Christmas is the time for peace and joy. Then people want to take it easy at home with their loved ones. People eat and drink and enjoy the peace and quietness. But in Britain this is the busiest time of the year for the professional footballers. Christmas and the new year is the time when the games come thick and fast. Almost faster than Santa is giving out the presents. The players get very little time with their families. The tradition for for playing many games over Christmas is a long one and it´s a tradition that most people want to keep. At least the fans.
When foreign players started to flock to England to practice their trade some of them started to talk about they wanted to take a winter break. But the football authorities didn’t warm up to that idea. So it´s likely that Christmas and the New year will still be the busiest time of the year. It’s a family tradition in Britain to go to a game over Christmas. This means that the football clubs get a lot of people through the turnstiles, during the holidays, and money in the bank.
The tradition says that up to four rounds will be played, in the four divisions, over the festive season. Boxing Day is always a matchday. Christmas Eve can also be a matchday if it´s a Saturday. New years day´s also a popular day, but that can depend on which day of the week the first Saturday of the New year is, also normally used for the third round of the F.A. cup. Then it´s a tradition the have at least one round between Christmas and the New year.
For the best part of the twentieth century it was normal to play on Christmas Day and then again on Boxing Day. For a long time is was common to let the same teams play each other home and away over those festive days. It was not unusual to have big turnarounds in those games. The team that lost the first one would perhaps win the day after and so on. As an example we can look at the festive games between Liverpool and Arsenal in 1935. Arsenal won 1-0 at Anfield Road on Christmas Day but the day after Liverpool travelled to London and won 2-1 at Highbury.
But the busiest Christmas ever, for Liverpool, was probably in 1913. On Christmas Day Liverpool beat Manchester City 4-2 at Anfield Road. On Boxing Day the same teams played on Maine Road and City got their revenge with a 1-0 victory. On the third day of Christmas Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers played a 3-3 draw at Anfield Road. There was probably a little time for the turkey and the pudding for the Liverpool players during Christmas in 1913! Nowadays there are hardly ever games on Christmas Eve and never on Christmas day. Probably the merriest Christmas Eve, for Liverpool fans, came in 1949. Liverpool then beat their arch rivals 3-1 at Anfield Road. More than 50,000 turned up despite of the Christmas preparations. It´s likely that the men sent their wives shopping while they went to Anfield! Everton led at half-time. But Kevin Baron and Willie Fagan saw to that the Christmas started early with the Kopites. Willie scored twice and Kevin once. The Christmas in Liverpool sure were Red in 1949!
The last time Liverpool played on Christmas Eve was in 1966. Liverpool then made a good trip to the capital and beat Chelsea 2-1. In the late 80´s the fixture list pitted Liverpool and Manchester United together on Boxing day for three seasons running. A remarkable coincidence. During the 1978 Christmas Liverpool won 3-0 at Old Trafford. Ray Kennedy, David Fairclough and David Johnson scored. The year after Liverpool won 2-0 at Anfield Road. David Johnson and Alan Hansen made sure of a particularly merry Christmas for the Liverpool fans. A year later the teams shared a goalless draw at Old Trafford.
There is also no let up behind the scenes although Christmas is getting near. Managers and boardmembers have often made deals just before Christmas like at any other time of the year. There should be no surprise in that. That´s the time when people are making their Christmas shopping. Why not buy one or two players to put in the stocking! Liverpool´s most famous Christmas shopping probably came in 1953. On Christmas day Liverpool lost badly 5-2 away to West Bromwich Albion. The manager of Liverpool, Don Welsh, didn´t think twice and bought two players later that day! Liverpool were in trouble at the time and something had to be done. The day after, on Boxing day, the same teams played again. Liverpool played their two new signings, Frank Lock and John Evans. The crowd didn´t know anything about these two new players until they were introduced on the tannoy before kick off. The newspapers were not published because of the holidays and people therefore had no news of this Christmas shopping that Don Welsh had made. The new signings made Liverpool do a bit better. The game ended in a goalless stalemate.
On Christmas Eve 1991 the sale of Steve McMahon from Liverpool to Manchester City was finalised. Steve was lucky that he didn´t have to move houses before Christmas because it´s not a long way between these two cities. On the 23rd of December Roy Evans paraded Brad Friedel in front of the press, a slick million pounds Christmas gift! Brad put Christmas decorations around his neck instead of a Liverpool scarf when he posed for the press. He also put a Christmas cap on like Santa Claus. A good choice as it’s in Liverpool’s colours. Now we will hope that Santa will bring loads of points to Liverpool these Christmas. At least Santa is wearing red. Merry Christmas!
Sigfús Guttormsson - LFChistory.net