A Boxing Day like no other

Workington Reds and their supporters have enjoyed some memorable encounters on the 26th December in the past but nothing will surpass the excitement of Boxing Day 1963 when Ken Furphy’s side welcomed Alan Ashman’s Carlisle United to Borough Park.

With both teams pushing for promotion, it was a crucial Fourth Division battle but this was always a big fixture regardless of the standing of both clubs.  The majority of Workington’s thirteen league wins against United had been during the fifties and there was no doubting that the Blues went into the 1963 derby as clear favourites.

Leading up to the battle of Cumberland, United were in a rich seam of form recording high-scoring wins over York City (4-0), Gateshead (FA Cup, 4-3), Darlington (6-1) and Tranmere Rovers (5-2) with Hughie McIlmoyle scoring ten goals, including hat-tricks against Gateshead and Tranmere.

Reds, in contrast, had hit a rough patch and their four games leading up to Boxing Day left confidence a little fragile: Gillingham (1-3), Port Vale (FA Cup, 1-2), Brighton & Hove Albion (1-0) and Chester (0-1).

There was no segregation in those days and Workington’s record Football League attendance of 18,633 saw Reds and United fans mingling on all four sides of the ground.  Had there been any trouble, it would have been difficult to move off your six square inches of terrace, such was the lack of space in the ground on that crisp Thursday afternoon.

The outcome was a thrilling 2-2 draw with the point, obtained on the back of a brave Reds display, the last one in a league game against United.  Joe Livingstone had scored twice in the first half to see United 2-1 ahead at the break but Geoff Martin’s (below left) reply had given us hope.

Dave Carr (above right) netted the second half equaliser and the draw was considered the right outcome in both camps.

The teams that day:

Reds: Ian Ower, Alan Johnston, John Lumsden, Ken Furphy, Bobby Brown, Keith Burkinshaw, Peter Watson, Dave Carr, Bill Hopper, Jimmy Moran, Geoff Martin.

United: Alan Ross, Hughie Neil, Terry Caldwell, Ron Thompson, Tommy Passmoor, Peter McConnell, Sam Taylor, Joe Livingstone, Hughie McIlmoyle, Reg Davies, Frank Kirkup.

United got their revenge two days later, winning the Brunton Park return, 3-1, in front of another bumper crowd – 16,347 flocking down Warwick Road to produce an aggregate derby attendance of 34,980.  

Reds’ Football League record against the Blues was quite impressive – thirteen wins, compared to United’s seven successes in twenty six meetings, with Workington recording four doubles in the series compared to Carlisle’s two.   

Our promotion rivals, Gillingham (3-0), and Exeter City (2-1) both won away that day to take advantage of the Borough Park score draw.

It had been a magnificent Football League programme that particular Boxing Day with several past and present Workington players making their mark elsewhere.

Future manager Frank Upton was in the Chelsea side which won 5-1 at Blackpool while former England winger, Eddie Holliday, was also on First Division duty helping Sheffield Wednesday overcome Bolton Wanderers.

Another player who would become Reds boss, Bill Leivers, was playing for Manchester City in their 8-1 demolition of Scunthorpe United while Alan Spavin and Alan Suddick turned out Preston North End and Newcastle United respectively.  Les Massie was playing for Huddersfield Town.

Also in Second Division action were former goalkeeper, Charlie Wright and future centre forward George McLean who were in the Grimsby Town team which drew with Leyton Orient – George, in fact, scored the Town goal. 

A future Reds goalkeeper, Mike Williams, was representing Hull City whilst popular defender, Brian Wood, was defending for Crystal Palace.

Clive Colbridge will be forever known for netting Reds’ goal against Manchester United in 1958 but was scoring twice for Wrexham that day in a match v. Shrewsbury Town.  Future Red, Ken Oliver, also bagged a couple for Watford in a high scoring victory over Walsall.

Jackie Bertolini was in the Brighton team at the Goldstone Ground while Jackie Hinchliffe converted a penalty in Hartlepools United’s win over Chester.  Dixie Hale, soon to become a Borough Park hero, was playing for Barrow.

One hundred and sixty goals were scored in a near-full Football League programme and included several high-scoring affairs:  Burnley  6  Manchester United  1, Fulham  10  Ipswich Town  1, Liverpool  6  Stoke City  1, West Bromwich Albion  4  Tottenham Hotspur  4, and West Ham United  2  Blackburn Rovers  8, to name a few. Those were the days my friend!

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