A short and sweet post today. This is one of my favourite football stories, and, as the festive season approaches, it had to be told! Until the 1950s, it was very common for a full league programme to be played on Christmas Day in England, something we would never think of in the modern era.
On December 25th 1937, Chelsea were playing Charlton Athletic at Stamford Bridge. It was a cold and foggy day and the Charlton keeper Sam Bartram (above top at left, with the Chelsea goalie Vic Woodley) hadn’t seen much of the ball – or much of anything, really…. actually, let’s hear the story from the man himself, as I think this says all that needs to be said:
Soon after the kick-off fog began to thicken rapidly at the far end, travelling past Vic Woodley in the Chelsea goal and rolling steadily towards me. The referee stopped the game, and then, as visibility became clearer, restarted it. We were on top at this time, and I saw fewer and fewer figures as we attacked steadily.
I paced up and down my goal-line, happy in the knowledge that Chelsea were being pinned in their own half. ‘The boys must be giving the Pensioners the hammer’, I thought smugly, as I stamped my feet for warmth. Quite obviously, however, we were not getting the ball into the net, for no players were coming back to line up, as they would have done following a goal. Time passed, and I made several advances towards the edge of the penalty area, peering through the murk which was getting thicker every minute. Still I could see nothing. The Chelsea defence was clearly being run off its feet.
After a long time a figure loomed out of the curtain of fog in front of me. It was a policeman, and he gaped at me incredulously. ‘What on earth are you doing here?’ he gasped. ‘The game was stopped a quarter of a hour ago. The field’s completely empty.’
And when I groped my way to the dressing-room the rest of the Charlton team, already out of the bath, were convulsed with laughter.