Sam Bertram in the Smog

From here:

“Soon after the kick-off,” he wrote in his autobiography, “[fog] began to thicken rapidly at the far end, travelling past Vic Woodley in the Chelsea goal and rolling steadily towards me. The referee stopped the game, and then, as visibility became clearer, restarted it. We were on top at this time, and I saw fewer and fewer figures as we attacked steadily.” The game went unusually silent but Sam remained at his post, peering into the thickening fog from the edge of the penalty area. And he wondered why the play was not coming his way. “After a long time,” he wrote, “a figure loomed out of the curtain of fog in front of me. It was a policeman, and he gaped at me incredulously. “What on earth are you doing here?” he gasped. “The game was stopped a quarter of an hour ago. The field’s completely empty”.’

(Bertram retired in 1956, before the Football Association permitted floodlighting, a technology that had first been tested in Sheffield in 1878..)


6 Replies to “Sam Bertram in the Smog”

  1. somewhat off topic, but did you read the obituary of the (I think) Bishop Auckland goalkeeper who died last year – forgotten the name, but he played in the early 50s FA Amateur cup sides. I don’t think it was an April Fool. He was a bit of a joker who
    a) was once cautioned for building a snowman on his goal line
    b) would occasionally sit on the crossbar to watch the game
    c) if his side were eight or nine goals ahead, he would make a save then throw the ball out to the opposition forwards, inviting them to have another go.

  2. Found him. Harry Sharratt. He actually died on August 19 2002, aged 72. The obituary was in the Times for Wednesday Sept 4 2002, so Lord knows how I found it on the web last year – can’t find it now.

    “Perhaps hitherto unknown to Echo readers, The Times adds that Harry had his prefect’s badge removed for playing too much football, that he was Blackpool’s reserve goalie in the 1953 Matthews final, that he was “known to survey the scene whilst perched casually on the crossbar” and that he was a Freemason and a railway buff.”

    “TUESDAY’S column recalled the famous story of how eccentric Bishop Auckland goalkeeper Harry Sharratt built a snowman on the goal line, and was booked for his bother. Truth or legend, we wondered.

    “Truth”, insists Arnold Alton in Heighington. “My recollection is that it happened at the Dean Street end at Shildon – a Boxing Day, I think.” ”

    Best obituary I can find is here. I see he taught maths at West Leeds Boys High School.

    “”Zeitzeugen berichten zum Beispiel gern von jenem unvergessenen Dezembertag, als Bishop Aucklands charismatischer Torhüter Harry Sharratt vom Schiedsrichter die gelbe Karte gezeigt bekam, weil er auf seiner Torauslinie einen Schneemann gebaut hatte. Selten ist die Unzulänglichkeit der gegnerischen Offensive eleganter bloßgestellt worden.””

  3. Harry Sharratt
    The Times (London); Sep 4, 2002; p. 31

    Full Text:
    (Copyright Times Newspapers Ltd, 2002)

    Harry Sharratt, amateur footballer, was born on December 16, 1929. He died on August 19, 2002, aged 72.

    Great amateur goalkeeper and crowd-pleaser, booked for building a snowman in his goalmouth

    The goalkeeper Harry Sharratt was one of the greats of amateur football’s golden age. These were the days when his side, Bishop Auckland, attracted thousands of fans to regular fixtures, while Amateur Cup finals at Wembley were watched by attendances of up to 100,000.

    In the 1950s Sharratt helped the Bishops to win the Amateur Cup three times in succession. The club had won the cup, which had been founded in 1893-94, on a record-breaking ten occasions by the time the trophy went out of existence in 1974, the Football Association having decided that by then the term “amateur” had no meaning.

    There had been friction between amateur and professional footballers almost from the start, with disagreement extending on occasion even to the rules of the game: some traditionalist amateurs refused to recognise the penalty kick when it was introduced in 1891.

    The split between the two games became formal in 1907, when the Amateur Football Association was established, and remained so until 1914, when the amateurs agreed to affiliate to the FA. (It was during this time that a number of public schools gave up football and turned to rugby union.)

    Like many amateur players, Sharratt refused to turn professional, his salary as a teacher, along with his expenses, exceeding the maximum wage then available to footballers – a far cry from the situation today. But he made a handful of appearances for league clubs, played for the Manchester United reserve team when the club needed players after the Munich air crash, and stood by as the reserve goalkeeper for Blackpool during the Matthews final of 1953.

    The most famous amateur player of the 1950s may have been his Bishop Auckland team-mate, Bob Hardisty, but Sharratt was the most popular player with the Bishops fans, not least because he was close enough to talk to them behind his goal while his side mounted frequent attacks at the other end. He was one of the game’s great entertainers. If the Bishops were winning easily, he would throw the ball to their opponents; he was also known to survey the scene while perching casually on the crossbar.

    Most famously, during one Amateur Cup match when the Bishops were winning 12-0 at Kingstonian, Sharratt stood by his goalpost and allowed the opponents to knock in three consolation efforts. And during one Boxing Day derby he was booked for building a snowman on his goal line.

    But while Sharratt was a showman, he was not a show-off, and when called upon, he could produce what was required, showing astonishingly sharp reflexes and uncommon agility for a man of 5ft 11in. He won six amateur international caps, and played in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, where his team won two games before going out to the Bulgarian national side.

    It was the chance to play football at international level that kept many potential professionals in the amateur game. Sharratt had no regrets. “We played because we enjoyed it,” he said.

    Harry Sharratt was born in Wigan and attended Hindley and Abram Grammar School, where his brother, also a non-league goalkeeper, taught mathematics. For playing football matches in the morning and the afternoon – he always found it hard to turn down the offer of a game – Harry was demoted from being a prefect.

    After National Service in the Navy, during which time he was stationed near Carlisle and never saw a ship, Sharratt studied physics at Leeds University. He then became a maths teacher in Leeds and, from 1962, was the head of department at Queen Elizabeth School in Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria. He moved from Leeds to live in north Lancashire – and remained there for the rest of his life – because travelling to Bishop Auckland had previously taken him three hours each way. It was at the school that he met his future wife, Diana, who taught English, and Sharratt taught there until his retirement in 1986.

    He had already played for amateur sides in the North West when a fellow footballer, Len Langford, suggested that he should join Bishop Auckland. Sharratt served the club as first-choice goalkeeper from 1953 until 1964. During this period he played in four Amateur Cup finals. In 1954 the match against Crook Town – another leading amateur team that won the cup a total of five times – attracted a crowd of 100,000.

    Kenneth Wolstenholme, who commentated on the second half of the game for television, called it the best two hours of sport of 1954. The tie went to two replays, and the three matches pulled in an aggregate crowd of almost 200,000. But Crook Town won the third match, 1-0.

    The Bishops, however, won the Amateur Cup every year from 1955 to 1957, and became the only side to win it three times in succession. Their last triumph was the club’s tenth and final victory in the competition, and they were presented with a replica of the trophy to mark their achievement.

    Playing for the Bishops, Sharratt also helped to win the Northern League Championship three times and the Northern League Cup twice, and the team’s success was in no small part due to his own performances. Sharratt could also claim credit for persuading Charles Perkins, subsequently Australia’s most prominent Aboriginal activist and politician, to play for the side; neither forgot the other as their lives moved on.

    In his later years, Sharratt was a season ticket holder at Wigan Athletic, and he attended the first matches of this season. He was also present earlier this year when Bishop Auckland played their last match at Kingsway, which had been their ground for 116 years.

    He was a Freemason and had an interest in railways. He is survived by his wife Diana, whom he married in 1964, and their son.

    and a follow up

    Harry Sharratt
    The Times (London); Sep 6, 2002; p. 40

    Full Text:
    (Copyright Times Newspapers Ltd, 2002)

    Lawrence Cooley, president of Kingstonian Football Club, writes: As a young boy I attended the game where Harry Sharratt, the famous Bishop Auckland goalkeeper, stood by his goalpost and allowed the Kingstonian Football Club to score three consolation efforts after losing 12-0 (obituary, September 4). But I saw very little of it owing to the vast crowd.

    Fewe than 500 Kingstonians bothered to attend this week’s great event when the Ks opened the season with a 1-0 win against Grays, whereas 10,000 from the Kingston area watched Sharratt standing by his goalpost in the 1950s.

    I wish the 117-year-old Ks, now back in action after surviving recent cash problems, could still attract a crowd of 10,000 for a Ryman League game.

  4. “In 1954 the match against Crook Town – another leading amateur team that won the cup a total of five times – attracted a crowd of 100,000.”

    I think it was 1954 thet Romford of the Isthmian League held Crook to a draw in the Amateur Cup at Crook, and the replay on a weekday afternoon was televised. And Romford still drew about 10,000 to the match.
    I lived about 30 yards from the ground, now a housing estate.
    Amateur football, incomprehensibly popular.

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