by Stuart Moriarty-Patten

21 December 1957:  Summers brings Christmas cheer to the Valley

When Charlton and Huddersfield met in South London on the Saturday before Christmas in 1957 the two Second Division clubs had already shared the points in a thriller on the first day of the season when Charlton had thrown away a three goal lead at half-time to let Huddersfield come back and grab a point in a 3-3 draw.   Since then Charlton had been pushing for promotion while Huddersfield had enjoyed a relatively mediocre season so the Terriers must have been delighted to find themselves 5-1 up with just 27 minutes to go.

The 12,535 crowd was smaller than average due to the closeness of Christmas and the bitterly cold and wet weather, and many had already left early by the time Huddersfield were 5-1 up.  The game had started to go against Charlton early and their captain and centre-half Derek Ufton had to leave the pitch after dislocating his shoulder in an awkward fall.  It was still to be another eight years before substitutes were allowed and with Charlton down to 10 men Huddersfield soon took advantage.  Les Massie scored the first after 27 minutes with Alex Bain adding a second ten-minutes before the break.

At the half-time break the Charlton manager Jimmy Trotter moved the outside-left Johnny Summers to centre-forward in an attempt to get back into the game.  Summers also took the opportunity to put on a new pair of boots as his old ones were in danger of falling apart.   It seems like they both made the right decision as Summers scored within two minutes of the restart.  It appeared something of a false dawn though as Huddersfield quickly went 4-1 ahead with a second from Bain in the 49th minute, and a penalty from Bill McGarry just two minutes later.  A fifth from Bob Ledger just after the hour must have seemed like the end of the game and all Charlton could surely hope for was to keep the scoreline down.

However no-one had reckoned with a period of magic by Johnny Summers.  In the space of two minutes immediately after Huddersfield had scored their fifth he made one for John Ryan and scored one himself to spark a remarkable fight back.  A third for Summers with 17 minutes left on the clock suddenly saw what remained of the crowd come alight and with them roaring their team on Summers responded by adding two more goals in three minutes to give 10-man Charlton the lead with just nine minutes to play.  He had scored a remarkable 5 goals since half-time, four of them in just 17 minutes and the last three in just eight minutes.

Huddersfield must have felt they had saved something from the game when they got an equaliser through Stan Howard with just four minutes left, but although the Huddersfield manager Bill Shankly was shouting from the touchline that he was happy to settle with a draw the game was not over yet.  With just seconds left a cross from Summers was put past the Huddersfield keeper Sandy Kennon by Ryan for his second and to see Charlton secure a scarcely believable 7-6 victory, and leave Huddersfield with the unenviable record of being the only team to score six but still lose in an English league game.

While Bill Shankly stood speechless with a stunned expression on his face the Charlton fans streamed on to the pitch to chair their victorious team off, and then remained to demand they return to take the applause.  This they did, making an appearance in the directors’ box with the loudest cheer being given naturally to Summers.  Apparently Summers was well known for singing and the fans called for him to give them a song, but in Summers’ own words he said that he “was so choked I couldn’t even give them my favourite ‘I’m Going to Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.'”

Summers also said in a post-match interview that with nothing to lose he had thought, “every time I get a chance I’ll have a crack,” and it was a good thing it all worked out for him as the manager Trotter revealed that he was planning on dropping the player who had been out of form and in his opinion, “was out of love with football.”  Trotter told a reporter frankly that, Summers “had failed there until the Huddersfield game on Saturday. This was his last chance. Now I can’t possibly drop him of course.”  Summers also mentioned “I have never scored a goal with my right foot before. Today I got all five with my right. Amazing, ain’t it?”

Amazing it was and the next day a report in The Guardian told how, “The history of Association Football has few more remarkable stories to offer than Charlton Athletic’s great fightback… The rest of the Football League programme seems pedestrian by comparison.” Another newspaper was reporting the game as, “Amazing… fantastic…incredible…call it what you will.”

Two weeks later, the two teams would meet again in the third round of the FA Cup.  After a 2–2 draw at Huddersfield on 4 January 1958, Charlton won the replay in London on 8 January before a much larger crowd of 26,637.   Probably they had turned up expecting another goal feast, but this time they had to settle for a more sedate 1-0 victory to Charlton.

Charlton and Summers were involved in some remarkable score-lines over the next few seasons.  On 22 October 1960 they drew 6-6 with Middlesbrough at the Valley with Summers scoring a last minute equaliser with a cross that went over the keeper.  Three weeks prior to that Summers had repeated his feat of grabbing five goals in a game in a 7-4 home win for Charlton against Portsmouth.  Summers was an undisputed hero at Charlton, but sadly his career, which had also taken in Fulham, Norwich and Millwall, was going to come to a sudden end when he was diagnosed with cancer.  The club continued to pay his salary while he fought the disease but sadly he died in June 1962 aged just 34.

A likeable affable man he we always be remembered by Charlton fans as the star on that unlikely day when, playing out of position, in new boots, and just one game away from being dropped, he scored five goals with his wrong foot and made two in a remarkable game.