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Playing football on Christmas Day, the Arsenal way.

Football matches on Christmas Day were exceedingly popular until around 1950 by which time supporters were starting to feel more inclined to stay at home with the family on 25 December.

It was in fact simply a decline in crowds that moved matches away from 25 December rather than any regulation, and the occasional experiment in more recent times or returning to matches on this day has not met with success.  Mind you, with the way the TV companies play with match dates and times I wouldn’t put it past them to “invent” Christmas Day football which could be played out in front of minimal crowds, but with a big TV audience.

But until then we can trace the first and last of Arsenal’s Christmas Day league games.   From a 4-0 victory over Burslem Port Vale in 1893 to a 1-1 draw away to Chelse a in 1956.

Here are the Christmas Day anniversaries.  Merry Christmas everyone.


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Arsenal’s Christmas reviews: 1904 and 1905;  1890, 1891 1892.

And also the article “Christmas Day Schedules for Arsenal

25 December 1886: It is suggested in Soar  and Tyler that a meeting was held at the Royal Oak to change the name of the club to Royal Arsenal.  However on 2 January 1887 an advert appeared in “The Referee” from Dial Square F.C. seeking matches – seeming proof that the club did not become Royal Arsenal on this day.  There is no evidence at all to support 25 Dec as the date: it looks like they made it up!

25 December 1889: First recorded Arsenal game on Christmas Day – in a friendly match Royal Arsenal beat Preston Hornets 5-0

25 December 1893: Arsenal played the first Christmas Day league game.  It ended Woolwich Arsenal 4 Burslem Port Vale 0, in front of 10,000 fans equalling the previous highest crowd achieved at the club’s very first league game.

25 December 1894. Playing Burslem Port Vale on Christmas Day for the second year running Arsenal scored 7 for first time in a league game.  The 7-0 victory turned out to be the highest ever Christmas Day score.

25 December 1896: Woolwich Arsenal 6 Lincoln City 2.  Although not beating the Arsenal score of 1894, this was the highest goal aggregate ever achieved on Christmas Day in a league game.

25 December 1897: The first game against Tottenham on Christmas Day (in the United League) finished Arsenal 2 Tottenham 3.  The crowd was 5,000

25 December 1899: Arsenal’s worst ever Christmas Day defeat – Lincoln 5 Arsenal 0 in division 2.  However Woolwich Arsenal recovered enough to be unbeaten in the next four games.

25 December 1902: Arsenal lost to Burton United to make it three defeats in a row, with two goals scored and eight conceded.  Arsenal won the next game 5-1, and were undefeated in the nine games thereafter.

25 December 1906: Despite having league games on 22 and 26 December Arsenal played Celtic in a friendly at the Manor Ground. Although Arsenal lost 0-2 the idea worked as 15,000 turned up to watch.

25 December 1909.  Arsenal lost to Newcastle at home 0-3 in a run of four defeats and a draw. See also here

25 December 1911: The only ever Christmas Day league game against Tottenham saw 47000 attend at White Hart Lane to witness a 5-0 Tottenham victory.

25 December 1912: Alex Graham first game against Notts County. Alex had a trial with Woolwich Arsenal in December 1911 and signed for the club in January 1912, playing most of that year in the reserves before getting this Christmas Day game.  Henry Norris subsequently revealed the gate takings of £235 for the game.

25 December 1913: Bradford PA 2 Arsenal 3 with 22,000 in the crowd.  It was one of four consecutive wins in the latter part of December which left Arsenal third in the league and equal on points with the league leaders.  It was the first hatrick of the Highbury years and was scored by Stephen Stonley.

25 December 1915: Arsenal’s first London Combination (ie wartime league) Christmas Day game was played ending West Ham United 8 Arsenal 2.

25 December 1918: Bertie Mee born.  He had a short career with Derby County and Mansfield as well as appearing for Southampton in the war time league.  He trained as a physiotherapist in the Royal Army Medical Corps and worked as a remedial gymnast with disabled servicemen for 12 years before joining the staff of Arsenal in 1960,

25 December 1922: Last league game for Stephen Dunn.  He had replaced EC Williamson in goal but after this 4-1 defeat to Bolton he was replaced by McKenzie who remained in goal for the rest of the season.

25 December 1925: Arsenal 3 Notts C 0.   First Christmas Day game at Highbury, following the purchase (rather than leasing) of the ground.  The lease had prohibited games on 25 December.

25 December 1930: Man C 1 Arsenal 4 – the start of a 14 goal onslaught in 3 league games played on consecutive days.  The others were Arsenal 3 Man City 1 and Arsenal 7 Blackpool 1. Across these 3 days Bastin and Brain got three goals each and Jack got four.

25 December 1934: Arsenal 5 Preston 3.  The 7th occasion of scoring 5+ in the first Allison season; the most Christmas Day Arsenal goals in a first division game at Highbury.  It meant Arsenal had scored 20 goals across three consecutive home matches.

25 December 1936: First game for Frank Boulton – a 4-1 win over Preston.  Frank played for the club for two seasons before moving on to Derby County.  He played 36 times for Arsenal and won a league winners’ medal.

25 December 1936: The win on this day (see above) meant Arsenal were one point behind Sunderland – who lost 2-0 to Birmingham.  In the win over Preston, Drake got another two, Kirchen and Milne the other goals. Arsenal had scored 13 goals in the last three games, while Drake had got 11 in his run of consecutive goalscoring games and were now top of the league.

25 December 1952: Bolton 4 Arsenal 6 – Arsenal’s highest league aggregate on Christmas Day.  Holton scored 2, Milton, Logie, Ropier and Daniel got the others. Arsenal scored 33 goals in nine games

25 December 1954: Danny Clapton’s first game.  Arsenal 1 Chelsea 0. This turned out to be Arsenal’s last Christmas Day game at Highbury.  Tapscott scored. The crowd was 47,178.

25 December 1956: Christmas day league games ended in 1956 with Arsenal away to Chelsea, the result being a 1-1 draw.  Boxing Day games continued however, meaning players still had to train on Christmas Day.

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