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🏆The Great FA Cup Adventure 80 years ago ….

The adventure continues . .

21 March 2019

Grimsby Town v Wolves in FA Cup semi-final 1939

The Semi-Final versus Wolves at Old Trafford

The build up …. 

By the Tuesday before the big match, the team had been chosen and published.  It was to be that expected:  Tweedy, Vincent, Hodgson JV; Hall, Betmead, Buck; Boyd, Beattie, Howe, Jones and Crack. 

Town's arrangements before the game were to travel by train to a "hiding place" just outside Manchester, and then to travel in on the day.  This would allow the team members to "forget" about football for a while! 

Wolves meanwhile, were treating the game as any other under their boss, Major Buckley.  This included massage, and being kept inside as much as possible as it was cold outside …..  Town's manager was not concerned, knowing all about Major Buckley and his "monkey gland" theories. 

Officials at Old Trafford were confident that there was plenty of room.  The "paddock" could hold 25,000 at 3s and 6d each, whilst there was also lots of room for those paying a shilling. 

On Wednesday Wolves were reckoning that they might be taking as many as 12,000 fans to Old Trafford.  The Town players meanwhile were at Cleethorpes, getting in their usual round of golf. 

Town players were abiding by their normal routine, though Alec Hall, who had a job outside of football intended to take a couple of days off to get in a little extra training. 

And a first for Grimsby ….. the semis were to see players wear numbers for the first time (experiments had been conducted with other teams quite a while beforehand), and these had been received from the FA - the numbers being black on a white background.  The Town directors were seeing to it that these numbers were sewn on to the backs of the shirts.  Town would be playing in their usual black and white stripes,  whilst the Wolves would also be playing in their traditional colour of old gold. 

Easons Travel Agents had already booked 9 trains to take Mariners fans, starting from Cleethorpes at 7:44, and the last one being a diner leaving at 10:00.  Easons were asking people to book early, as more trains might be required. 

By Thursday, Easons were imploring Town fans to buy their tickets by the next day to avoid disappointment, and the national press were exaggerating the number of boats racing back to the fish docks so that their crews could go to the game.  250 fishing boats, complete with catches, were, according to the media, going to land all at once! 

Town's players were all fit and well, whilst Wolves had four injury doubts. 

On the eve of the game, "Odd Man Out" in the Telegraph declared that Grimsby Town was the most popular club in the country, with everyone, bar the residents of Wolverhampton hoping for a Town victory at Manchester! 

More disappointing for the Mariners was that Tweedy, the keeper, was ill, and George Moulson would be keeping goal for Town. 

However, his mother told the local paper that she was the happiest mother in Grimsby.  Neighbours had been congratulating her, and she declared that this was the best piece of luck George had ever had.  She first knew of his selection when he dashed in from training, told her that he was needed in Manchester, collected his things and rushed out of the door before she could wish him well (his father had been killed in the Great War). 

Far from the 250 fishing boats arriving on Friday that the national press had forecast, just 13 steamers docked that day …. And 37 left on the morning tide!  The fish docks, however, would be more like a Sunday on the day of the match. 

On the Saturday, eleven special trains  note that the specials had increased by two in the couple of days previously) left for Manchester from Grimsby and Cleethorpes, in addition to buses, cars, and even people on bikes!  The whole of northern Lincolnshire seemed to be on the move, with thousands going from Scunthorpe, special trains from numerous towns as far afield as Skegness, all with one venue in mind. 

Although Wolves were clear favourites, confidence across Grimsby and the whole of North Lincolnshire was high. 

It is impossible to calculate the number of fans from each club that attended as everyone was mixed together in those days, but at a guess, Town fans would at least match those from Wolves judging by the number of special trains that were run into Manchester.  The ground filled, and still more came!  Young boys were passed over the heads of the crowd so that they could get a good view of the match from near the front.  The crowd was so large that the fence round the pitch was breached and good natured supporters were within a couple of feet of the touch lines right round the ground.  The gates were closed 30 minutes before kick-off with thousands locked out! 

At least in a crowd that size, everyone would keep one another warm, for the weather was cold, and dull, and sleet would sweep across the pitch. 


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