Saturday’s FA Cup trip to Manchester United was one of the coldest games that many Brighton and Hove Albion fans in attendance can remember.
The snow fell, brass monkeys cried and the flame on one bloke’s lighter even froze as the Albion were denied a second semi-final in the club’s 116-year history by a 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford.
Had Jurgen Locadia in particular taken his scoring boots, then maybe I’d be writing this week’s column about looking forward to going to Wembley for the second time this season, only this one not being for a pointless league game in front of a half empty stadium against opponents whose only point of existence seems to be in order to beat Arsenal. But I’m not, despite another fantastic showing at the Theatre of Dreams.
Instead then, let’s focus on the freezing conditions. We asked on our We Are Brighton Twitter account after the game if you’d ever been so cold at a game of football before and the answer was, unequivocally, yes.
Various games nominated included Luton Town away in 2005, Swindon Town away in 2008, a game with Cheltenham Town at Withdean, a trip to Mansfield in the 1980s and any time we’ve played at Blackpool, ever.
For me, five games stick out personally. Old Trafford is the largest club stadium in the country and so with 74,241 packed inside there were more than enough people to create body heat to stay warm. That was not the case when you went to somewhere like Boothferry Park, Hull, on a Tuesday night in February 1996.
Remarkably, my mother decided to take me out of school for the day for that game and only got in trouble for truancy when, really, she could’ve been locked up for insanity.
It’s bad enough going to Humberside when it is minus-five for a game between the two worst sides in the third tier, but it is even worse when it finishes 0-0. And you finally get back to Sussex at 4am in the morning. And have to go to school the next day. Cheers Mum.
Other fond trips from my childhood include a 2-1 defeat at Torquay on New Year’s Day in 1997 when it was so cold that half the away end began running laps of a car park behind the uncovered terrace to try and warm up at half-time.
Then there was Barnet away on Boxing Day, 2000, when one Albion fan’s joints actually froze in position because it was so cold at Underhill. At least we won that game 1-0 through Gary Hart.
Oldham away combines being the coldest place on earth with the windiest and both those elements were in place when we lost 2-0 in February 2002, and Bobby Zamora was sent off. Princess Margaret died that day just to complete a miserable afternoon for any Albion monarchists who had ventured to Boundary Park.
The most striking thing about looking back over this list of “games colder than Manchester United away” isn’t that Saturday was practically Caribbean weather by comparison to some of them, but it’s the opponents it throws up. Mansfield, Barnet, Luton, Torquay, Cheltenham, Oldham.
And now we’re talking about an FA Cup quarter-final we could’ve won against Manchester United. We’ve come a long way, but some things remain the same – namely, the temperature.
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