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March 2021

Christmas Day schedules for Arsenal: when Arsenal regularly played on 25 December.

Fancy something a little less statistical for Christmas Day?  Try Christmas Day at the Untold Office.

By Tony Attwood

The notion of playing football matches on Christmas Day does not go back to the very start of league football in England but rather was introduced in the second season of the football league.  The first league game was on December 25th 1889 when Preston North End beat Aston Villa 3-2.

That was the same moment that Royal Arsenal played their first Christmas Day match – a 5-0 home win over Preston Hornets.  Obviously the idea was around at that time – it can’t be a coincidence that a club outside the league and the league champions both played a game on Christmas Day for the first time in 1889.

In 1890 Christmas Day was on a Thursday, but Arsenal didn’t play, yet they were back on 25 December 1891 against Sheffield United with a 3-3 away draw.

The first league match for Arsenal on Christmas Day was in 1893, beating Burslam Port Vale at home 4-1, and indeed the fixture was repeated for each of the following two years, Arsenal winning 7-0 in 1894 and 2-1 in 1895.

The sequence continued with a Christmas Day league match each year except 1904 and 1910 which had Christmas Day on a Sundays.  Despite having league games on 22 and 26 December 1906 Arsenal played  Celtic in a friendly on Christmas Day

However in 1913 Arsenal moved to Highbury and under the terms of the Highbury lease Arsenal were not allowed to play at Highbury on Christmas Day (the land being owned by a religious foundation).  Thus from 1913 until 1924 Arsenal always played away on Xmas Day.

The first Christmas Day match at Highbury came after Arsenal bought the ground rather than leased it, and was a 3-0 win over Notts County in Division one on December 25  1925.    Then curiously Arsenal reversed to away games on Christmas Day until 1934 when it was Preston  who were beaten in a 5-3.

That was the only time Arsenal scored five or more on Christmas Day at home in the first division, but there was a 6-4 away win against Bolton on Christmas Day 1952.   The final Christmas Day game for Arsenal was Chelsea 1 Arsenal 1 on on 25 December 1956, in front of 32,094.  Indeed it was the general decline in Christmas Day attendances (Chelsea v Arsenal always drew much bigger crowds than this) and the rise in difficulties with transport that reduced the desire to play on the day.

Arsenal have played Tottenham on Christmas Day, the first time being 25 December 1897: in the United League (we lost 2-3).  The crowd was 5000.  1911 was the only ever Xmas Day league game v Tottenham (47000 attend)

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25 December 1957 was the last day on which there was a general programme of matches for Christmas Day – although not in the first division.    Teams opted out quickly, with just two league matches on the day in 1959.

Two final attempts to revive the tradition have taken place.  One was on December 25 1965 in a game that ended Blackpool 4 Blackburn Rovers 2 in the first division with a crowd of 20,851.  Games on the day continued in Scotland until 1976 but then they too ceased.  The last league game was on 23 December 1983 with Brentford 3 Wimbledon 4 in front of 6689.

Here’s the list of Arsenal on Christmas Day in the League.

Division Two

25 Dec 1893 Woolwich Arsenal v Burslem Port Vale W 4-1
25 Dec 1894 Woolwich Arsenal v Burslem Port Vale W 7-0
25 Dec 1895 Woolwich Arsenal v Burslem Port Vale W 2-1
25 Dec 1896 Woolwich Arsenal v Lincoln City W 6-2
25 Dec 1897 Woolwich Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur L 2-3 (United League)
25 Dec 1899 Lincoln City v Arsenal L 5-0
25 Dec 1901 Arsenal v Blackpool D 0-0
25 Dec 1902 Burton United v Arsenal L 2-1
25 Dec 1903 Arsenal v Bradford City W 4-1

Division One

25 Dec 1905 Arsenal v Newcastle United W 4-3
25 Dec 1907 Woolwich Arsenal v Newcastle United D 2-2
25 Dec 1908 Leicester Fosse v Woolwich Arsenal D 1-1
25 Dec 1909 Woolwich Arsenal v Newcastle United L 0-3

Division Two

25 Dec 1911 Tottenham Hotspur v Woolwich Arsenal L 5-0
25 Dec 1912 Woolwich Arsenal v Notts County D 0-0

The Highbury Years 

25 Dec 1913 Bradford Park Avenue v Woolwich Arsenal W 2-3
25 Dec 1914 Leicester Fosse v Arsenal W 1-4

Division One

25 Dec 1919 Derby County v Arsenal L 2-1
25 Dec 1920 Everton v Arsenal W 2-4
25 Dec 1922 Bolton Wanderers v Arsenal L 4-1
25 Dec 1924 Birmingham City v Arsenal L 2-1
25 Dec 1925 Arsenal v Notts County
25 Dec 1928 Blackburn Rovers v Arsenal L 5-2
25 Dec 1929 Portsmouth v Arsenal W 0-1
25 Dec 1930 Manchester City v Arsenal W 1-4
25 Dec 1931 Sheffield United v Arsenal L 4-1
25 Dec 1933 Leeds United v Arsenal W 0-1
25 Dec 1934 Arsenal v Preston North End W 5-3
25 Dec 1935 Liverpool v Arsenal W 0-1
25 Dec 1936 Arsenal v Preston North End W 4-1
25 Dec 1946 Arsenal v Portsmouth W 2-1
25 Dec 1947 Liverpool v Arsenal W 1-3
25 Dec 1948 Arsenal v Derby County D 3-3
25 Dec 1950 Arsenal v Stoke City L 0-3
25 Dec 1951 Arsenal v Portsmouth W 4-1
25 Dec 1952 Bolton Wanderers v Arsenal W 4-6
25 Dec 1954 Arsenal v Chelsea W 1-0
25 Dec 1956 Chelsea v Arsenal D 1-1

Untold Arsenal: 

Wenger ponders whether Yaya Sanogo will ever really be good enough for Arsenal. 

Christmas Day at the Untold editorial offices by the office dog

Arsenal v West Brom 26 December – The Match Officials

It’s Christmas. Goodwill to all men, and a time to end the anger and prejudice

Why it is so hard for many clubs to buy new players in January, and West Ham’s begging letter.

Arsenal v WBA: The manager preview. Pulis’ standards of conduct have “been shown to be disgraceful”

Ref Review Arsenal – Stoke: the match in which the ref shocked up by making up his own new rule

A perfect and total example of how our perception of football is being manipulated

And from the Arsenal History Society

4 comments to Christmas Day schedules for Arsenal: when Arsenal regularly played on 25 December.

  • MickHazel

    A very happy Christmas to everyone at Untold and all the readers of this wonderful site.

  • bjtgooner

    A Happy and Peaceful Christmas to all gooners!

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    This record of past Christmas day matches played by Arsenal for 38 Christmas days has shown that Arsenal are masters at playing on Christmas day. And comes tomorrow, the Gunners will be masterly as they master the Baggies with a masterclass Boxing Day game display of 4-0 home win at the Ems.

  • Robido

    Yo ho ho ho. Happy thoughts to all. Thank you Tony and UA for hosting this site and putting up with inane bleats. To all non gunners I wish you well (off the pitch) and smiles all round. To the rest.. COYG.