So You Call This A Cold Snap!

Memories Of A Title Race Resolved In Mid-June

English winters 1940s style, with Wolves on the attack at Molineux.

Long before under-soil heating and local radio and Internet appeals for snow shifters, football had a major problem when the winter weather did its worst.

Unburdened by the demands of health and safety, though, clubs generally sought out an orange ball, expected spectators to arrive with an extra tot of whisky and carried on regardless – without a snood or a pair of gloves (goalkeepers apart) in sight.

But there were exceptions to the rule. Sometimes the snow was just too deep, the pitch underneath too hard or the travelling teams too cut-off in those pre-motorway days.  

In our Tours Are Us section, we recently spotlighted the snow-hit 1962-63 season, in which Wolves twice took off for Ireland to play games while their domestic programme was being decimated.

And there was a rival as an adminstrator’s nightmare 16 years earlier when the Football League resumed following its’ seven-season wartime break.

In 1946-47, Wolves played only once (a 1-0 win at Leeds) between losing at Brentford on January 18 and defeating Stoke 3-0 at Molineux on March 1.

But Ted Vizard’s team subsequently thrashed Derby 7-2 and overpowered Chelsea 6-4 as the season was extended and regular League football was staged at Molineux later in the spring than it ever has been, before or since.

And, by way of sharp contrast to the discomfort of a few weeks earlier, the mercury was popping out of the thermometer come the day of the final game – the title decider between Wolves and Liverpool.

Many spectators in the 50,765 crowd fainted and even the players found it hard going on the sweltering afternoon Molineux skipper Stan Cullis announced his retirement as a player because of concerns over a head injury.

Cullis made little of the occasion in his autobiography, All For The Wolves, although even a draw would have brought Wolves the title for the first time.

“At one time,” he wrote, “we held a lead of 11 points. But frost and snow settled on England and we didn’t play a match for five weeks. The Government, in these years of hard work after the war, asked the football authorities not to arrange midweek matches which might draw people away from the factories.

Jesse Pye takes a breather as Liverpool's former Wolves keeper Cyril Sidlow boots clear at Molineux in May, 1947.

“So the season dragged on until the early days of June (Wolves’ last game was May 31) and we lost not only our rhythm but our lead in the Championship, too.”

Liverpool’s 2-1 Molineux victory in their final game of the campaign brought them the title, although, in another remarkable deviation from today’s practice, they had to wait another fortnight to be sure Stoke didn’t overhaul them.

With Sheffield United facing a particularly heavy backlog, it was June 14 before the Blades played and beat Stoke in their last match, so condemning the Potters to a finish one rung below third-placed Wolves.

* Sunday’s Wolves All Stars game against Vic Old Boys at Wednesfield has been snowed off.

Thomas Publications
www.footiepix.co.uk