The game at home at Wheatridge Park home of the original “Red Devils” saw the quarter final against Hebburn Reyrolles called off like every other game within a 150 mile radius, it had been drizzling non stop for eight hours and the pitch was wet, there was even hard bits where the cold zero degree had frozen it and I began to think of earlier years. It must have been in the 70’s that I experienced hypothermia at an early age. The cubs 2nd Forest Hall had a game at Wideopen, we had to leave early as the 4 mile walk to the ground was going to be tough in the snowdrifts and blizzards walking from Palmersville to Wideopen though walking past Gosforth Park was a blessing with that stone wall, I wasn’t sure of the temperature because in those days you had hot, warm, fine, cold and freezing non of this wind chill mullarky. It was at best freezing. The game had no chance of being off because whilst there was about a foot of snow and a blizzard howling we had the weapon that ensured all games went ahead we had an orange ball. We had volunteers who brushed albeit temporary lines for the touchline, half way, six and eighteen yard box. We were kids but no kids goals they were 10ft high and 18.5ft wide, our keeper felt it could be his day because those long high effort which saw him beaten at only 4ft 2in - he was tall for his age – were going to be non existent as we kicked the ball not only did it get bigger but heavier as well, so it was to be a short passing game but with maximum effort. The ref who as I recall looked very old but now was a young 60 year old was in his all black and had a pencil tucked down his sock something that will horrify all those health and safety experts – you can lose a leg from falling wrongly and the lead!!!!! from the pencil not being realised it had been injected into the leg - no doubt somewhere there will be ex referee’s maybe in a care home aged around 100 years old with a leg amputated, “did you lose that in the war?” “No was the reply a semi final 2nd Forest Hall cubs against 4th West Wideopen cubs it was a cold day hadn’t realised the lead had gotten into my leg, two years later I had to have it removed, it ended by refereeing years by many a year”.
We played the full ninety minutes and I remember the Arkela shouting “just keep moving” it wasn’t a bit of tactical advice as our Arkela “was more into arts and crafts and outdoor pursuits” it was to ensure no one died that day though to be fair Christopher Lowes not one of our better players was very close to collapsing from the cold which resulted in him being substituted and given a warm adult coat that covered his legs, infact his whole body would have wrapped in it twice. Our keeper made one or two big errors the first was coming for a ball that clearly was going to stop in the snow and although it landed in the eighteen yard box it still took several “wellies” from the striker to finally get it over the line. The keeper in his distraught made a second mistake, to take his mind off the goal for some bizarre reason he licked the metal goalposts and found his lip and tongue “glued” to the cold metal. Screaming at the thought of freezing as he couldn’t “keep moving” the ref stopped the game and Bovril was administered to finally and I have to say painfully have him removed from the post. The lad was in something similar to the post traumatic stress identified in the gulf war and was also substituted, at the time you could only use two subs…roll on, roll off your having a laugh, kids these days no wonder they are so obese, only play 30 mins and then come off after 25 seconds to “recover”….. anyway there was abnormally many who offered to go in goal mainly because of the opportunity to put tracksuit bottoms on.
I can remember about five lads beginning to cry because of the cold, three from their team two from ours, I’m not sure of one started and then others followed but anyway there were tears, I have to admit I was close. I then have to say our Arkela …well to be brutally honest cheated but he did it for humane reasons, the cubs staff being honest people in the main – of course except the convicted paedophiles that have been locked away – the situation was this, I couldn’t move I’d frozen to the spot, couldn’t feel my toes, couldn’t feel my legs, my stomach, my face you see my hands had all gone numb infact at one stage I panicked as I thought I had died. Anyway the ball was knocked to our left winger who took about 100 touches to get from the half way line to the eighteen yard box he passed it to another player could have been our inside right – our Arkela whilst knowing practically nothing about football still had us playing a 2-3-5 formation kids asks you parents about this - standing a foot and a half away, coming to meet the ball our inside right went past their goalkeeper who had frozen, not in a moment of time he had actually frozen and could move at the end of the game his dad picked him up and carried him to the changing room which by the way was an unheated church hall, anyway we scored the flag had gone up by OUR ARKELA!!! We lost the game 1-0 but afterwards to a quite annoyed parents who were snorkelled up in their Parka’s – again youngster ask your parents or hire a an old DVD East of East – I remember one parent saying he felt a bit too warm with his three coats and four jumpers on anyway the reason was a draw meant extra time and he felt looking at the two teams they had four players still moving around to our two. Many years later whilst thinking about a cup final we missed out on I sort of now come round to thinking he probably saved lives that day. For the Wincy Whillis – again youngsters..parents – of you it was recorded the coldest day of that year it was –5 when we played, buses were off and cars simply couldn’t move. Oh for those orange balls to make a comeback.
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