Grand old game”s in a league of its own: Sportsmail takes a look at all the goals and bumper gates on the day football put smiles back on supporters” faces
It wasn”t as stellar as the famous goal-rush of 1963, but this Boxing Day was not without its dramas.
If you like your football laced with devilment, the morning began with Jose Mourinho telling guest presenter Lord Coe on Radio 4’s Today programme to ‘get me a club in a couple of years…my next job will be in England’.
Those who enjoy their sport a little more current would have recognised the bottom two in the old Division Four giving their supporters some festive cheer: a last-minute winner by Ashley Hemmings earned Plymouth a 3-2 win at Bristol Rovers while Dagenham and Redbridge scored three without reply against Barnet.
Top marks: Blackburn”s Mark Bunn put in a top class performance to help his side to a point against Liverpool
Though sport’s biggest Star was a horse called Kauto, the Barclays Premier League had its share of headline makers. Mark Bunn had a match-saving day in goal for Blackburn at Anfield and shared centre stage with Manchester United’s 30million striker Dimitar Berbatov, who scored a hat-trick.
Chelsea were held by Fulham, whose scorer Clint Dempsey was described by the BBC’s Mark Bright as ‘the bestAmerican outfield player to have played in the Premier League’. No argument here.
American hero: Clint Dempsey makes it 1-1 in the west London derby between Chelsea and Fulham
West Bromwich, who had lost all five of the previous Premier League fixtures they had played on December 26, became the first team to stop Manchester City scoring this season.
The excellent Radio 5 Live chose City rather than rivals United for their main game. A mistake, you may argue, although any football commentary in the company of Jimmy Armfield is worth listening to. Jimmy is 76 and teaches you something new about a game he first played in 1954.
Shut out: Ben Foster and West Brom became the first team to keep a clean sheet against Manchester City this season
Jimmy was a Blackpool player at the time of that record-breaking Boxing Day of 48 years ago when a pre-Venky’s Blackburn ruled the roost, scoring eight at West Ham. Manchester United lost 6-1 at Burnley and Roger Hunt of Liverpool and Graham Leggat each scored four.
Hunt went on to become a World Cup winner, Fulham’s Leggat, who struck a three-minute hat-trick in a 10-1 win against Ipswich, later became Canada’s leading sports broadcaster and was inducted into their hall of fame in 2001.
Five star performance: Dimitar Berbatov kept the match ball after scoring a hat-trick in Manchester United”s 5-0 win over Wigan
A Boxing Day performance of note can do that for you.
There were no such stand-out efforts this time, although free-scoring Championship leaders Southampton won (again), while the best attendance outside the Premier League was at Derby, where more than 33,000 went to Pride Park to watch the home side defeat Leeds.
Middlesbrough beat Hull in front of 27,794 fans — truly a bumper crowd for a region of mass unemployment in the post-Ravanelli, post- Gascoigne, post-Merson era.
Talking of Paul Merson, he was appearing on Sky Sports, where he claimed, somewhat contentiously, that Aston Villa are a bigger club than Newcastle. ‘How many European Cups have Newcastle won then, Jeff’ he asked his host.
Saints march on: Southampton beat Crystal Palace to stay top of The Championship
Not all European Cup winners can consider themselves big clubs, Mers. Nottingham Forest haven’t scored for six matches, with a record of: 0-1, 0-4, 0-1, 0-1, 0-0, 0-1. They lost again on Monday.
In League One, where they may end up, the closing exchanges brought a significant shift for the top two. Sheffield Wednesday were leading 1-0 at Walsall, but then conceded twice in stoppage time. Leaders Charlton had been behind twice at Yeovil but scored a winner through Danny Green to take it 3-2 and extend the gap to eight points.
Others who hit the heights include Stevenage, who scored six at Colchester, Blackpool’s hat-trick hero Matt Phillips and Gillingham, who won at League Two leaders Crawley.
Leaving it late: League One leaders came from behind to beat Yeovil in stoppage time in a five-goal thriller
The first Boxing Day fixture on record was in 1860 between Sheffield FC and Hallam at Sandygate Road, Sheffield — the oldest ground in the world. Hallam are still there and have ex-Premier League referee Uriah Rennie as club president.
Another ex-Premier League referee, Andy D’Urso, best remembered for being chased about by an eye-popping Roy Keane, took charge of AFC Wimbledon’s game against Oxford yesterday. Being pursued by Manchester United players can do that for your career.
At the New Bucks Head Stadium, kick-off was delayed because of crowd congestion as Blue Square Bet Premier leaders Wrexham went to AFC Telford.
There were few traditional derby games on offer, but Grimsby won 2-1 at Lincoln in front of 5,506 fans. The losers will get their chance to respond in the reverse fixture on Sunday.
Stalemate: There were no goals at The Britannia as Stoke and Aston Villa earned a point each
It’s not the first time ‘double-headers’ have been played at this time of the year. In 1963, United, West Ham and Ipswich all exacted revenge in the reverse games played two days later.
Readers of the Birmingham Mail were asked last week: Should Boxing Day football be banned The answer was Yes: 14.8% No: 85.2%.
It would be interesting to see if the result would be different after their local team were held by West Ham in a game that took the goals tally to 100 for the day, shortly before Stoke played Aston Villa.
Nothing compared with the 157 scored on that day in 1963. But then Robin van Persie doesn’t play until Tuesday. Hardly a fair contest.