Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day with Spurs

The holiday season is traditionally a busy period for footballers with four games to be played over Christmas and New Year.  In years gone by, teams had to play on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day with no time to recover from injury or a disappointing result.

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 The Christmas fixtures frequently throw some unexpected scores with goals aplenty or teams suffering a blow to their aspirations with a couple of disappointing results.  Local derbies are often the order of the day over the festive season to reduce travel and encourage attendances around the country.  For many years clubs played a double-header at Christmas, meeting the same team, home and away, within twenty four hours.

The last occasion that Spurs played on Christmas Day and Boxing Day was in season 1958-59 when they faced West Ham United.  It was only a few weeks earlier that Bill Nicholson had taken charge as manager and if he was disappointed with the Christmas Day defeat at Upton Park (1 - 2), he must have been very anxious after West Ham won 4 - 1 at White Hart Lane the following day.  Alfie Stokes scored Spurs' goal as their struggle against relegation continued.

Better times have been witnessed over the holiday with the 'Double' team managing a Christmas 'double' over West Ham, following up their two goal home win on Christmas Eve with a 3 - 0 success at Upton Park on Boxing Day - John White, Les Allen and an own goal providing the goals.

Strange, unexpected score lines are often the order of the day and in the season between those West Ham games, Spurs met Leeds United.  They enjoyed a successful trip to Yorkshire on Boxing Day, winning 4 - 2 with goals from Tommy Harmer, Bobby Smith and Allen (2).  In  the return fixture two days later, Leeds gained revenge as Spurs lost 1 - 4, Dave Mackay scoring their only goal.  Spurs were challenging near the top of the table while Leeds were in a fight against relegation.  Leeds lost their 1st Division place at the end of the season and Spurs were left to rue that defeat as two points from that home game would have seen them finish the season as title winners.

On Boxing Day 1964, Tottenham travelled to Nottingham to play Forest - not something they'd have done with much confidence as that season they'd failed to win any of their eleven away matches.  To everyone's surprise they returned with the two points after a 2 - 1 success - Alan Gilzean and Cliff Jones scoring the goals, their only away win of the season.  Two days later they won the return game by four goals to maintain their unbeaten home record.  Season 1964-65 is the only occasion when Spurs have gone through an entire season undefeated at home.

Whether players had over-indulged the previous day but high scoring games also appeared regularly as part of the Boxing Day recipe for entertainment.  In 1980-81 Southampton were the visitors to White Hart Lane and took a share of the points in an eight goal thriller.  A young midfielder, Garry Brooke, started his first game for Spurs in place of the injured Ossie Ardiles and scored twice with his trademark thunderbolt shot.  Steve Archibald and Garth Crooks completed the Totenham scoring.

This season's holiday opponents, Norwich City were frequent opponents over the Christmas period during the early 1990s.  On four successive years the clubs met home and away with Spurs earning a home win, a scoreless away draw, suffering a home defeat and managing to win 2 - 0 on Boxing Day, 1994 at Carrow Road.  Nicky Barmby and Teddy Sheringham scored the goals.

A similar result was gained on Boxing Day, 2004 with Robbie Keane and Michael Brown scoring the goals on the last occasion that the two clubs have met competitively.  Norwich were relegated at the end of both of those seasons, so they'll be hoping to avoid a hat-trick of defeats this year.

Recent Boxing Day Matches:
Last season, Spurs enjoyed a trip to Villa Park and in an excellent display with ten men won 2 - 1 as Rafael Van der Vaart scored twice, with the second goal showing great team work as Spurs broke at pace from defence.

The previous three seasons Spurs games had involved Fulham - in 2007-08, Spurs won 5 - 1 at White Hart Lane through goals from Keane (2), Tom Huddlestone (2) and Jermain Defoe.  The next two years there was no goal-fest for spectators to enjoy.  Fulham were determined not to suffer the same fate at White Hart Lane as the previous year and the teams played out a dull, scoreless draw which was the score the following year at Craven Cottage.

Non-League Days
Spurs first competitive match on Boxing Day was in season 1898-99.  In the Southern League, just as Portsmouth were the designated opponents for Spurs on Christmas Day, their near neighbours, Southampton, were Tottenham's opposition on Boxing Day.  For ten consecutive seasons, Spurs travelled to Southampton on Boxing Day to fulfil the Southern League fixture.  The first of these matches ended in a 1 - 1 draw and it was only at the fifth attempt that Spurs managed to win.  John Kirwan scored the only goal in 1902 and it was their only success in that series of games in which they achieved three draws and suffered six defeats. 

Tottenham must have breathed a sigh of relief when they entered the 2nd Division in 1908 and had a home fixture on Boxing Day.  It was the return fixture with Oldham Athletic who had defeated them by a single goal twenty four hours earlier.  Spurs took full revenge with a three goal success as Billy Minter, Vivian Woodward and Bert Middlemiss scored.

In season 1911-12, the Christmas fixtures decided upon a London derby.  Spurs defeated Woolwich Arsenal at White Hart Lane on Christmas Day by 5 - 0 but the journey south of the river was less successful as Spurs lost 1 - 3, Minter scoring Spurs' goal.

One of Spurs' best Boxing Day wins was over Sheffield Wednesday in the 1st Division in 1914.  The previous day Spurs had lost out in Sheffield by the odd goal in five but at home Spurs were not to be denied and triumphed by a score of 6 - 1.  Bert Bliss netted four while Bobby Steel and Harry Sparrow scored the others.

In 1930, it was just like Southern League days as Spurs travelled to Southampton on Boxing Day in a less than confident mood, having lost to them at home the previous day.  They gained their first Boxing Day win against the south coast club in twelve attempts, having lost twelve months earlier.  This time they scored thre times without reply through Willie Davies, Taffy O'Callaghan and Dick Rowley.

One of their longest journeys on Boxing Day took Spurs to Plymouth in 1935 and they returned empty handed, suffering defeat by 1 - 2, as Argyle completed the 'double' over them, having won by a similar score in London.

Tottenham's last Boxing Day defeat came in 2003 at Portsmouth, the home side winning 2 - 0.  The last home defeat was back in 1991 when Nottingham Forest took the points with a 2 - 1 success, Paul Stewart scoring the Spurs' goal.

Boxing Day games can be very unpredictable and are frequently high scoring affairs which can be enjoyable to the neutral and to the supporters of the winning team.  Spurs aren't playing on Boxing Day this year, their game at Norwich having been moved for television.  I won't mind a high scoring game as long as Spurs come out on top to maintain their hold on third place in the Premier League.






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