It ain’t half hot, ref

The weather has been in the news over the last few days.

I’ve watched football in the Caribbean (St Lucia v Grenada on Barbados was the highlight), on Bermuda, in Florida, and in the middle of summer in places like Italy and the old Yugoslavia. But the hottest conditions I’ve ever experienced football in were in…Ramsgate in Kent!

It was the weekend in August 2003 when the temperature exceeded 100 degrees in that county. Ramsgate were playing Sevenoaks Town in their opening Kent League fixture of the season.

Gasping, I drank a whole bottle of cold juice on the walk from the station. I bought a programme at the turnstile and the print on the cover was literally melting before my eyes. The stand, thankfully, was in shade and I sat right at the back.

For the players there was no respite. Being out in the sun that afternoon was a bit like leaning against a radiator with the heat coming out full blast. But, remarkably, it seemed like a normal game. I have nothing but admiration for those lads out on the pitch. Ramsgate won 1-0 and missed a few other chances.

I remember other particularly hot games at Dulwich Hamlet (v Barnet), Gosport Borough (v Portsmouth) and Bergisch Gladbach (v FC Cologne). Cologne won that pre-season friendly in a little German town 9-0 and Wolfgang Overath, who played against us in the World Cups of 1966 and 1970, scored a hat-trick. 

The temperature was just in the 90s on those occasions – but for me nothing compares to that afternoon in Kent.          

In September 1906, Manchester City played Woolwich Arsenal when it was over 90 degrees. City ended the match with six exhausted players. When a televised match – Birmingham City v Crystal Palace – kicked off at 1pm in August 1996, the players were clearly uncomfortable in the heat. 

The 1977 Football League Cup final was also played on a sunny day, Aston Villa manager Ron Saunders commenting: “Our lads froze out there. It must have been the heat.”