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📝The Season that Never Was - 3

Kirky takes us on another trip through time.

2 September 2019

Eighty years ago, the shortest ever football season kicked off just a few days before war was declared with Germany. For Town, then in the First Division (now called the Premier League), it meant three games against famous names in football.

We now move to the third and final game of this shortest-ever season.  It brought together Town and Preston, neither of whom had scored at all in their first two games.  At right-half (we'd call it right midfield these days) for Preston was future Town and Liverpool manager Bill Shankly.

The Grimsby Telegraph printed a Sunday paper - a simple four page single-fold sheet, and of course was dominated by preparations for war on front and back pages, with sport filling most of the two inside pages.  The headline on the front page was "Britain at War" with a subheading "Fight to crush Nazi tyranny."

The crowd was very low, with just 3,000 estimated to be in the ground at kick-off time, and many seats in the "Long Stand" (the Main Stand) empty.  It was deemed worthy of note at a time when football teams travelled to more distant away games by train, that Preston had come to Blundell Park by coach, and intended leaving immediately to get home in daylight - that would be some feat with a 3:15 kick off time, and not a motorway in the country for another 20 years!

The weather was hot and showery as Town kicked off, and dominated the early exchanges.  Just ten minutes into the game and Town were given the chance of their first goal of the season from the penalty spot, and although Vincent, the full back placed the kick well wide of the keeper, Preston's goalie managed to keep it out.

15 minutes later though, the Town attack wouldn't be denied and Howe crashed a 20 yarder low into the net.

As the second half kicked off Town almost added a second when Wardle's shot ricochetted off the near post, but after 57 minutes, Town put the game beyond North End's reach when Howe netted from a narrow angle for his second… and Town's final league goal for 7 years!

The official attendance was almost 7,000.

The First Division league table showed Town in 14th spot, level on points with 8th placed Stoke City, Manchester United, Wolves, Arsenal, Chelsea and Brentford.

In other tables, Lincoln were 8th in Division 3 North, two places ahead of Hull City.  Scunthorpe were in the Midland League, and that day lost to Grimsby Town Reserves, with the top 6 in the Midland league being Hull C Reserves, Gainsborough T, Peterborough, Grimsby Town Reserves, Scunthorpe and Boston United.

Football League games were abandoned after this, and initially friendlies were played, but later in the year war leagues began, and with many players serving in armed forces across the country, teams were made up of "guests" from whoever happened to be posted locally.

Town soon started playing all their games at Scunthorpe's Old Showground.  The usual reason given for this is that BP is very close to the docks, and therefore there would be a danger to the crowd should the docks be bombed.  However, there was also a government embargo on travel of more than 50 miles, and Scunthorpe would be a better bet for visiting teams than Blundell Park 30 miles to the east.

The FA Cup restarted in the 1945-6 season, but the league itself only restarted for the 1946-7 season, when the same fixture list would be used as had been prepared for 1939-40.  All official records for the 1939-40 season were expunged, and so, officially at least, never happened!

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