Huddersfield Town’s Club Statistician Alan Hodgson looks at the 1962/63 season
- Alan Hodgson looked back at the extended EFL season
- 1962/63 was extended by three weeks
- Town’s Statistician runs us through what happened during the Big Freeze
With the current football season postponed, Huddersfield Town’s Club Statistician Alan Hodgson looked back at the last time the EFL made the decision to extend a season.
On 29 December 1962 Huddersfield Town drew 1-1 with Grimsby Town before 9,814 spectators over at Blundell Park, where Cliff Portwood netted for the home side and Kevin McHale scored for manager Eddie Boot’s visitors. It was one of only three Second Division games played that wintry afternoon, and indeed one of only ten played anywhere in the Football League. In what would become the worst winter in a century, it was dubbed “the blackest day in English soccer history” as a new record total of 35 matches were postponed due to the Arctic weather then gripping the country.
Huddersfield Town had already lost two fixtures to the ice and snow the previous week with the visit of Middlesbrough on 22 December and the Boxing Day home match with Grimsby Town both falling victim. Having last played at home on 9 December (when Town lost 3-0 to Sunderland), Huddersfield supporters would have been dismayed had they known that it would be 9 March before they would see their team play at Leeds Road again – a full three months!
As unplayed fixtures and FA Cup-ties continued to pile up during what became known as The Big Freeze, the game’s authorities had to consider extending the normal season beyond what traditionally marked its end - the FA Cup final scheduled for 4 May 1963. The result was that a three-week extension was agreed with the FA Cup Final eventually being played on 25 May.
Having lost only one of their opening 15 fixtures Town led the Division Two table going into November with many pundits tipping them for promotion. However, a dip in form coincided with plummeting temperatures during mid-December. Heavy snow accumulated across the country with weeks of severe frosts preventing any hope of a thaw, and the Leeds Road pitch was covered in compacted ice.
So many postponements, including a total wipe out on New Year’s Day 1963, led to the formation of the Pools Panel to decide probable results for football pools purposes. It comprised of five ex-players or match officials that were changed each week. On 5 January the FA Cup’s third round was then reduced to just three ties at Plymouth Argyle, Preston North End and Tranmere Rovers, the worst return for some 50 years.
Town’s Division Two programme at last re-started on Saturday 2 March and ended in a 2-1 victory at Chelsea before 32,427 spectators. After falling behind in the first half, goals from Mike O’Grady and Len White secured the points. Town’s third round FA Cup-tie at Manchester United was finally played on Monday 4 March having been postponed a dozen times. It ended in a 5-0 defeat as ex-Town star Denis Law scored a hat-trick (United went on to eventually beat Leicester City 3-1 in the Final).
All clubs now had a backlog of League fixtures to complete with Town having nine to reschedule. This meant cramming in 15 games in just 49 days up to their final fixture, a 3-0 defeat at Cardiff City on 18 May. Ten of these came between Saturday 30 March and Monday 29 April! Town never quite regained their pre-Freeze consistency and so missed out on promotion by four points after finishing in sixth place.
Positions at the start of the major winter disruptions and the end of the season were remarkably similar, although some clubs fared worse than others. One-time runaway leaders Chelsea saw off Sunderland’s challenge to nick runners-up spot on goal-average, whilst Stoke City pipped both to the title by a point. Bury and Plymouth both saw their promotion hopes fade whilst Portsmouth tumbled down the ratings. At the bottom Walsall needed to win their crucial final match against Charlton to stay up but lost 2-1 and so were relegated with Luton.
Division Two Table as at 29 December 1962
|Preston North End||23||6||7||10||32||41||19|
Division Two - Final Table 1962/63
|Preston North End||42||13||11||18||59||74||37|