The Summers day that brightened Christmas

NORMAN GILLER recounts the tale of the most unlikely scoreline in football history, and the part played by a Fleet Street comp

For the sports reporters among you, imagine you were writing a running report on the match that I am about to describe. It was played in Christmas week 51 years ago and has extra meaning for newspapermen because the hero of the hour used to work in Fleet Street.

I was reminded of the game by my old Press Box colleague Michael Grade, who in his reporting days penned a Daily Mirror “Sportlight” diary in partnership with John Bromley. Both later went on to make something of an impact in the world of television.

Michael was (and is) an addicted ‘Addick, supporting Charlton Athletic through thick and mainly thin. He told me there has never been a game quite like the one at The Valley on December 21, 1957. See what you think.

Charlton were at home to Huddersfield Town, a club managed by Bill Shankly, who was two years away from starting to build his legend at Liverpool.

Now fasten your safety belts for an action replay of one of the most extraordinary matches in the history of the Beautiful Game. Charlton were reduced to ten men early in the first-half when their skipper and England international centre-half Derek Ufton was carried off with a broken collar bone. This was seven years before the introduction of substitutes (the first of whom was, of course, Charlton’s Keith Peacock).

Huddersfield were 2-0 in the lead at half-time, and cantering.

Within seven minutes of the second-half Huddersfield had rocketed 5-1 into the lead, with the one Charlton goal coming from the right boot of their left winger Johnny Summers.

Huddersfield started to stroll around with the air of a team that, understandably, considered they had the game won. After all, they were easily dismantling a defence missing its best player and which had conceded 120 goals when being relegated from the First Division the previous season.

Now for Summers’ day. He scored a second goal with a right-foot shot, and a minute later set up team-mate John Ryan for another goal. Charlton 3, Huddersfield 5.

During the next 10 minutes Summers added three more goals – all with his right, “wrong” foot – to take his tally to five, and the score to Charlton 6, Huddersfield 5. Amazing? You ain’t seen nuttin’ yet.

In the 88th minute, shell-shocked Huddersfield gathered themselves for one more charge and snatched an equaliser. Enough’s enough. The Valley crowd was dizzy with the excitement of it all, many of them no longer sure what the score was.

Johnny Summers had one more trick left up his sleeve. In the last minute, he dashed down the left wing and sent a pass into the path of Ryan, who hammered it into the net. Charlton 7, Huddersfield 6.

No pressman had the courage to tell Huddersfield manager Shanks that this was the first time in Football League history that a team had scored six goals and finished on the losing side. For once in his life, Shankly was speechless.

Ray Wilson, arguably the finest left back ever to pull on the No 3 England shirt, was in the Huddersfield defence. More than 50 years on he remembers the game as the craziest he ever played in. “It was pure madness, and few people in the crowd could keep up with the score,” he recalls. “Even we players were asking each other, ‘What’s the score?’”

Summers, a chirpy Cockney who had travelled the football roundabout with Fulham, Norwich and Millwall, said: “I wore these boots for the first time today, and I have never scored a goal with my right foot before. Today I got all five with my right. Amazing, ain’t it?”

In those £17-a-week maximum wage days, Johnny used to double as a Fleet Street compositor and was often casualing on the stones of Fleet Street newspapers. Within a couple of years of making, rather than setting, the headlines, lovely Johnny Summers was cut down by cancer. Suddenly it was winter … but those lucky to have been at The Valley on that astonishing day in December 1957 will always be warmed by the memory of a Summers day.

Thanks to those old mates who have got in touch to welcome me to the SJA stage. Trevor Bond has given me a fund of stories that I will dip into at first opportunity, and legendary Fleet Street photographer Monte Fresco called to swap health notes.
We have both (so far) conquered the kind of cancer that beat Johnny Summers, and we compared recent experiences on the operating table during colonoscopy probes.

I told Monte that Tommy Docherty had come up with the idea for colonscopy tests.

“How come?” asked the Great Smudger of Daily Mirror fame, setting me up nicely for my punchline.

“There was that time,” I explained, “when Peter Osgood was having secret treatment for an ankle injury, and you and Express cameraman Speedy Quicke tried to snatch pictures. “Tommy Doc, the original Special One at the Bridge, spotted you and told you to stick the camera up your arse.”

On that note, I will kindly leave the page with best wishes to you for Christmas and wishing you a crunch-free, carefree 2009.

To contact Norman Giller with your sports desk anecdotes, write to

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