GAMES on Boxing Day have been a fixture list treat since the Football League began in 1888-89, but for some fans it’s not always been a season of good cheer.
Here’s the best of the Boxing Day clashes from down the years.
10. West Ham 2-8 Blackburn (1963)
Boxing Day 1963 produced a bewildering 66 goals in 10 games in England’s top division, with Fulham’s 10-1 win at home to Ipswich providing the biggest contribution. At the Boleyn Ground a West Ham line-up which included future World Cup winners Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters was demolished by League leaders Blackburn in the club’s worst ever home defeat. Fred Pickering and Andy McEvoy both bagged hat-tricks for rampant Rovers. Remarkably, Hurst scored in the return fixture at Blackburn just two days later in a 3-1 win for the Hammers.
This game is better remembered for the reaction of Hull boss Phil Brown who was furious after the Tigers trailed 4-0 at half-time. No cosy team talk over tea and biscuits here. Brown marched his players over to where the Hull supporters occupied the Etihad Stadium and delivered a very public tongue lashing with plenty of finger pointing thrown in.
It made no difference to the final outcome but prompted one of football’s great goal celebrations. When Jimmy Bullard equalised with a penalty in Hull’s 1-1 draw at Man City the following season, the renowned prankster sat his team-mates down and wagged his finger at them in mock Brown style.
A Goodison Park gobsmacker in an era when Everton were the title chasers and Man Utd the mid-table dwellers. Everton were on a 22-match unbeaten run and sat just two points behind leaders Nottingham Forest while the visitors under Dave Sexton had been walloped 4-0 at home by Forest a few days earlier.
Big Bob Latchford was Everton’s colossus up front and he was on the scoresheet along with Martin Dobson. But FA Cup holders Man Utd showed some spine and cup final goalscorer Lou Macari made his presence known with a well taken double.
Further goals from youngsters Gordon Hill, old stager Jimmy Greenhoff and Northern Ireland’s Sammy McIlroy – plus an own goal from Trevor Ross – made this a Boxing Day bashing to forget for the home side.
7. Charlton 4-2 Chelsea (2003)
Chelsea’s new Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich had dug deep to fund boss Claudio Ranieri’s side. Among their all-star line-up was £15.8m Adrian Mutu, £16.6m Claude Makalele and £20m of English talent in Joe Cole, Wayne Bridge and Glen Johnson.
John Terry equalised eight minutes later but just after the half hour mark the home side regained the lead through a Matt Holland header. Shortly after the restart it was 3-1 thanks to Jonatan Johansson and Jason Euell extended Charlton’s lead even further on 53 minutes.
Despite Eidur Gudjohnsen’s token response for Chelsea, it was a Boxing Day body blow for the rich kids.
6. Sheffield Wednesday 3-3 Manchester United (1992)
Christmas appeared to have come early for the Owls who held a two-goal lead after just six minutes thanks to early strikes from David Hirst and Mark Bright.
When John Sheridan made it 3-0 just after the hour it looked as if it was game over for a Man Utd team who had bombarded the goal of Wednesday keeper Chris Woods with no reward. But two quickfire Brian McClair headers pulled it back to 3-2 and set up a tense finale.
The stage was set for former Wednesday trialist Eric Cantona, who bundled home an 84-minute equaliser to complete a remarkable fight back.
5. Tottenham 4-4 Southampton (1980)
Much was expected of young Tottenham midfielder Garry Brooke and he made his full debut here just three days after nabbing a hat-trick in the reserves against the Saints.
Steve Archibald opened the scoring for Spurs with Brooke doubling the lead, but Southampton countered with goals from George Baker and former Arsenal striker Charlie George, who levelled just before half-time.
In the second half Tottenham restored their two-goal lead through Garth Crooks and Brooke with his second, but a Steve Moran double for Southampton kept this breathless mid-table scrap even by the final whistle.
4. Derby County 4-4 Manchester United (1970)
Real football, played on an ice rink surface which transformed into a quagmire as the action thundered on.
Derby took a 2-0 first-half lead through Dave Mackay and Frank Wignall before Manchester United started to use their heads.
Denis Law nodded a couple of goals while George Best tapped in from a headed on corner as Man Utd scored three times in four second half minutes.
They didn’t hold on to that 3-2 lead for long though as wee Archie Gemmill provided the pass for Kevin Hector’s equaliser before firing Derby back in front himself.
At 4-3 it took a third headed goal from the visitors, this time from Brian Kidd, to bring this thrilling old school classic to an end.
3. Oldham 3-6 Manchester United (1991)
One of the great unwritten laws of football is that a former player will return to bite you in the rear end.
Full back Denis Irwin had honed his hard running skills at Boundary Park and within two minutes of this game burst into the Oldham penalty area to fire league leaders Man Utd into the lead.
A second goal crafted by the dribbling skills of Andrei Kanchelskis made it 2-0 by half-time. Oldham’s revival was swift as they equalised within a few minutes of the restart with goals from Graham Sharpe and Mike Milligan, but that merely unleashed hell.
Irwin stepped up for a free kick and curled home his second goal to make it 3-2 and Brian McClair helped himself to a swift double as Man Utd eased into a 5-2 lead.
There was a scrambled response from Oldham converted by Paul Bernard before Ryan Giggs raced away in familiar fashion to round off a 6-3 win in this Boxing Day bonanza.
2. Chelsea 4-4 Aston Villa (2007)
A dust up that had just about everything. Chelsea had remained unbeaten at home for four years but trailed 1-0 to a 14th-minute Shaun Maloney strike. A minute before the break, Chelsea’s normally unflappable keeper Petr Cech fumbled a weak Maloney drive for 2-0. In stoppage time came a major flashpoint.
Villa centre back Zat Knight conceded a penalty and received a red card. Shevchenko converted the spot kick and when he fired in a 50th-minute equaliser, Villa’s 10 men looked doomed. Alex skipped through the Villa defence to put Chelsea 3-2 up on 66 minutes but shortly after Martin Laursen prodded home a leveller for 3-3.
With 10 minutes to go, Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho received his marching orders but Michael Ballack then appeared to have won the game for the Blues after slotting home a late free kick.
In the final minute, Ashley Cole was sent off for handling the ball on the Chelsea goal-line and Gareth Barry’s precise penalty under pressure drew Villa level again with the last meaningful kick of an outstanding match.
1. Manchester United 4-3 Newcastle (2012)
A see-sawing frenzy of a game in which the visitors held the lead three times but in true Newcastle fashion lost the match in the final few seconds. James Perch fired an early opener for the Geordies but Man Utd centre back Jonny Evans scrambled home an equaliser after 25 minutes.
His joy was short lived as just before the half hour he diverted the ball into his own net. Was it 2-1 to the visitors? After a long discussion between the match officials about a possible Newcastle offside, the goal was given.
It was another Man Utd defender Patrice Evra who rifled a second equaliser before the hour mark for 2-2. Papiss Cisse’s sharp drive gave Newcastle the goal advantage again on 68 minutes only for Robin van Persie to grab a third equaliser just three minutes later.
As Newcastle defended for their lives, Javier Hernandez raced on to a hopeful Michael Carrick through ball and bundled home the winner with 89min 58sec showing on the clock.