Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas cheers

As football reaches saturation point there are few days when a game is not within easy reach of the armchair fan. For those of who might, after reasoned argument, still consider ourselves to be young Christmas Day is football free zone.

But that’s not always been the case. League fixtures in Scotland were common on Christmas Day until relatively recently. I don’t know if this phenomenon had its roots in the tradition of celebrating New Year with rather more vigour than Christmas. It wasn’t until the mid fifties that Christmas Day became a national holiday in Scotland.

I’m sure there must be a link between that and the tradition of fulfilling fixtures on Christmas Day long after England had given up on the idea.

Anyway this mildly diverting bit of trivia was brought to my attention by The Guardian’s Knowledge page and it is from their site that I’ve gleaned the following:
As David Ross's website scottishleague points out, in Scotland, the last scheduled round of league fixtures was for Saturday December 25, 1976. However, a combination of reluctance to play and poor weather reduced the card. No Scottish top division matches were played, and these were shifted to Friday 24, Sunday 26 and Monday 27.

Of the two games that were played on Christmas Day itself, Clydebank and St Mirren drew 2-2 in a top-of-the-table first division clash and Alloa beat Cowdenbeath 2-1 at home in the second division. In addition, Dundee's official history lists them as winning 1-0 away to Montrose on Christmas Day - but another source suggests that this match was in fact played on Monday 27th.

The last time a full set of Christmas Day fixtures was played in Scotland was in 1971. Celtic beat Hearts 3-2 at home, Dundee United beat Dunfermline by the same score at Tannadice, and Kilmarnock overcame Morton 4-2 at Rugby Park. Other results that day were: Airdrie 1-1 Clyde, East Fife 1-1 Motherwell, Falkirk 0-3 Aberdeen, Hibs 0-1 Rangers, Partick 0-1 Ayr, and St Johnstone 0-0 Dundee.

Meanwhile, the last games played on Christmas Day in England were in 1959, when Blackburn beat Blackpool 1-0 at home in the old first division and Coventry beat Wrexham 5-3 in the third.