Match 29
29th December 1962
Stockport County (a)

The start of the “Big Freeze”




Winter still held its icy grip over most of the country today, and as far as football and sports were concerned it was the day of the big freeze-up.

  • Only 21 of the scheduled 63 League football matches could be played in snow and ice-blanketed Britain, ten of the 45 Football League and eleven of the 18 Scottish League games.

The Big Freeze on Film 

In the Fourth Division only two matches were possible, at Stockport where on the frozen ground Exeter City played and were beaten in a helter-skelter tussle of slithering and sliding and a total of seven goals scored, and at nearby Rochdale, where Crewe were the visiting side. The fixtures at such diverse and widespread places as Chesterfield, Aldershot, Workington, Bradford (City), Chester, Oxford, Southport, Darlington, and Hartlepools all had to be cancelled, and even down here in Devon, that sunny little corner of the South West, the game at Torquay (v. Newport County) was called off with the exposed field at Plainmoor, high on a hill as it is, swept with icy sleet and snow and the ground itself frozen to a depth of several inches. And in the "ever-faithful" itself the Western League game between the

  • City Reserves and Portland United was ruled out with St James's Park five or six inches deep in snow with the prospect of more to come.


Unless there is a sudden change for the warmer it is unlikely that the midweek matches in Scotland and the North of England will take place, and neither will the Cup matches next Saturday. The immediate weather forecast for Devon and south west England is: "Mostly cloudy, with sleet and snow at times, especially tonight, glazed ice in places, wind east to north-east strong, very cold."



Severe snowstorms with icy conditions continued to sweep the entire country till the end of February. Only three of the 3rd round ties of the F.A.Challenge Cup, due to be played on January 5th, could be played, the League and Cup programme for the next eight weeks also suffered severely as most grounds were covered with frozen snow and ice and very few matches were played. The disruption to fixtures was the longest ever experienced and it is obvious that the Football Association will be comelled to grant an extension of the season for a few weeks at least, as they did, under similar circumstances, in 1940-41 and 1946-47.

  • Here is a list of the League matches that Exeter City should have played in those seven weeks when never a ball was kicked:
  • January 5th, home, v. Oxford Utd.
  • January 12th, away, v. Rochdale,
  • January 19th, home, v. Brentford,
  • January 26th, away, v. Southport,
  • February 2nd, away, v. York City,
  • February 9th, home, v. Chester,
  • February 16th, away, v. Crewe Alexandra.



  • George Roughton, manager 1945 to 1952, released eighteen months from the end of his contract so that he could take over at Southampton.
  • Norman Kirkman, player-manager March 1952 to February 1953, left of his own accord to become manager of Bradford Park Avenue.
  • Tim Ward, player-manager for seven days, Barnsley refusing to allow him to break his contract as a player.
  • Norman Dodgin, player-manager March 1953 to April 1957 dismissed.
  • Bill Thompson, manager 1957 to January 1958 dismissed.
  • Frank Broome, manager January 1958 to May 1960, left of own accord under conditions described as incompatible to take job as manager of Southend United.
  • Glen Wilson, player-manager August 1960 to April 1962 dismissed.
  • Cyril Spiers, manager May 1962 to February 1963, either dismissed or "left by mutual agreement," it is not quite certain which.

Who next and what next, for Exeter City? This, and a dozen other questions, are still unanswered. Included are the two biggest questions of all. Why ever did this happen, and what effect will it have on the already not-too-distinguished name of the City club? Cyril Spiers came to Exeter at a time when the football club was at one of its lowest ebbs. But the very last thing that he promised was instant success. Right from the start he emphasized that his was a policy for the future. It was a youth policy, which in time, and only in time, it would take Exeter City out of trouble.

He started to build. He got a response from local youngsters that was impossible just 12 months ago. And his team of youngsters, the Exeter City Juniors, won their way through to the third round of the Youth Cup before losing to Plymouth Argyle Juniors, drawing admiration and praise from everyone. In dealing with the City first team Mr Spiers has instilled into the players a greater degree of fighting spirit, even when two or three goals down, than has been seen at St James's Park for years. He also devised one or two new tactical approaches, most notably the so-called 4-3-3 team formation, which puts an extra man in the defence and brings the extreme wingers back to deeper positions, the theory behind this being that the wingmen do not stand about on the touch-lines waiting for the ball to come to them, but move into a deeper position to involve themselves in the game to a much greater degree than hitherto, especially when the team is having to defend. And with the opposition pushing upfield to attack a quick breakaway from a deep position could bring a surprise goal. The finances, always the blackest side of the City's picture, were improving. Both the chairman and the vice-chairman publicly stressed that "the club was far from broke" and that the position was not nearly as black as it was painted. So there is just one inference to be drawn, which is that the board was not satisfied with the progress of the first team. They wanted success more quickly than Mr Spiers and the players seemed to be providing it. And if this is true, then they hired the wrong man in the first place because Mr Spiers had already told them that it would take longer, in fact much longer, than the six months that this season has so far travelled. Another point which is strange is the timing of the move, as the team has not played a game since the end of December. So why should things suddenly become unsatisfactory after six weeks without any football?

Regarding the question of what effect this will have on the Exeter City club. It is difficult to see the move doing the club anything but harm in the eyes of the football world and the general public, unexplained as it has been so far.


Exeter City's record of post-war ex-managers may not be as long as those of some clubs. But to have had three managers in less than three years is not much of a recommendation as to the club's stability of policy or board room to management relationship. It might be a fair argument to say that the whole string of managers were not successful. It would be equally fair to say that the board has not made a very successful job of selection either.

Talking of selection, this is another difficult matter which Exeter City's directors must face. It is understood that the trainer, Jack Edwards, has been given the temporary control of the team. Just how much control, and how much power when it comes to picking the team, or making new signings, has not been made clear. Mr Edwards, who only left the playing side of the game last summer after a long career with Crystal Palace and a shorter one with Roch dale, has expressed his delight at being given the chance to see the other side of things, but now he has been really "thrown in at the deep end." The training will of course go on as usual. As for the match - play it might be seen that Mr Edwards will introduce two or three ideas which differ from the departed manager's policy, and the results of the next few games may decide that.


The City secretary, Mr K.Honey, has managed to tentatively arrange new dates for all the club's outstanding games except that against Chester, which should have been played today. They are:-

  • York v Exeter City, April 18th, kick-off 7.15.
  • Doncaster v Exeter City, April 2nd, kick-off 7.15.
  • Southport v Exeter City, April 29th, kick-off 7 o'clock.
  • Exeter v Oxford, May 8th, kick-off 7.15.
  • Rochdale v Exeter, May 11th, kick-off 3 o'clock.
  • Exeter City v Brentford, May 18th, kick-off 3 o'clock.
  • Next week, Crewe v City, and City Reserves v Bideford.


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