The 10 Best (And Worst) Things About Festive Football

Christmas and Football, two wonderful events... so why does it go so, so wrong when they collide?
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Christmas and Football, two wonderful events... so why does it go so, so wrong when they collide?

1/ Fans dressed as Santa

That awkward moment when you realise that you’ve turned up in the same outfit as five hundred others.

2/ Unseasonal sackings

In 1986 Blackburn boss Bobby Saxton was handed his P45 on Boxing Day following his side’s defeat that anchored them to the bottom of the old Second Division. Though Rovers went on the ensure survival that season the timing of the axing goes to show there is no such thing as good will from the Ewood Park outfit.

3/ Boxing Day derbies

Sadly no longer as prevalent as they once were (blame improved transport infrastructure) it was once commonplace to pair up local rivals to save supporters a long journey over the Xmas period. Over the years there have been some crackers (if you’ll excuse the pun) and any slayings (that’s just abysmal) usually go down in folklore under the guise of a ‘massacre’. An example of which is the 4-0 1979 festive walloping dished out by a Terry Curran-inspired Sheffield United to their arch-foes Wednesday as both sides chased promotion. It is a game that is still talked about by Blades fans today who reminisce about how sweet their turkey butties were that evening.

The most famous Boxing Day massacre occurred in 1955 as Newcastle’s Jackie Milburn and co well and truly stuffed (okay, that’s the last one, I promise) Sunderland 6-1 on their own patch to give the Geordie nation memorable good tidings.

4/ A chance for role-reversal

The sacrifices made by the working man to follow their team goes above and beyond the call of duty. So it’s immensely satisfying to amble up to the ground and watch these over-paid fancy-dans graft their arses off knowing that they’ve had to forego the turkey and trimmings. Meanwhile you’re belly is full of eggnog and cheer.

5/ Players dressed as Santa

The fans continue this fine tradition. Alas modern-day players seem to think that sweltering in a thick red suit and looking silly is beneath them. They may have a point.

6/ Cancelled Xmas Parties for under-pressure sides

Last Christmas the Walsall players all agreed that it was probably best not to be photographed staggering from a swanky Midlands hotel with a half bottle of Jack in one hand and a stripper in the other while the Saddlers were rooted in the relegation mire.

Their dedication to the cause worked too. Walsall ultimately staved off the drop by a single point.

7/ Boxing Day bonanzas

On December 26 1963, an amazing 66 goals were scored in the old First Division, leaving some teams wishing there had been a repeat of the previous season's Big Freeze (which had wiped out nearly all the football between Boxing Day and March. See below). Here are the classifieds:

Blackpool 1-5 Chelsea, Burnley 6-1 Man Utd, Fulham 10-1 Ipswich, Leicester 2-0 Everton, Liverpool 6-1 Stoke, Nottingham Forest 3-3 Sheff Utd, WBA 4-4 Tottenham, Sheff Wed 3-0 Bolton, Wolves 3-3 Aston Villa, West Ham 2-8 Blackburn.

If it happened again this year Lineker, Hansen and Lawro would probably indulge themselves in a circle-wank beneath the studio tinsel.

8/ Shit football-related DVDs

The ever-burgeoning Christmas market offers any z-list chancer the opportunity to provide gag-strewn voiceovers to cobbled together clips of a hapless Northampton Town defender putting through his own net.

If you receive one this year the person doesn’t like you very much.

9/ Big Freezes

The worst ‘winter freeze’ in living memory struck in 1962 and resulted in all Christmas fixtures being postponed. But that was just the start of it. Some clubs were not able to resume playing until the following March with the season being extended well into June. The last notable raft of weather-enforced cancellations was a mere two years ago. Many opined about a winter break but thankfully they were largely ignored. What the hell would we all do on Boxing Day?!

Whilst big freezes are a pain there is compensation to be found in seeing an unpopular commentator (mentioning no names Jonathan Pearce) shivering his knackers off in a centre-circle with only a five minute report to show for a hundred-mile treacherous journey.

10/ Santa hats in club colours

If Coca-Cola can change St Nick’s headwarmer to red then what’s stopping Oxford bastardising it to yellow?