I love the Christmas football programme

26th December 2014

I love the Christmas football programme.

It's like having an extra few presents under the tree.

Although it's obviously a physically demanding time for the players, it's a boon time for us fans with fixtures coming thick and fast over the holiday period.

And there's always something exciting about going to a match on a weekday afternoon when the majority of us would normally be in work.

Anyway, what would most of us be doing this afternoon if we weren't here - left to the mercy of the Christmas television schedulers and yet more cold turkey.

What better way to spend Boxing Day than to be here at the football. As much as I love family Christmases, by now I'm usually starting to get cabin fever and live sport in the fresh air is the best antidote.

I had an insight into what Boxing Day without live sport is like back in 2010 when the Ospreys' rugby match against the Scarlets here at the Liberty was cancelled just before kick-off.

There were supporters wandering aimlessly around the stadium for hours like lost souls not knowing where to go or what to do, their Christmas rugby fix having been cruelly snatched away from them without warning or weaning - an altogether different type of cold turkey. 

I thought the council was going to have to send out vans to round up the poor unfortunates and take them off to a special facility where they would be played old recordings of  Scrum V until they were considered safe to find their own way home.

Determined to make the most of the afternoon pass I had negotiated with the wife, I headed back to my local workingmen's club, where I was met by a scene that still sends a shudder down my spine a full four years later.

There, gathered around the giant flat screen tv, which should have been beaming the game live from the Liberty to the bar, were at least a couple of dozen grown men sitting in eerie silence.

Nursing half finished pints, their hollow, expressionless, glazed eyes were fixed on the screen, which was showing the best that terrestrial Boxing Day television could offer - Walt Disney's animated musical fantasy Enchanted! 

That's the kind of nightmarish Christmas scenario you'd be in danger of creating if the authorities ever decided  to tamper with nature and move football or rugby from winter to summer. 

Don't laugh, it's been considered in the past.

And what about New Year's Day without football?

Many of us would be festering at home on the sofa, just about starting to feel human again after the previous night's festivities and trying not to be talked into silly resolutions about running marathons and trekking across the Andes on a llama.

Instead, you can make a much more sensible resolution to get out into the fresh air, watch some football, and maybe, if you're feeling up to it, brave a hair of the proverbial dog.

The long festive holiday with no football fix - Relate would go into meltdown within a couple of years.

Anyway, what would be the summer equivalent of the Boxing Day or New Year's Day matches?

A May Day match up with Man United, or an August Bank Holiday battle with the Arsenal?

For a start, if it was a Bank Holiday, it would rain - so not much change from the winter there then.

Would there be bigger crowds? Unlikely. Everyone trying to get to the game would be stranded in a 15-mile bank holiday tailback and listening to the match on the car radio.

Of course, they would be the ones who were still in the country, not having jetted off in search of some sun abroad.

Summer football just isn't cricket, which, by the way, could be decimated as a result of the switch. 

Players already outnumber the crowd at many County Championship matches as it is. I love the sound of leather on willow, but there are few sadder sounds than it echoing around a deserted ground when everyone's gone to watch the football. 

It would also cost the commercial departments at football clubs a fortune in lost revenue from woolly hats, scarves, fleeces, padded jackets, gloves, socks, long johns etc. I can't imagine Swans Bermuda shorts and flip-flops would generate the same income.

No! Football  is all about freezing rain dripping down the little gap between the collar of your jacket and your neck; wearing half the contents of your wardrobe to keep out the biting cold; buying steaming hot coffee, not to drink, but to thaw out your frozen fingers and stamping your feet on the hard concrete floor to make sure they are still there. 

What's not to love about that?

Years ago, there used to be regular calls for the English league season to be switched to the summer due to the amount of matches which used to be postponed by the weather. 

Combined with FA Cup ties, which would sometimes go two or three replays, there would be huge fixture backlogs as the season drew to a close. 

But football belongs in the winter - end of story. And my objection doesn't just surround Christmas and isn't just from a fan's objective. 

As totally talentless centre half in the Neath and District Football league, the last thing I would have wanted was to play on hard, fast pitches in the summer heat.

I was always delighted when I pulled back the curtains on a Saturday morning to see it pouring with rain.

Rain meant mud. The deeper and clingier it was the better - guaranteed to bring those tricky, nippy wingers and forwards right down to my level!

There are few better feelings for a local league centre half than knowing you can launch yourself into a sliding tackle from 10 yards away knowing you're going to aquaplane through ball and player . . . not necessarily in that order! 

Thankfully, most calls for a switch to summer football in England and Wales, at amateur or professional level, have largely abated.

With the advent of advanced pitches such as the immaculate one we have here at the Liberty, and the one replay rule in the FA Cup, the calls for summer football have abated.

These days, any plans for a move to a summer season would be opposed by most clubs - just as they have been following the suggestion that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is moved to the winter due to the searing heat.

If the World Cup is played during the winter of 2022, the domestic seasons in Europe could be thrown into chaos, including the possible cancellation of the Christmas programme.

But that's a long way off and may never happen, so let's just sit back and enjoy another Boxing Day battle with the Villa and hopefully round the year off with another three points for the Swans.

C'mon you Swans.