As a youngster in the 1950s Christmas Day morning meant a trip to Upton Park but it seems a very long time ago now.
For football fans, the Christmas period serves up a real festive feast, with fixtures stuffed into the calendar like sage and onion into a turkey’s nether regions. Christmas Day, however, is a football-free zone, with supporters left to sit indoors and endure the Queen’s speech, cracker jokes and kisses from elderly relatives.
This wasn’t always the case, though – up until the 1950s, football was traditionally played on Christmas Day.
This made a lot of sense, particularly in the early years. Christmas Day was a rare public holiday, and football was one of the few entertainments available. In the days before television, it wasn’t possible to slump on the sofa in front of the EastEnders Christmas special, so folk wrapped up in new hats and scarves from Santa Claus and went out to watch football instead. There would be a full programme of fixtures on Christmas Day and, usually, another full programme on Boxing Day. In the Victorian era, when many of the festive traditions we enjoy today were introduced, football was very much a part of Christmas.
Two days, three games
As far as white Christmases go, the Christmas of 1956 was one of the whitest on record. “Officials of Football League clubs are not among those who dream of a white Christmas,” commented The Guardian. However, although bad weather – plus a petrol shortage – kept many spectators at home, all of the Christmas Day fixtures went ahead. 1950s footballers were a hardy breed, and games were played in three inches of snow and driving winds. There was only one submission to the elements – Coventry’s match at Newport was abandoned due to a snowstorm, and the return match on Boxing Day was postponed. The Guardian subsequently referred to the unfortunate Sky Blues as “the club that Santa Claus forgot”.
Christmas Day 1957 was the last with a full league programme. The arrival of floodlights and evening games had removed the need for fixtures to be squeezed into public holidays, and many fans were preferring to stay at home with their families on Christmas Day. In the First Division on December 25, 1957, Blackpool beat Leicester 5-1, Manchester United beat Luton 3-0, and Sheffield Wednesday and Preston drew 4-4. Chelsea beat Portsmouth 7-4, with 17-year-old Jimmy Greaves scoring four for the Blues. In 1958 there were only three First Division matches played on December 25, and in 1959 just one. The last English League match played on Christmas Day was Blackpool versus Blackburn in 1965. A crowd of 21,000 turned up to see Blackpool win 4-2. In Scotland, where Christmas Day football wasn’t as big a tradition as it was in England, football was only played when December 25 happened to be a Saturday. The last matches played were Clydebank versus St Mirren (2-2) and Alloa versus Cowdenbeath (2-1) in 1976.
Rattles, Rosettes, Being passed down the terraces over spectators heads,checking the half time scores from alphabets in the corner.At Highbury the police band marching at half time , constable Alex Morgan singing with the police band.Pitches that looked like ploughed fields, proper footballs with laces , cleaning your boots with Dubbin.
Rattles, Rosettes, Being passed down the terraces over spectators heads,checking the half time scores from alphabets in the corner.At Highbury the police band marching at half time , constable Alex Morgan singing with the police band.Pitches that loo