Lost In A Blackpool Fog
Pea-Souper That Erased Match From Records
Weather-delayed games used to be a much bigger blight on football than they now are but here’s the story of an abandonment that could be as relevant today as ever.
Under-soil heating ensures that grounds can generally cope with heavy frost and even a major snowfall, as long as it doesn’t come in the final hours up to kick-off.
But the sort of fog that put paid to Wolves’ First Division game at Blackpool in the middle of 1960-61 is, in theory, something that could scupper a match in the modern era.
Stan Cullis’s side weren’t in the best of spirits anyway when they set off for the seaside, their 2-1 midweek defeat at Huddersfield having removed them from the FA Cup in a third-round replay and ended their proud run as holders.
The events of Bloomfield Road hardly lightened the mood and an Express & Star photograph of Malcolm Finlayson peering from his right-hand post into the murk was a fitting summary of a somewhat farcical afternoon.
The keeper told the paper’s long-serving correspondent, Phil Morgan, that he thought he saw George Showell launching the ball down the field at one point, only to see Bill Slater heading it back to him seconds later.
Visibility, described as normal a few minutes before kick-off, was apparently down to 20 yards after play had started and Jimmy Murray was penalised after getting his lines confused and picking the ball up when he wrongly thought it had gone into touch.
Gerry Mannion, named in the line-up for the first time since the European Cup Winners Cup game away to FK Austria more than three months earlier, was reported to have gone past his full-back twice but the Star’s correspondent had to accept others’ word on this.
As for another winger, Blackpool gave a debut to Hong Kong-born Cheung Chi Doy, who scored against Sheffield Wednesday in his only other League appearance. Showell was asked later how he had found the challenge of facing him and said: “I can’t say. I only saw him once.”
The Star report doesn’t make it clear how much play was possible but the events loosely described would suggest an end was called sometime during the first half.
And that would have frustrated Wolves as, despite the shock against Second Division Huddersfield, they were on a terrific run of form in the League.
Seven wins in eight Division One games had them flying high once more in the table and they returned to action after this interruption by putting four past Everton and Albion in taking maximum points.
The rearranged trip to Bloomfield Road brought no such joy, though. That took place in early March and Wolves were trounced 5-2 by their struggling hosts despite a brace from Cliff Durandt.
One final word about the original game….a change of plans meant Cullis’s squad going travelling home by train and they were indebted to the locally-raised Slater for navigating a way through the gloom to the railway station.