The Giant Killers

Every F A cup giant killing since 1888

All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 67

Sheffield Wednesday 4-1 Blackpool

 Third Round

Saturday January 11th 1947

Hillsborough, Sheffield

Attendance:31,240

Scorers: Oscar Fox {13}, Redfern Froggatt {38}, Stan Mortenson {46}, Redfern Froggatt {51}, George Hunt {80}  

Ranked at the time:17

The coal industry was nationalised and was instantly under pressure as the worst winter in living memory took hold. The royal mint removed the last traces of silver from its newly minted coins. Bing Crosby & bob Hope were joined by Dorothy Lamour in their latest cinema romp, ‘Road to Rio’ and Sammy Kaye and his orchestra accompanied Billy Williams in his hit ‘The old Lamp Lighter.’

 

What State were Wednesday in?  

 

It was just twelve years since Wednesday won the F A cup but it must have felt a lifetime ago to those who enjoyed that day out at Wembley in 1935. The club were relegated in 1937 and were embarking on their third attempt to get back into the big time when war called a halt to Football for six years. An almost entirely new team was built in 1946 as Wednesday, like most clubs outside the top flight had to rebuild almost from scratch. Their first League campaign suggested that the new recruits were not up to standard and the club were hovering dangerously above the prospect of relegation into the Third Division when they were drawn to face Blackpool in the third round of the cup.

Manager, Eric Taylor’s team contained only one pre war regular, goalkeeper, Roy Smith, although Frank Westlake had also been on the club books before the war. The rest of his side had all signed on after hostilities and for Tony Gale, George Hunt and Alex Wands this cup tie formed part of a very brief spell at the club. Hugh Smith, Frank Slynn, John Dailly and Joe Cockcroft were also still newish names to the Hillsborough faithful but one of the new breed was already standing out as a crowd favourite in an otherwise poor Wednesday side. His name was Redfern Froggatt.

What about Blackpool?

In this first full season back in Football Blackpool also had the look of a makeshift side but crucially their manager, Joe Smith was still at the club and had spent the previous eighteen months carefully piecing together his team. It wasn’t quite there yet but players like Stan Mortensen and England International Harry Johnston were the star players in a team enjoying the best season the fans at Bloomfield Road had ever seen. The Tangerines led the League for two months until a run of five defeats in six games put a dent in their title hopes. They arrived at Hillsborough lying fifth in the division, seven points adrift of the title.

The game

The bitter cold of December had eased in early January, leaving the Hillsborough pitch like a complete mud bath and begged the question, just how bad did a pitch in the 1940s have to be before the ref would decide it was unplayable? For Blackpool the site of the pitch should have been taken as a bad omen before the kick off. The team had been lauded for their slick passing style, which had worked so well on the well manicured pitches of the autumn but as winter began to creep in and the grass began to make way for sand and mud, so Blackpool’s style began to suffer.

Blackpool’s woes were put down to their unwillingness to spread the play quickly to the wings where the winter pitches were usually in much better condition. The men in Tangerine were a good passing side and so their reluctance was natural. Wednesday’s players, without a win in six games were given very simple instructions by their captain, Jimmy Daily. Hoof it up the park every chance you get!

Sometimes the simple is also the effective as Blackpool yet again tried to play through the mud while Wednesday stuck true to their captain’s guidance and got their reward in thirteen minutes when Oscar Fox broke the deadlock. Blackpool kept to their principals and it would cost them dearly when Dailey laid on a great ball for Froggatt to double the lead before the interval.

Blackpool started the second half perfectly when Stan Mortensen halved the deficit and the First Division side briefly threatened to fight their way back into the game. Their efforts were undone six minutes later when Froggatt netted his second of the game, effectively sealing Blackpool’s fate in the process. George Hunt’s late fourth goal in the fading light put the icing on the cake of a thoroughly deserved spanking.

Aftermath

Within days of Wednesday’s victory Britain plunged into the worst winter in living memory and most of the country was gripped in ice and snow. At the coast, Blackpool suffered less than most, giving the Tangerines the opportunity to go back to the top of the League in April with four games to play. The chasing pack all had as many as five games in hand and there was never any serious likelihood of Bloomfield Road celebrating their first title. One the backlog was cleared, Blackpool was back down in a creditable fifth.

In the meantime Wednesday were preparing for the visit of another First Division side, Everton in the fourth round of the cup. Although still technically the defending champions, The Toffemen had won that title a whole eight years earlier and were a shadow of that 1939 side. It was of only minor shock value when Froggatt and Tomlinson got Wednesday off to a flying start. The Owls were two up in ten minutes and though Everton did pull a goal back, they rarely threatened to complete a comeback.

Wednesday were now in the grip of a proper cup run and were yet again drawn at home to First Division opponents. Preston North End were lying sixth in the top level but came into the tie on the back of two hammerings away from home in the League. The tie was the only one of the round not to survive the now biting British Winter and it was twelve days and several postponements later that the side emerged in front of a crowd vastly diminished by the Thursday afternoon kick off. Thousands of local workers and school children played hookey to get to the game but Wednesday’s cup spirit ran out with Preston scoring in each half to earn their quarter final place.

The Owls came dangerously close to dropping into the third tier for the first time in their history but a win in their penultimate game ensured their survival and allowed the club the chance to rebuild. A handful of the players who put in such a fine display against Blackpool and Everton moved on as quickly as they had come but Frank Westlake, Hugh Swift, Oscar Fox and Frank Slynn there would be better days to be Owls. All would help out as Wednesday won back their top flight status in 1950.

By then Redfern Froggatt was a club hero and would go on to be a club legend through the 1950s, not hanging up his boots until 1960.