The EPL Boxing Day fixtures did not fail to live up to the fans’ expectations, so FOX Sports Asia highlights seven equally compelling festive football games that you really should check out.
Established by Queen Victoria in the 19th century, Boxing Day (26th December) is an annual holiday celebrated in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other Commonwealth countries.
The first Boxing Day league action started in the 1888-89 season of the English Football League when Preston North End defeated Derby County 5-0.
But the tradition was actually started by the world oldest, and second oldest clubs, Sheffield FC and Hallam FC when the two non-league clubs played the first inter-club match the day after Christmas in 1860.
Since then, Boxing Day fixtures has been a highlight for all English football fans.
This year, it was the goals that stole the headlines – with Tottenham Hotspur‘s Harry Kane scoring his sixth league hat-trick of the year to give his team a 5-2 win over Southampton.
In the process, Kane broke Alan Shearer’s record to become the new all-time record EPL goalscorer in a calendar year with 39 strikes! He is also the European top goalscorer, ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, with 56 goals in 52 matches.
So what other significant Boxing Day football matches should you be catching? We start off with a oldie, but a goodie.
Fulham 10-1 Ipswich (26th December 1963)
It’s not everyday that you get a double digit scoreline, so it was Christmas come late for Fulham when they defeated Ipswich 10-1 in the epic 1963 round of fixtures.
Playing at Craven Cottage, the then-reigning league champions Ipswich were already down 5-1 at half-time! Fulham’s Graham Leggatt scored a hat-trick in four minutes, while Bobby Howfield, future NFL Denver Broncos and New York Jets place kicker, also bagged a hat-trick.
Though Ipswich did get their revenge with a 4-2 win in the return fixture two days later, the 10-1 loss remains their club record trashing and Fulham’s club record win to this day…
Burnley 6-1 Manchester United (26th December 1963)
Current United manager Jose Mourinho might be moaning about his side’s inability to be ruthless in front of goal during last night’s 2-2 draw with Burnley, but it is a problem that his United managerial counterpart Sir Matt Busby knew all too well back in 1963.
Despite challenging for the league title, United were crushed 6-1 by Burnley with Clarets’ striker Andy Lochhead grabbing four of the goals.
Nonetheless, United did beat Burnley 5-1 in the return fixtures two days later and finished second behind Liverpool that season.
Manchester United 4-3 Newcastle (26th December 2012)
In Sir Alex Ferguson‘s final Boxing Day fixture (and season), United were up against Newcastle in an end-to-end match which finished 4-3.
The United manager was uncharacteristically animated on the touchline, rebuking his players angrily as United fell behind three times in the topsy turvy game. That is until United’s Javier Hernandez struck in the 89th minute to give the Red Devils the win!
After losing out on the EPL title the previous season to arch-rivals Manchester City, this game marked a turning point in the season in which they went on to win the league championship.
Sheffield Wednesday 4-0 Sheffield United (26th December 1979)
One of the most heated rivalries in English football, Sheffield Wednesday and United met in the third division for the first time in eight years back in 1979. The Blades were looking primed for promotion with the Owls six points behind and with two wins out of seven going into the game.
In the end, it was the underdogs who got the rub of the (festive) green with Wednesday routing their cross-city foes 4-0 thanks to goals from Ian Mellor, Terry Curran, Mark Smith and Jeff King. The match has since been known as The Boxing Day Massacre!
It changed the course of the Owls’ season as they won promotion in place of their rivals the Blades that season. To this day, both sets of supporters still sing chant about that infamous fixture on both sides of the Steel City divide.
Southampton 1-2 Chelsea (26th December 1999)
Back on Boxing Day in 1999, Chelsea shocked the EPL community when then-manager Gianluca Vialli decided to name the first all-foreign starting lineup that English football has ever seen. Up to that point (111 years, three months and seventeen days), there was always a Brit in every EPL side’s starting eleven.
While two goals from striker Tore Andre Flo gave the Blues a much-needed win, the match will always be remembered for Chelsea’s United Nations (UN) inspired lineup – consisting of two Frenchmen (Frank Lebouef and Didier Deschamps), two Italians (Roberto Di Matteo and Gabriele Ambrosetti), a Dutchman (Ed De Goey), a Spaniard (Albert Ferrer), a Romanian (Dan Petrescu), a Brazilian (Emerson Thome), a Nigerian (Celestine Babayaro), a Uruguayan (Gus Poyet) and a Norwegian (Flo)!
Despite all the hoo-ha, Di Matteo revealed in an interview with the Express that he and the other Chelsea players did not make much of the incident: “We were used to playing with players of different nationalities, but we all spoke English in and around the training ground, so to us the nationalities meant nothing at all. Tore Andre Flo probably had the best English of anyone in the squad and he was Norwegian!”
Brazil 2-2 Argentina (25th December 1925)
Not exactly a Boxing Day tie, but the 1925 Copa America final match between bitter South American footballing rivals Brazil and Argentina comes close.
Playing at Boca Juniors’ Bombonera stadium, home ground advantage counted for little as Brazil’s samba boys waltzed into a 2-0 lead.
Needing only a draw to win the coveted international trophy, Argentina’s hope seemed all but extinguished before the Argentinians fought back with Manuel Seoane equalising. He had previously scored a hat-trick a fortnight ago in the 4-1 victory against the same South American opponent.
Germany 2-3 Great Britain (25th December 1914)
If we ever need proof of football as a sport that UNITES rather than divides, then we only need to look back to World War I.
In one of the most heart-warming Christmas stories of all time, German and British troops emerged from their trenches and celebrated an unofficial festive truce in 1914.
No-man’s land was transformed into a hotbed of festivities, with most choosing to indulge in football! According to the Guardian’s report that day: “Every acre of meadow under any sort of cover in the rear of the lines was taken possession of for football.”
It was also reported in the Times that a German regiment “had a football match with the Saxons [a British regiment] who beat them 3-2”. Though there was no shiny golden trophy for the victors, it was one of the rare times where there were really no losers and everyone went home a winner according to a former Cheshire Regiment officer: “A sudden friendship had been struck up… and for the rest of Christmas Day not a shot was fired along our section.”
All together now; awwww…