Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Thu 27 December 2007

Boxing Day Bonanza

Boxing Day. A national holiday in British Commonwealth countries whose traditions relate to the giving of Christmas boxes (or presents) to friends and family. Nothing to do with Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali or any other famous pugilists, for that matter.

In England, another Boxing Day tradition is the playing of football matches as part of the Christmas festivities, and yesterday was no different. Nine games took place in the Premier League and quite a few of them were high-scoring too.

Chelsea and Aston Villa shared an amazing eight goals in a 4-4 draw, Man United put four past Sunderland and Tottenham had a pleasant end-of-year pick-me-up in the form of a 5-1 home win against Fulham.

Believe it or not, though, Boxing Day has provided an even greater booty of goals than that in the past, and the one year that comes to mind in particular is 1963. On Boxing Day 44 years ago, a massive 66 goals were scored in the old First Division compared to 29 yesterday.

So what were the eye-opening results that day? Well, Liverpool beat Stoke City 6-1 as they headed for their first Football League title in seventeen seasons and Manchester United (who would end up being second only to Liverpool at the end of the campaign) were on the receiving end of a 6-1 scoreline away to Burnley.

Ironically, there was a 4-4 draw that day too as West Bromwich Albion and Tottenham shared the points, and there was a 5-1 result, too, as Chelsea won away at Blackpool. The goals didn't end there - West Ham lost 8-2 at home to Blackburn, still there heaviest home defeat ever, and there were a couple of 3-3 draws involving Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest and Wolves and Aston Villa.

But without doubt the biggest result of Boxing Day 1963 was at Craven Cottage where Fulham played host to Ipswich Town. The East Coast club had been managed by future England coach Alf Ramsey up until April of that year, only for another legend of the game, Jackie Milburn, to take over. Sadly he couldn't bring the same level of success to the club as his predecessor did for on that fateful day, Fulham thrashed Ipswich 10-1.

It remains Ipswich's biggest ever defeat, and yet the pain was eased only a couple of days later when the fixture list reversed all the Boxing Day games. Fulham travelled to Ipswich on December 28th 1963 and the outcome then was a 4-2 win for Milburn's side.

So what a Boxing Day that was all those years ago. An average of 6.6 goals were scored per game, two records were set and goalmouth action was in plentiful supply. Needless to say if it was all too exciting for you, Filbert Street was the place to be. There you'd have seen a meagre, boring 2-0 win for Leicester City over Everton. How lacking in festive spirit is that?

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