Until 1958 Tottenham, as did all football clubs, traditionally fulfilled fixtures on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day with teams playing each other home and away over the festive season. Little consideration was given to the distance travelled as over the years Spurs played the Christmas Day game of these double headers at Oldham, Manchester City, Sheffield Wednesday, Newcastle United, Middlesbrough, Blackburn and Bury. On other occasions they played host to Plymouth Argyle, Huddersfield Town and Hull City.
Matches during the holiday period are traditionally high scoring affairs and Spurs have certainly participated in their fair share of those games.
Early Christmas Day Games
Spurs’ first game on Christmas Day was a home friendly in 1894 against the Sheffield and District League. Our 19th Century supporters would have enjoyed their dinner following a 7 – 1 victory. The next year saw them cross London to take on Millwall Athletic in another high scoring eight goal friendly but this time the journey home wouldn’t have been quite so joyous as Spurs lost 5 – 3. Another year on and Spurs gained revenge in their first competitive Christmas fixture, beating the same opponents 4 – 0 in an away game in the Southern League.
In 1897, the first Christmas match against Woolwich Arsenal was an away fixture in the United League which Spurs won 3 – 2. Over the next few years Portsmouth became the regular Christmas Day opponents in Southern League games.
In the Football League
After gaining admission to the Football League in 1908, the fixture planners decreed that Spurs should travel to Oldham where they lost by the only goal of the game. The following season, having gained promotion to the First Division, Spurs played Nottingham Forest in a 2 – 2 draw at White Hart Lane.
Spurs supporters enjoyed a happy Christmas Day in 1911 as over 47,000 spectators watched the team overcome Woolwich Arsenal by five goals to nil. Spurs were three goals ahead inside twenty minutes. Left winger, Bert Middlemiss, put Spurs ahead after nine minutes and Billy Minter added a second five minutes later. John McTavish showed individual skill from the right wing to score a third a few minutes later. Spurs eased off but still scored twice in the second half while playing with ten men following an injury to centre half, Charlie Rance – Jabez Darnell and Billy Minter getting the goals.
Biggest Christmas Day Win
Tottenham’s biggest win on Christmas Day came in 1952, against Middlesbrough. Spurs took an early lead through Les Bennett but the visitors levelled a few minutes later. The score remained unchanged until the interval as Spurs’ goal scoring threat had been greatly reduced with an injury to Bennett who, in those days before substitutes, had moved to play on the wing. After the break, however, Bennett, in spite of his injury, returned to the centre and the two wingers, Sonny Walters and Les Medley, tormented their opposing full backs throughout the half creating numerous chances for the forwards. A succession of crosses and passes enabled Bennett to score a second half hat-trick, bringing his total to four. Len Duquemin scored twice and Eddie Baily added another as Spurs won 7 – 1 to send the team and supporters home in a happy frame of mind and their celebrations would have continued forty eight hours later as, having made the long journey to the north-east, they completed the ‘double’ over Boro with a 4 – 0 victory – Walters, Bennett, Duquemin scoring along with an own goal.
Last Christmas Day Win
Spurs’ last Christmas Day win was a six goal victory in 1956 at White Hart Lane against Everton. In difficult conditions, 27,761 spectators saw Bobby Smith put Spurs into an early lead. Alfie Stokes added a second before half-time. Terry Medwin scored twice after the interval, Tommy Harmer converted a penalty and Bobby Smith completed the scoring with his second goal.
The custom of playing on Christmas Day came to an end in 1958 with Spurs visiting Upton Park. West Ham attacked for most of the first half but goalkeeper John Hollowbread managed to keep Spurs in the game. West Ham, however, took the lead early in the second half and increased their lead a few minutes later with a deflected shot. Spurs made something of a comeback but could only score one goal through Bobby Smith.
We no longer have our Christmas Day celebrations affected by the success or disappointment created by the team from White Hart Lane – we just have to wait for an extra twenty four hours.