Time to call season off for City Hall of Famer
He was part of a Norwich City side involved in football’s last shutdown 60 years ago, but Bill Punton believes cancelling the current season is the right call in the midst of a global pandemic.
A Hall of Famer and League Cup winner at Carrow Road, and famously the man who led Diss to FA Vase glory at Wembley, Punton was also part of a City team during the great freeze of 1962/63.
That Norwich vintage played one league game in two months, and then five FA Cup ties in 26 days when football did resume following the icy blast, in a pause that looks set to be eclipsed should football’s current lockdown be eventually lifted.
“It was a bad winter, heavy snow, ice and freezing temperatures, not a virus like we have now,” said the 85-year-old. “Back then the bad weather was something which only really affected us as footballers, now this is all over the world and every part of society.
“People’s lives are more important than football.
“I personally feel it is more important to abandon the season and start up again next season. This idea about playing behind closed doors is ridiculous and the players will not be happy because the longer they are off the more they lose their fitness.
“I was talking to a Crystal Palace fan and when I told him they should abandon it he said I was only saying that because of where Norwich is in the table.
“Abandon it now and everyone knows where they stand, but it if keeps getting delayed a lot of other factors come into it.
“The financial side is a big problem. We only got paid 30 quid a week then so it was different sums. I fear for smaller teams who rely on the gate receipts. Some of them could go bust.”
Punton recalled finding places to train was the biggest issue nearly 60 years ago.
“We had to go to the old St Faith’s aerodrome. I remember that clearly,” he said. “We trained in the hangars there. It was blooming cold and hard, concrete floors. It was not good on the joints.
“We also tried to train in some of the local school gyms as well. We didn’t have our own gym to train in, in those days. We were struggling. The difficult part for the club was to try and keep us fit during that long period without any games.
“We had none of this sports science back then. It was the manager and the trainer and you had to get on with it.”
• Read more of Bill’s recollections from the last time Norwich City’s season was put on hold nearly 60 years ago later this weekend on pinkun.com