From exciting late presents to quite a few rotten turkeys

Geoff Hillyer looks back at West Ham’s best and worst Boxing Days

It’s going to be a tough test for the Hammers on Boxing Day as we take on Chelsea away in the Premier League. But here’s hoping that we can replicate something special at Stamford Bridge, be it last season’s ‘19th-century football’ draw or our famous Paolo Di Canio-inspired 3-2 victory some seasons back in our ultimately unsuccessful battle against relegation.

Boxing Day fixtures haven’t always been kind to us. Last season, for instance, we took the lead against Arsenal at the Boleyn before being beaten 3-1 but in recent history, we’ve actually got a pretty decent record on this festive fixture day, with wins against Fulham and Portsmouth and a draw with Birmingham over the last few seasons (remember when they were all in the Premier League?).

West Ham’s first Boxing Day win in the Football League was in 1921, away to Bury in the old Division Two. Percy Allen popped up with the winning goal, to claim both points for the Hammers (three points for a win was a long way away).

This was to be the start of a three-match winning run, including a further 3-2 victory over Bury just a day later – but sadly, end-of-season defeats against Fulham, and Blackpool (twice) cost us the chance of promotion. We made up for it the following season though, finishing second.

In more recent history, there have been some great Boxing Day wins – notably against Charlton in 2000, when we put Charlton 5-0 to the sword, thanks to Freddie Kanoute (twice), Frank Lampard, Trevor Sinclair and an own goal. On checking the history books, and with the squad that we had back then, I’m amazed to find that we ended up finishing 15th.

In 2001, it was another romp as we beat Derby 4-0 in the midst of a sixmatch unbeaten run. We all know what happened with Derby that season – relegation sealed a few months later – but for us, a 53-point haul at the end of the season meant that we finished three points above Tottenham in seventh.

Speaking of which, we mustn’t forget the 4-2 win over Tottenham on Boxing Day 1958, part of a double over them in that season (the other match was a 2-1 win at the Boleyn, incidentally, the day before, when matches still used to be played on Christmas Day). An own goal from Ron Henry, as well as strikes from John Bond, Vic Keeble and John Dick ensured that we snaffled the points from White Hart Lane.

There are other matches that could be mentioned – the fine 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest in our promotion season of 2004, for instance – but there’s really only one other match to feature. Just like this season, Boxing Day 1973 saw us travel across to west London to play Chelsea. Our first part of the season hadn’t gone well: we were floundering in the bottom three at the time, but two goals from Clyde Best – along with a strike from Frank Lampard, and another from Bobby Gould – ensured that the Chelsea goals (from Alan Hudson and Ian Britton) were merely consolations.

Eventually, in a season that saw Southampton, Manchester United and Norwich City relegated, we finished two places outside the bottom three in 18th. Let’s hope for a similar result this season. Or perhaps some classic 19th-century defending might see us home with a point – it’s not beyond us.

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