Christmas Day has been a time for tradition and family for nearly as long as the day has been around. But there was a time when Christmas Day Football was one of the great traditions of the English game.
While the notion may seem alien to football fans now, there was a time when Christmas Day wasn?t complete without watching some of the country?s best players show off their skills on the field.
While there were small-scale matches played for years before, the very first Football League Christmas Day fixture wasn?t introduced until the second season in 1889. The landmark match was played between Preston North End and Aston Villa, the northern team beat the Midlands team 3-2 and a Christmas tradition was born.
The idea proved popular, especially after the First World War and crowds began to swell to record numbers. The early years of Christmas Day football pulled in some of the biggest crowds of the season, in 1948, more than one million fans gathered to watch all of the Christmas Day football games.
The popularity continued throughout the beginning of the 20th century and into the 1950s.
As Everton?s star player during his heyday, Dixie Dean was certainly not excused from festive duties on the 25th December.
He played in many of the Blues? Christmas Day clashes, including a legendary 5-4 win against the Black Cats in 1926. A match where Dixie himself scored four of the winning goals.
Over the course of his career, Dixie Dean scored 10 goals for Everton on Christmas Day.
Before the first Football League match in 1889, Everton played a whole two matches in one day for a Christmas Day football match. In the morning they played against Blackburn Park Road before taking on Ulster FC for an annual exhibition match in the afternoon.
On Christmas Day in 1940, with the Christmas Day football hype in full swing, Everton?s Tommy Lawton took to the field for the Blues on Christmas morning before heading over the water to change shirts and represent Wirral?s Tranmere Rovers.
With Christmas being a day to spend with family and loved ones, it?s understandable that certain football players weren?t too keen on postponing the turkey to play for the team.
Players were permitted to opt out for religious reasons, with Christmas? history being rooted in religion, but many players expressed their distaste.
Jimmy Greaves, of the England football team and Tottenham Hotpurs, writing in the Daily Express in 1958, said: ?Most of us would like to see an end to Christmas Day football too. It does not draw huge crowds, but it disrupts the home life of every player. No Christmas pudding for the footballer and if there?s an away game like we have at Blackburn this year, no Christmas either.?
Ray Barlow, famous for making more than 400 appearances in the Football League, wrote in Sports Argus in the same year: ?Personally, I don?t know any players who like the idea of a Christmas Day match.?
In 1959, English teams played their last Christmas Day Football Match. Blackburn beat Blackpool at home and Coventry beat Wrexham and no more English matches were played on Christmas Day again.
Although there are no longer football matches on Christmas Day, the festive period still offers plenty of opportunity to catch up with your favourite team.
Now, Boxing Day is the prime time for getting your football fix at Christmas, with the Premier League hosting a number of matches to help get you out of the post-Christmas slump.
Dixie Dean?s Everton will be taking on West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns at 3 pm on Boxing Day.
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