Call me Scrooge, Krampus and the Grinch combined, I don’t care. Well I do a little bit because the wrinkles, goat horns and green pallor are hereditary and that’s a bit cruel of you. But while you’re feeling festive and full of mince pies that Susan has kindly brought into the office I’m gnawing on a bone of contention that appears to be an unpopular option – Christmas football sucks.
It shouldn’t and once upon a time it didn’t. Back in 1963 the ten Boxing Day fixtures lavished 66 goals on its watching public, an extravagant gift by any standards. Earlier still, there used to be a full football schedule on Christmas Day, a fantastical sepia-tinged notion that borders on madness and makes me wish I were Marty McFly so I could travel back and experience it first-hand. More recently there were admittedly childhood years waking up to a plethora of club merch and having tickets to the following day’s game waved in my face by my grinning dad. That felt all fuzzy and toasty.
Now though, apart from a husk of nostalgia, what is good or exciting about football over Christmas? Nothing, that’s what.
Fans in Santa costumes
For 240 days of the year (plus a few more when they’re called in on a Saturday but the bosses never do because it means spending more time with them) these hilarious life-and-soul-of-the-party japesters brighten up our miserable existence by wearing wacky ties to work while quoting Anchorman at any given opportunity.
But it’s at Christmas when these life-affirmers really come into their own. Christmas – as long as they don’t overdo the whisky again and breach their restraining order on an ex who lives in fear of their mental state after the last occasion when he played power ballads outside her flat window while weeping uncontrollably – is their time.
He thinks hiring out a costume complete with padding for Hull v West Brom is an original idea. He thinks we appreciate it.
Travelling in loud shoes
Your retinas throb and your guts have gone rogue. Your brain – the very same organ that thought it was a great idea to switch to brandy after midnight – now hates you. Then there’s your shoes: why have you never noticed before that the left one squeaks? In the name of all that’s holy this is not just a squeak; this is a nuclear four minute warning going off every time your sole touches pavement.
Less than 12 hours ago you were babbling that Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody should be the new national anthem dressed in only your underwear and a hat fashioned from balloons. Now you’re venturing to a foreign town surrounded by folk who keep hustling and bustling your defeated shell of a body. The wind whips into your face with a cruel incessant laugh while deep down you know your guts won’t make it to full-time.
Boxing day football. Isn’t it wonderful.
Not so festive fixtures
The authorities insist that they take supporter’s best interests into account when doling out the Boxing Day schedule. Nothing too far and nothing too local. Uh-huh. Well tell that to the thousands of Hammers having to undertake a 426 mile round trip to Swansea on December 26th. Or the Sunderland fans held up for hours on the long stretch to Manchester because retail parks tend to be built close to motorways.
They claim to care. They don’t.
A fixture clash with Auntie Claire’s buffet
Unless you’re reading this in an OAP home for the immensely elderly (and if you are, God speed sir) then Boxing Day football has been around for the entirely of our lives. So you would assume – purely through repetition – that others would know by now that the day dedicated to St Stephen is also dedicated to watching Carl Jenkinson unsuccessfully attempt a step-over down the right flank.
Sadly for some that is not the case.
“What? There is football on the 26th?”
“Yeah, just like there was last year remember?”
“But my Auntie Claire is putting on a buffet. The whole family will be there. You can’t make me go there alone!”
“What time does it start? Maybe I can do both?”
“5 o’clock. And you know what she’s like. She’ll expect us on the dot. What time is kick-off?”
“Quarter past five”
Silence frosts the window panes.
Guilt-tripped into wearing the club shop
I’ll happily concede that this is an entirely personal gripe but I am not one for wearing club colours on matchday. A scarf at a push on a particularly chilly February afternoon.
Over Christmas however leaving the house bedecked in everything short of a f***ing rosette becomes almost compulsory as your generous and considerate loved ones insist on seeing their presents given an airing at least the once.
There is a passive-aggressive smile as you depart. Well it is Christmas.