English football’s historic Boxing Day fixture list

By Pete Reily Source:Global Times Published: 2019/12/26 18:53:41

Mohamed Salah of Liverpool Photo: AFP

Boxing Day has been known as such in Britain since the days of Queen Victoria. She declared December 26 a public holiday in the 19th century with the name coming from the fact that tradesmen would collect their "Christmas box" the day after Christmas. This gift from customers would ensure reliable service throughout the following year.

While some call it Boxing Day, ­others know it as St Stephens Day in places such as Ireland but no matter the name there is no doubt that ­December 26 is a day for football and one of the most popular fixtures of the year.

It has been this way for some time.

The first Boxing Day fixture was between Sheffield FC, the world's oldest football team, and Hallam FC, their local rivals. The game was played on December 26, 1860, and is the oldest derby match in the world. 

That was the first ever inter-club match and it is also known as the "Rules derby" on account of being played under the Sheffield Rules, which would become the basis of the modern game although the match predated the codification of rules under the Football League by some decades.

Sheffield won that first-ever meeting 2-0 and the sides have since met more than 150 times.

The first round of Boxing Day league fixtures was in the first season of the Football League in 1888-89. Preston North End beat Derby County on Boxing Day 1888 and it has been long looked forward to ever since.

For a long while games were played on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day, with players expected to manage 90 minutes on consecutive days. The practice only ended in the 1950s when it became more difficult to travel on Christmas Day and the final December 25th game was in the 1957-58 season.


This is even more hard to fathom for modern players and fans given that there were no substitutes in those days.

December 26, 1963 is a date that will live long in the memory of those old enough to recall the full round of Boxing Day fixtures that year.

A barely believable 66 goals were scored over 10 games that Thursday, with only Everton and Bolton Wanderers failing to score among the 20 First Division teams who played that day.

The biggest score was Fulham's preposterous 10-1 win over Ipswich Town at Craven Cottage but it was a close run thing with Blackburn Rovers winning 8-2 away to West Ham United. Other notable margins of victory were Liverpool running out 6-1 winners over Stoke City at Anfield and Burnley beating Manchester United by the same score at Turf Moor. Chelsea also won 5-1 away at Blackpool.

It wasn't the margins of victory that stuck in the memory. There were two 3-3 draws, between Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United at the City Ground and also Wolves and Aston Villa at Molyneux, plus a 4-4 draw that played out between West Bromwich Albion and Tottenham Hotspur.

As if the results were not wild enough, it all seemed like more of a dream when the teams met in the rematch of those fixtures two days later. Fulham lost their rematch to Ipswich, West Ham beat Blackburn away at Ewood Park and Manchester United trounced Burnley 5-1 at Old Trafford.

That 1963 Boxing Day was nothing compared to the biggest win on December 26, which came 28 years earlier.

Tranmere Rovers hosted Oldham Athletic on December 26, 1935, but there was little to cheer for the visitors. They lost 13-4 at Prenton Park.

Bizarrely, it was that day's losing side, Oldham Athletic, that recorded the biggest ever Boxind Day win some 27 years after their hiding in Tranmere. The Latics beat Southport 11-0 in Division Four on December 26, 1962, which remains a record.

The scores have come down since.

Nowadays, if you are away from home on Boxing Day then you will play at home on New Year's Day in order to minimize the travel and disruption to football fans. It also means that all teams can get the benefit of the festive period when crowds are traditionally higher because of the holidays.

Even so there are still firsts.


Exeter City hosted local rivals Forest Green Rovers for the latter's first professional Boxing Day fixture in 2017, a game that ended abandoned at halftime because of torrential rain in Devon. The Football League new boys lost their rearranged League Two game when they met in January but they have a 100 percent Boxing Day record after beating Newport County away last season, coming away 4-1 winners last year. Forest Green play Stevenage Borough this year.

This time around it is Salford City who make their professional Boxing Day debut. All eyes will be on The Ammies now they are owned by Manchester United's former "Class of '92" - David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers, Gary and Phil.

Salford welcome Crewe Alexandra to Moor Lane this year and the fans will hope for a win once the action kicks off. Elsewhere, there is more history being made. Aston Villa host Norwich City on Boxing Day for what will be their 100th fixture played on the Feast of Stephen. Only two teams have played more games on December 26th, local rivals West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

There is a full complement of fixtures on Thursday, from world champions and Premier League leaders Liverpool taking on Leicester City at the King Power Stadium to League Two's bottom side Stevenage taking on Forest Green. 

Liverpool and the rest of the Premier League games will only be available on Amazon Prime this year but, despite the changes to the English game over the years, there is arguably no date greater and more historic in English football.

That historic run is set to continue.
Newspaper headline: Boxing Clever


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