Jack the Lad: Turkey, presents and football

20th December 2017

Thinking of Christmas instantly conjures images of turkey, Santa, presents, nativities, snow, revellers staggering down Wind Street and… football!

What would Christmas be without our festive fix of football?

When you look back through history, the game has always had a close relationship with this time of year.

Up until the Fifties and Sixties, football wasn’t just played over the festive season in England and Wales, it was actually played on Christmas Day.

In 1888, Everton played TWO matches on Christmas Day – a Lancashire Cup match against Blackburn Park Road in the morning and then the annual exhibition match against Ulster FC.

The Toffees won both, but were then held to a 0-0 draw the following day against Bootle.

The first Football League match to be played on Christmas Day was Preston North End versus Aston Villa in 1889. Preston’s 'Invincibles' were the reigning league champions.

Over 9,000 spectators turned up to see Preston win 3-2, making it one of the highest-attended games the fledgling league had seen.

If this was the start of organised Christmas Day matches, perhaps the most famous football played on the big day came on December 25, 1914, and was between German and British soldiers engaged in the First World War.

An impromptu truce was called between servicemen on both sides on Christmas morning, against the wishes of the British High Command.

As men from both sides started to mix and even exchange gifts, some started to kick a football around.

One serviceman recalled later: “After a short while somebody punted across a football. The ball landed amongst the Germans and they immediately kicked it back at our men. It was a melêe. It wasn’t a question of 10-a-side, it was a question of 70 Germans against 50 Englishmen.”

Other kickabouts started along the frontline and there are reports of a more organised ‘match’ which ended in a 3-2 win for the Germans over counterparts from an English regiment.

The last time the Swans played on December 25 – back in 1957 – the vmatch was a genuine Christmas cracker at Vetch Field as the home side ran out 6-4 winners against Bristol Rovers.

However, whether it was the exertions of the 10-goal thriller, or a little too much turkey and Christmas pud afterwards, the Swans lost the return match 3-0 at Rovers 24 hours later!

This was the last year a full Football League programme was played on Christmas Day as public transport workers were given the day off and buses and trains no longer ran.

The last Football League match to be played on the 25th was in 1965 when Blackpool beat Blackburn 4-2 at Bloomfield Road.

The Lancashire derby lasted longer than any other Christmas Day fixture because of its popularity with holidaymakers.

However, although football stopped on Christmas Day itself, apart from Scotland where it continued until the 1970s, football has continued to have a close relationship with the festive period, which is still the busiest spell of the season.

One of the Swans' most hectic seasonal schedules came in 1987-88.

On Boxing Day, they travelled to take on Crewe Alexandra, where they gained a 2-2 draw.

On December 28, they drew 1-1 at the Vetch against Torquay United.

Three days later came a derby match against Cardiff City, which saw the Swans gain their third draw in less than a week thanks to goals from Joe Allon and Paul Raynor.

If that wasn't enough, the Swans were back in action the following day when they travelled to Hereford for a goalless match, rounding off an unbeaten holiday period.

Now wouldn't that be a wonderfully welcome Christmas present for us this year, if the Swans could celebrate another unbeaten Yuletide… starting with a win against Palace this Saturday?

C'mon you Swans!