Few things in the British footballing calendar are treasured like the festive period. It’s a feast of football without work, school or other commitments getting in the way. Combined with the joy of Christmas, the overindulgence and often family members returning home, these games always entertain bumper crowds.
Even the football authorities try to get involved with the Christmas spirit by arranging relatively local fixtures. This only helps increase crowd sizes, with travel understandably more difficult at this time of year.
Over the space of a week, you can usually expect your team to play three times. However, the silver coin in the middle of the proverbial Christmas pudding is, without doubt, a home fixture on Boxing Day.
That wasn’t always the case though. As early as 1957, Argyle were playing games on Christmas Day itself. That particular year over 10,000 fans filled Somerton Park in Wales for a Division 3 South fixture against Newport County. Argyle ran out 2 – 0 winners with goals from George Baker and Jimmy Gauld.
What more could you want for Christmas?
The last time a Christmas Day fixture would be played at Home Park was three years earlier in 1954. Argyle played host to Swansea City in a thrilling game that ended 2 – 2. George Dews, who is still Argyle’s 10th all-time leading goalscorer, would score his final goal for the club.
The Christmas Day fixture has thrown up some interesting away games down the years too. In December 1946 almost 25,000 fans filled Maine Road to watch Manchester City beat Argyle 4 – 3 in what at the time, was a Division 2 fixture.
In the same division, a little over ten years earlier Argyle had travelled to White Hart Lane for their Christmas Day match. On that occasion they were more fortunate, leaving London with a 2 – 1 victory. For those familiar with Argyle in the 1930s, it’ll be no surprise as to who scored the winner – a certain Mr Sammy Black.
Rather interestingly, Argyle’s record on Christmas Day is perhaps an indication as to why the game no longer takes place. In 33 Christmas Day fixtures, Argyle won 13, drew nine and lost 11. Of those 13 victories though, 10 came at home and in their 14 away games, they won just three, managing just 12 goals and conceding 27 at the same time.
With that being said, seven of Argyle’s home fixtures came against Exeter City, with Argyle winning five and drawing the other two. The only time Argyle have lost to City on Christmas Day was in 1925, which was also the only year in which a Devon Derby was played at St James’ Park. The Grecians cruised past Argyle in a 4 – 0 victory.
With the Christmas Day fixture a thing of the past, Argyle travel to AFC Wimbledon this Boxing Day and perhaps it’s for the best.
Not only can you enjoy the festivities without Argyle interrupting your Christmas lunch or the Queen’s speech, the club actually fare a little better away from home on the 26th. A miserly Christmas Day win percentage of 21% jumps to 33% when playing away from home on Boxing Day.
Argyle have only won once on their travels this season, so who knows, perhaps there’ll be a Christmas miracle after all.