Football in the snow

Few things can bring Great Britain to a standstill quicker than a light drifting of snow, but as the following series of photographs proves, football is one sport that won’t give up without a fight.

While trains, planes and cars cease to operate whenever a hint of snowfall is even suggested, stadium groundsmen, footballers and even fans have worked hard across the decades to make sure games kick-off regardless of the conditions.

We bring you a series of stunning and rare photographs taken across nine decades of clubs including Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea as they battled on through the very worst of what the British winter could throw at them.

These days, health and safety officers usually put an end to football fixtures when the area around the stadium is deemed too hazardous for the fans to travel. But long before the spoil sports were invented, football continued even in the heaviest snowfall.

Our first run of pictures features players from Arsenal and Manchester United attempting to find a coin in the snow after the referee had tossed it. Despite several centimeters of snow covering the Highbury football pitch, the game goes on as planned.

Another game from 1938 shows one player falling to the ground as the snow turns to a thick slush. Quite how players managed to score a goal is anyone’s guess but no one can fault the effort from the players or the fans, who pack the stadiums regardless of the weather.

The referee tosses up on a snow-covered pitch at the start of a match between Arsenal and Manchester United at Highbury

The referee tosses up on a snow-covered pitch at the start of a match between Arsenal and Manchester United at Highbury

One footballer takes a tumble in this 1938 game between two unknown teams as the snow begins to turn to slush 

One footballer takes a tumble in this 1938 game between two unknown teams as the snow begins to turn to slush 

Policemen and ambulancemen try to stay warm on the touchline at White Hart Lane football ground during a blizzard

Policemen and ambulancemen try to stay warm on the touchline at White Hart Lane football ground during a blizzard

Tottenham’s ground staff sweep snow from the goal line before the match between Tottenham and Birmingham City

Manchester City goalkeeper Bert Trautmann turns his back on the play as the falling snow is blown into his face

Manchester City’s Colin Bell (r) watches as his shot beats Tottenham goalkeeper Pat Jennings for the opening goal

But despite the efforts from the groundsmen, sometimes the elements do indeed win. The below pictures show a match between Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday, which was forced into abandonment as a blizzard hit north London.

Even with visibility at zero, the referee E.T. Jennings still had a long consultation with his assistants before finally conceding that the game could not continue.

The pictures also show another problem associated with snow as Burnley goalkeeper Adam Blacklaw found out. Blacklaw can be seen confronting fans after he was hit with a snowball while play was continuing at the other end of the pitch.

Chelsea had inventive ways of making sure games went ahead after heavy snowfall, drafting in several road-burners, which are designed to lay tar on roads.

Burnley goalkeeper Adam Blacklaw turns to the crowd in anger after one cheeky fan threw a snowball at him

Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Peter Springett stands in his penalty area as the snow falls down in match against Arsenal

Sheffield Wednesday players discuss conditions as referee considers abandoning the game due to the worsening blizzard

Chelsea fans continue to turn up at an unrecognisable Stamford Bridge ahead of a game that looks unlikely to take place

A general view of the football pitch at Chelsea, one of the many grounds where football was postponed because of snow.

A general view of the football pitch at Chelsea, one of the many grounds where football was postponed because of snow

Road-burners, conventionally used to melt tar, are employed to thaw out the frozen Stamford Bridge pitch

Road-burners, conventionally used to melt tar, are employed to thaw out the frozen Stamford Bridge pitch

February 1969 saw Great Britain come under a polar vortex with temperatures in Manchester reaching an astonishing -13 Celsius. The snowfall was heavy and brought misery to millions in a time before widespread central heating.

However, that did not stop a game at Liverpool’s famous Anfield from taking place. The picture below shows Ian St. John kicking up a flurry of snow whilst attempting to clear the ball away.

Other pictures show Tottenham star Jimmy Greaves helping to clear snow at White Hart Lane by making snowballs.

Liverpool v Nottingham Forest on 15th February 1969: Ian St. John clears the ball but instead kicks it into a flurry of snow

Tony Knapp kicks the ball past Charlton Athletic's outside-left Kinsey (right) in the Second Division match played on Charlton's frozen ground

Southampton star Tony Knapp kicks the ball past Charlton’s outside-left Kinsey (right) in a match played on a frozen Valley

Tottenham Hotspur's inside-forward Jimmy Greaves makes snow balls as groundsmen clear the pitch at White Hart Lane

Tottenham Hotspur’s inside-forward Jimmy Greaves makes snow balls as groundsmen clear the pitch at White Hart Lane

Tottenham goalkeeper Bill Brown, wearing a tracksuit in the cold, makes a save from Burnley centre-forward Andy Lochhead

Tottenham goalkeeper Bill Brown, wearing a tracksuit in the cold, makes a save from Burnley centre-forward Andy Lochhead

The snow covered pitch and terraces of Selhurst Park where Crystal Palace hope to play an FA Cup tie against Leeds United

The snow covered pitch and terraces of Selhurst Park where Crystal Palace hope to play an FA Cup tie against Leeds United

Blizzard conditions during the Second Division football match between West Bromwich Albion and Notts County in 1975

Blizzard conditions during the Second Division football match between West Bromwich Albion and Notts County in 1975

Watford's Tom Palmer (r), was one of the few groundsmen in the country able to get his ground fit for play on this weekend

Watford’s Tom Palmer (r), was one of the few groundsmen in the country able to get his ground fit for play on this weekend

Faces start to become a lot more recognisable in the next run of pictures, going right up to the modern day to show Yaya Toure standing in the middle of a blizzard while playing for Manchester City in 2014.

Notable images include Everton’s Andy King sliding in to tackle Steve Daley of Wolves with no inch of grass visible at Goodison Park and a group of Arsenal fans helping to clear snow from the North Bank.

George Graham had promised fans a free ticket if they turned up early to help clear the stands before a Division One game against Coventry City.

Everton star Andy King slides in to tackle Steve Daley during a First Division match against Wolves played on a snow in 1979

Everton v Oxford: Paul Hinshelwood and Gary Briggs outjump Everton striker Adrian Heath in the snow at Goodison Park

Everton v Oxford: Paul Hinshelwood and Gary Briggs outjump Everton striker Adrian Heath in the snow at Goodison Park

Paul Gascoigne has the ball at his fee, while wearing his short shorts as Newcastle play Nottingham Forest in Division One tie

Paul Gascoigne has the ball at his fee, while wearing his short shorts as Newcastle play Nottingham Forest in Division One tie

Highbury Stadium was once again covered in snow with a groundsmen clears the penalty area in the far corner of the picture

Highbury Stadium was once again covered in snow with a groundsmen clears the penalty area in the far corner of the picture

Arsenal fans cleared snow from the terraces after George Graham promised a free ticket to anyone who turned up to help

Arsenal fans cleared snow from the terraces after George Graham promised a free ticket to anyone who turned up to help

Snow covers the famous club crest outside Liverpool's Anfield stadium one week before Christmas Day in 2010

Snow covers the famous club crest outside Liverpool’s Anfield stadium one week before Christmas Day in 2010

Tottenham's Benoit Assou-Ekotto celebrates after  Clint Dempsey scored against Manchester United with the snow falling

Tottenham’s Benoit Assou-Ekotto celebrates after  Clint Dempsey scored against Manchester United with the snow falling

Manchester City's Yaya Toure stands in the snow during a Premier League match between Manchester City and West Brom

Manchester City’s Yaya Toure stands in the snow during a Premier League match between Manchester City and West Brom

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