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On Christmas Day players will typically be sitting down for a meal of roast turkey, roast potato’s and Brussels sprouts followed by Christmas pudding. But in the past it was a very different Christmas story. The Festive period was a very busy time in the football fixture calendar for both players and spectators.
Pre-1958, unless Christmas Day fell on a Sunday, players would have been lucky to have had time on Christmas Day to relax at the family table for a full Festive lunch. Typically teams played two league games in the three days spanning the seasonal period between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. Often this would mean playing in back to back games against the same local opposition on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
In West Ham’s history the team has played 47 times on Christmas Day. These games include Southern League and war time league encounters. The last time claret and blue was worn on December 25th was in 1958. This was West Ham’s first season back in Division One after a 26 year absence from the top tier. Prior to 1958 all football league clubs frequently played on December 25th.
Bottom of the Premiership at Christmas and the Championship Beckons
In today’s Premier League there is the Christmas Day benchmark that whichever club is bottom of the league table will not escape the clutches of the Championship. In the history of the Premiership only 3 teams, West Bromwich Albion 2004-05, Sunderland 2013-14 and Leicester City a season later have all performed a Christmas Day miracle and survived the relegation trapdoor to the Championship.
Though in 2002 West Ham came very close to disproving the theory when they missed clawing their way to safety by two points. In 2010 however it was a different Christmas story. Under manager Avram "Santa Clause" Grant, the Hammers were far too generous in giving the opposition league points. Rooted to the bottom of the table all season the Hammers bid farewell to the Premier League and Santa took a sleigh ride back to the Holy Land.
The rest of this feature selects a few of the Christmas Day highlights and more notable, unusual achievements and some sadness.
The last Christmas Day Match in 1958
Division Two Champions and Promotion Season – December 25, 1957
Woodgate Wraps it up 1950
Ernie Gregory , John Bond, Noel Cantwell, Andy Malcolm, Ken Brown, John Smith, Mike Grice, Phil Woosnam, Vic Keeble, John Dick, Malcolm Musgrove
Despite winning the Division Two championship, West Ham’s opponents over the Christmas period, Ipswich Town, got the better of the festive points. The Tractor Boys drew at Upton Park and in the return game at Portman Road defeated the Hammers 2-1.
Mick Newman’s second and last league goal for the Hammers secured the point.
In this Christmas Day exchange it was West Ham’s winger, Terry Woodgate, who had the most memorable present. Terry notched a hat-trick. Though Leeds got their revenge 24 hours later with their 2-0 victory at Elland Road.
Ernie Gregory, Fred Kearns, Jack Yeomanson, Derek Parker, Dick Walker, Tommy Moroney, Tommy Southern, Jim Barrett Jnr, Bill Robinson, Gerry Gazzard, Terry Woodgate.
A long trip up to Yorkshire for the Division II game away to Bradford Park Avenue did not bring any good tidings. Despite the 2-1 defeat against the now defunct football league club, it triggered a five match winning streak including a home win over Bradford PA three days after the defeat at Park Avenue.
Jack Weare, Charlie Bicknell, Charlie Walker, Ted Fenton, Dick Walker, Joe Cockcroft, Stan Foxall, Tommy Green, Peter Simpson, Len Goulden, John Morton
Two Earl, Earle's are calling 1925
Ted Hufton, Billy Henderson, Alf Earl, Jim Collins, Jim Barrett, Syd Bishop, Tommy Yews, Stanley Earle,
Vic Watson, Billy Williams, Jimmy Ruffell
Division Two Runners-up and FA Cup Finalists season 1922
In the season the Hammers reached the first Wembley Cup Final and clinched promotion to Division One, it included a Christmas Day triumph over the Red Devils at Old Trafford. Though 24 hours later Manchester United reversed their fortunes by taking the points in a 2-0 win at Upton Park.
The West Ham team that day was the same line up as would appear at Wembley four months later.
Ted Hufton, Billy Henderson, Jack Young, Syd Bishop, George Kay, Jack Tresadern, Dick Richards, William Brown, Vic Watson, Billy Moore, Jimmy Ruffell.
League Debuts on Christmas Day
Two players made their Southern League debuts on Christmas Day.
1. William Davidson in the 1902's 1-2 defeat against Southampton (H)
2. George Chalkley in the 1908's 1-0 victory also against the Saints (H)
Four Hammers made their League bows on Christmas Day.
1. Syd Bishop in 1920's 1-1 draw with Birmingham City in Division Two
2. Alfred Earl in 1925’s 5-3 victory over Aston Villa (H) in Division One
3. Jim Harris in 1930’s 4-3 victory over Portsmouth (H) in Division Two
4. Leslie Bennett in 1954’s 1-0 win over Derby County (H) in Division Two
1958’s back to back Division I games on December 25th and 26th bought a welcome double as the Hammers beat Tottenham Hotspur home and away.
Vic Keeble loses his shadowers to run through and let fly with a right foot drive for Hammers second goal
The scene that made the hearts of the West ham supporters stand still, Phil Woosnam sits on the trainer’s bench while an anxious Billy Moore bends over the injured knee
West Ham United 2 – 1 Tottenham Hotspur
John Dick, Vic Keeble
West Ham United 1 - 1 Ipswich Town
West Ham United 3 - 1 Leeds United
Bradford Park Avenue 2 -1 West Ham United
West Ham United 5 – 2 Aston Villa
Earle 3, Williams, Watson
Manchester United 1 - 2 West Ham United
WILLIAM DAVIDSON debut
GEORGE CHALKLEY debut
SYD BISHOP debut
ALFRED EARL debut, STANLEY EARLE scores a Hat-trick
JIM HARRIS debut
TERRY WOODGATE scores Hat-trick
LESLIE BENNETT debut
A Record of West Ham's Christmas Day Games
1935 West Ham v. Southampton
1943 Chelsea v. West Ham
Newspaper coverage courtesy of Richard Miller
In the more recent post World War II Christmas Day football league games the 10 matches bought festive cheer as the club won eight and drew the other two matches. For John Dick and Terry Woodgate it was a season of good tidings. Dick had the distinction of scoring in three different Christmas Day fixtures. While Woodgate notched all three of the goals in 1950.
Ernie Gregory, John Bond, George Wright, Andy Malcolm, Ken Brown, John Smith, Billy Dare, Mike Newman, Vic Keeble, John Dick, Malcolm Musgrove
Hammers Christmas Party - Denmark Arms, Barking
First team players include: Malcolm Pyke, Malcolm Musgrove, John Bond, Ernie Gregory, Noel Cantwell, John Dick, Malcolm Allison and Billy Dare
Image courtesy of Malcolm Pyke
A memorable day for Stanley Earle as he scores West Ham’s first hat-trick in a football league match on Christmas Day. Similar namesake, full back Alf Earl makes his football league debut in this Division I fixture.
Danny Shea (1887 - 1960)
As of the 25 December 2020, 961 players to have featured in a first team match for West Ham United, only two players have died on Christmas Day! Fergus Hunt was born December 3, 1878, and died on Christmas Day 1952 aged 77, the second was Danny Shea he was born November 6, 1887 and passed away in 1960 aged 73.
Shea was discovered on the club's doorstep playing for Manor Park Albion manager Charlie Paynter signed the inside-forward in 1907.
Daniel Harold Shea made his Southern League debut against Norwich City at Newmarket Road in a 1-1 draw on December 7, 1907. He proved to be a consistent goalscorer during his six Southern League seasons at the Boleyn Ground. And his fine form didn't go unnoticed. After 179 appearances and 111 goals, Blackburn Rovers duly broke their existing transfer record to take him to Ewood Park for £2,000 in 1913.
Pre-World War I while with the Rovers he won two England caps and a First Division Championship medal. During the War years he returned south to make a further 73 appearances in the claret-and-blue as a guest player in the hastily-formed London Combination.
After cessation of hostilities he returned to Ewood Park to win further England honours in two Victory Internationals against Scotland.
Shea returned south for a second spell with the Hammers in August 1920 but it proved to be an abortive reunion. With just 16 Second Division outings and a solitary goal to show for his efforts, he transferred to Fulham in November 1920. He later joined Clapton Orient, Coventry City and latterly Sheppey United.
Last updated 25 December 2020 ...