duration of hostilities. The normal 1939/49 football season was therefore effectively abandoned at this point with most clubs having played only two or three fixtures. The English Football League’s Management Committee duly issued the following statement:
1. Clubs are liable to pay their players up to 6 September 1939.
2. Signing-on bonuses and removal expenses are to be cleared immediately.
3. Season ticket refunds cannot yet be given but must be made uniform.
4. League matches already played are to be counted as cup-ties, and if the regular schedule resumed later, the return matches will be played on similar terms.
5. Injured players are to follow end-of-season procedures when making claims.
6. Proposed Inter-League games between Scotland and Ireland are cancelled.
7. Any alternative schemes for competition when soccer resumed are deferred.
The following day the FA held a meeting at its Lancaster Gate offices agreeing that all football should be suspended “until official notice to the contrary be given.” Some ties in the FA Cup extra preliminary round had already taken place, but the tournament was cancelled. After further consultation with the Home Office the FA then announced on 21 September that although normal football was suspended for the duration, it would allow friendly and regional competition games. However, these could only be played on Saturdays or Public Holidays and must not interfere with the war effort or recruitment. Crowds were to be limited to 8,000 or half the capacity of the ground in question, whichever was lowest. At large stadiums, local Chief Constables had the power to allow bigger crowds as long as they were all-ticket with tickets sold before the day.
Across England various regional leagues were set up over the ensuing weeks with Huddersfield Town initially placed in the North East Division along with ten other clubs. Their first wartime regional match was to be on 21 October 1939 when they beat Bradford (PA) 4-1 at Leeds Road. Numerous footballers were to soon join the armed forces or find work in munitions factories etc, and this left many clubs to field depleted teams often made up of reserves, juniors, trialists, guest players and even local amateurs. It was a situation that would remain in place for the next seven years.
To sum up, Huddersfield Town had ended the 1938/39 season (the last normal one before war intervened) on 29 April 1939 with a 0-0 draw at Sunderland. As described earlier, the Club then played three fixtures of the regular 1939/40 season (lastly on 2 September 1939) before all normal football was suspended for the duration of World War II. Needless to say, that fledgling campaign was duly abandoned and all results declared null and void with players’ appearances and goals not included in their official career totals.
Temporary regional competitions then took place from 1939/40 for seven seasons up to and including 1945/46, although the FA Cup was re-instated during the latter. Town’s first official post-war competitive game was thus on 5 January 1946 when they were held 1-1 at home by Sheffield United in an FA Cup third round, first leg, tie – the only time FA Cup-ties have been played on a two-legged basis. Huddersfield Town’s first normal Football League fixture for some seven years finally took place on 31 August 1946 losing 3-1 at home to Blackpool.
First Division Table as at 2 September 1939 (season abandoned, declared void)
THE NORTH EAST DIVISION - 1939/40
With normal football suspended Huddersfield Town were placed in the North East Division, one of several such regional competitions set up across the country and proved much too good for the other 10 clubs involved. Having opened with a 4-1 home win over Bradford Park Avenue on 21 October 1939 they were to lose just one of their 20 fixtures (a shock 2-1 home defeat by Halifax Town) and ended the campaign in first place, 10 points ahead of nearest challengers Newcastle United. Town’s best win of that unusual campaign was an 8-2 thrashing of Darlington at Leeds Road.
Huddersfield Town also competed in the Football League War Cup knocking out Chesterfield 3-2 on aggregate (away 1-2 & home 2-0) and Hull City 2-1 on aggregate (home 1-1 & away 1-0). The Third Round was then played as a one-off tie although Town drew 3-3 with West Ham United at Leeds Road (20 minutes extra time being played) before losing the replay 3-1 down in London. The Hammers went on to win the trophy beating Blackburn Rovers 1-0 in the Final on 8 June 1940.
North East Division – Final Table 1939/40
NB - The Bradford City v Leeds United, Bradford Park Avenue v Darlington, and Leeds United v Halifax Town matches were not played.