Grimsby, Grimsby, Grimsby. It was one word that kept being repeated when we asked what is the coldest Stoke City game fans had ever experienced.
Supporters have been made to suffer on open terraces in the rain in the past – most famously when they started doing the conga at Swindon – but this was particularly brutal, as winds picked up over the North Sea and a Stoke side in a swashbuckling mood were sent out on a near-frozen pitch.
Anyone who was there is apparently still thawing out. Anyone who was listening on the radio is apparently still hoping Nigel Johnson was wearing his long johns.
The coldest day since records began
January 10, 1987 was the coldest January day, at least in London, since records began in 1940. Temperatures on the east coast would dip to -14C that month and that’s where Stoke were heading, with Mick Mills, 3,000 fans and 20 supporter coaches.
Stoke were in brilliant form. Lee Dixon was becoming a star at right-back, Steve Parkin was winning England youth recognition on the left, Steve Bould was proving a brilliant centre-half and Carl Saunders and Nicky Morgan were leading an increasingly prolific attacking unit.
Mills picked the same XI which had won seven and drawn one (1-1 at Grimsby) of the previous eight games but they were met by a pitch covered in snow and biting winds coming in from the North Sea. It is fair to say that in the present day, the game would have been postponed.
Stoke had the majority of the early play but had to wait until the 38th minute before taking the lead. It came from a corner taken by former Grimsby player Tony Ford, headed home by Saunders.
George Berry almost made it 2-0 soon afterwards but his shot curled wide while Peter Fox made a smart save from Ian Walsh in Grimsby’s only first half threat.
The hosts equalised on the hour mark when a cross by Bob Cumming deflected off two defenders and Walsh poked the loose ball home.
It was an end-to-end cup tie after that, but both defences held firm, although referee Trelford Mills blew his whistle at any semblance of physical contact. The replay at the Victoria Ground was also 1-1, but Stoke won a second replay 6-0.
George Berry came out in a fur coat
The match was recalled in the Sentinel in 2010 by Ian Norcup.
“The thing that sticks in my mind is that I can’t ever remember being as cold as that at a match. Me and the wife set off across the motorway among the frost and snow and it got colder and colder as we got nearer to Grimsby.
“I remember that on the road from Grimsby to Cleethorpes, which is where the ground is, there was a big temperature gauge on the wall of a newspaper building and it was showing –4C on a Saturday lunchtime!
“As the snow got heavier I was convinced the game would be off, but we queued at the ticket office for a seat in the main stand. Home fans only they said, but then said that they would make an exception for us two. When we got inside we realised that they must have said that to quite a few because half of the stand was full of Stoke supporters.
“George Berry came out for the pre- match warm up in a fur coat to great cheers from the Stoke contingent, but he kicked the ball twice, shook his head and went off again. The game did go ahead, in farcical conditions, and I half expected it to be abandoned.
“Carl Saunders gave us the lead and although they equalised I was pleased that we came through the game without losing. After such a cold day, the wife caught flu on the way home! It took us two replays to knock them out and we went on to reach the fifth round that year, losing to Coventry.”
Fans’ memories of that day in Cleethorpes
Supporters recalled that day on our Stoke City Facebook page.
Greg Moran: Freezing cold. Stoke fans were opposite the Findus Family Stand. A blizzard was blowing in from the Cleethorpes coast. We drew 1 1. Then beat them 6-0 at home in the second replay. Remember it well as my girlfriend was with me dressed to impress me. She was blue by the end of the game. She is now my wife.
Peter Mander: Grimsby in the Cup. You couldn’t see the pitch.
Tony Hollins: Grimsby away. There was thick ice on the inside of the coach going up!
Daman Rhodes: Grimsby, Grimsby and Grimsby. The coldest I’ve ever been and my mum’s from Aberdeen. Never forget getting off the bus first time, the sea breeze blowing…
Richard Billington: Definitely Blundell Park. Horrendous, stood in the open stand felt like -20C with the wind.
Stephen Wall: Grimsby away in the Cup. Very heavy snow and we took thousands there, drew and won 6-0 at home. I remember there goalie I think he was named David Felgate.
Terry Pullin: Definitely Grimsby away. Went in the wrong end by mistake! Soon warmed up! The wettest , Cambridge away in League Cup.
Mike Robinson: Grimsby away in the cup, 1-1 I think and 6-0 in the replay. We sang “You only sing when you’re Fishing” to the Grimsby fans. It was cold.
Nigel Browning: Grimsby away in the cup…….
Michael Dale: Grimsby away in the cup.
Mick Oakden: Grimsby away, FA Cup 1987.
John Pointon: Grimsby away … but the fish and chips were fantastic.
Joe Short: Grimsby away in cup, 1987.
Mick Mills: It shouldn’t have taken place
Mick Mills MBE was the club’s player-manager at that time, although he rarely played that season.
He said: “I never liked playing on frozen pitches and given a choice I would have settled for the game being called off. I was at the ground very early on the Saturday morning and I agreed that the conditions were just about playable then, but it snowed again later on.
“The pitch was rock solid and when there was no give in the ground I thought it shouldn’t have taken place, but the referee said it was okay so we just had to get on with it.
“It was important we were ahead at half time as with the snow swirling at our backs I felt we would get at least a replay. It was a fair result in the end and I wouldn’t have criticised any player in those conditions.
“I was pleased to be in the hat for the next round and confident we could finish the job off at home, although it took us two games to do so.”
Grimsby Town: Felgate, Burgess, Agnew, Turner, Lyons, K.Moore, Robinson, Walsh, Bonnyman, O’Riordan, Cumming Subs – Rawcliffe, Henshaw
Stoke City: Fox, Dixon, Parkin, Talbot, Bould, Berry, Ford, Kelly, Morgan, Saunders, Heath Subs – Bertschin, Hemming
Other contenders for the ‘Coldest Ever Stoke Game’ title
Scott Price: Sunderland at home we lost the game 1-0 and Robert Huth was sent off.
Dave Gidman: Cold wet and misserable as we went out of the cup at Nuneaton Borough.
Carl Foster: Preston at home in Championship on Boxing Day. Sat in block 19 with a blizzard blowing in from the open end.
Amanda Stanley: Sunderland away and a night cup match at the Brit few years ago. I can’t remember who we played but my fingers are still frozen.
Mike Tudor: Wrexham home in Cup couple years ago. We still talk about it.
Paul Brown: Every match is cold at the Brit.
John Brunt: Boxing Day at Barnsley v Stoke. Lost 1-3; players didn’t play on the right studs in the first half and I can still picture the “steam” rising from the open-air bogs.
Mark Hodson: Sunderland away, 1st February 2010. I swear I nearly died that day. Our coaches had a totally clear run to Sunderland (unheard of on a Stoke coach) and we got to the ground an hour ahead of schedule. We had to wait for the ground to open we were so early.
I was with my little brother who wasn’t interested in the pub so we spent two hours in a freezing cold concourse before the game and during the game all I wanted to do was cry.
I just remember being in total agony with cold in my hands and feet. To top it all off it was probably the most boring game of football I’ve ever seen as well. 0-0
Lars Normann: Don’t have a lot of games to chose from, but Blackpool away in ’99. There was snow in Stoke that morning when the coaches left. Noon kick-off, slightly hungover… but we won.
Stephen Goold: Sunderland at home around five or six years ago, we lost 1-0, it was snowing all afternoon, we were rubbish, never been so cold. I’ve never gone early but this day on 80 mins I’d had enough, got home at 5.20, others on the estate where I live stayed till full time and didn’t get home until 9.30.
Les Plimbley: Probably going back 50 years at home to Everton. Ref and two linesmen came out to inspect the pitch. They had a kick about and we cheered every time they scored. The match went ahead.
Alastair Mackenzie: Think It was Hartlepool at home in the league. It was that cold in the Boothen End we all huddled together to stay warm. Good old days.
Simon Smith: Sunderland away first year in the Prem. It snowed second half and I was sat on row three with just a T-shirt on.
William Taylor: Wrexham at home in the FA Cup.
Neil Stokes: Birmingham at home in Jan 1997. I’m sure the game was only on because it was on Sky
Chris Griffiths: Oldham away in the League Cup.
Rob Wilshaw: Huddersfield away in between Christmas and New Year a few years back in the old Division Two.
Christopher Drosdzowski: Blackburn Rovers away on Boxing Day, the taps were frozen!
Carol and Jason Snape: Wigan away at old Springfield Ground. The closest I’ve ever been to hyperthermia.
Daz Brannigan: Halifax for a Carling Cup match. Never been so cold. Even colder than the Bet/Brit.
David Baker: Swindon away was pretty nippy! I think it was Chris Kamara’s first game in charge, frost on the seats and we lost 1-0.
Andy Burton: Leyton Orient away, a lot of snow and freezing
Wendy Wright: Middlesbrough for a night cup match in the 70s. Thought I’d never be warm again.
Steven Hubbard: QPR at home three years back in block 35. Worst seats at worst time.
Nick Zwetschnikow: Sheffield United away think it was early 90s. In the back of a van going over Buxton moors, even the 10 cases of beer froze. Got out the van for toilet break and got chased by 200 sheep.
Mitch Birks: Remember going to Huddersfield years ago for mid-week game and a couple of hundred Stoke fans were huddled together behind the goal a big open end no roof and snowing like hell. I think Steve Bould scored for us that night in a 1-0 win.
Stephen Wall: I remember watching the game you couldn’t see the players on the pitch the snow was so heavy. Also I remember going to Blackburn on coach and the snow was banked up either side of the road and it was a lot higher than the coaches
David Thomas Biddles: Sunderland at home was dreadful. Six hours to get home to Lincoln.
Ian Tinsley: Barnsley away on a Boxing Day, terribly cold and a miserable day made worse by a 3-1 defeat.
Patrick Michael Tarpey: Oldham Athletic mid week game it was so cold I can’t even remember the score
Chris Caldwell: January 1994, Grimsby v Stoke … and a glorious 0-0.