Men's Team

City's hidden secret behind The Ballet on Ice

BALLET DANCERS: City's sure-footed performance left Spurs cold
There was a secret behind City’s grace and balance the day the Blues beat Tottenham 4-1.

Without it, the game that became known as ‘The Ballet on Ice’ might never have happened.

With Britain in the grip of a big freeze and the majority of games postponed due to snow and ice, the Match of the Day cameras hurriedly made their way to Maine Road to cover the game.

Had they not been there to witness events, the game might not have been remembered other than the reports of the journalists in attendance on the day.

With 35,972 fans braving the wintry conditions, the two teams took to the pitch – but City had a secret…

Captain Tony Book recalls: “There was an old coach called Charlie Nuth I used to play under for a village team called Peasedown St John where my wife was from.

“It was before I joined Bath City and Charlie had been in football probably all his life and he must have been at least 70 years-old, but his trick was to take the leather top off the studs on his boots to reveal the tops of three tiny nails.

“Back then, they didn’t use to check your boots, so you could get away with little things like that. So, when we played Spurs and obviously the pitch was terrible – so much so, we didn’t think it was going to be played, but the ref said it was playable and we had to get on with it.

“I remembered what old Charlie used to do and took the tops off my studs, so the tiny nails were protruding. Mike Summerbee did the same and I think all the lads had by the time we went out to play the game.

“Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison just told us to stand up, don’t sell ourselves short on a pitch like that and that was it.

“It definitely made a difference because we all kept our balance while the Spurs players were slipping and sliding throughout the match.

“The football we played that day was amazing given the nature of the pitch and I think we realised that day that this was a team who could go and so special things.

“We had a good mix of experience, skill and homegrown lads and everything was just coming together.

“It was a wonderful game and it’s hard to believe it was 50 years ago.”

Spurs manager Bill Nicholson said after the game: “It was incredible.

"One team wanted to play and the other didn’t. It was one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen.

"While we slipped and slithered around, they played as though the conditions didn’t exist. They just ignored everything but their work and under the circumstances, they are the best team we’ve met this season.”

If only Bill had known City’s secret…


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