It’s time for Boxing Day thrills, spills and memorable moments

There have been great goals, refereeing controversies and last minute turnarounds

Over the last few seasons, Boxing Day fixtures for Hammers’ fans have meant slightly less than they had previously. Sadly, being attached to a shopping centre means that playing at the London Stadium on 26th December is a thing of the past – except for that one time that everyone had to stay at home for Christmas anyway.

But that doesn’t mean the fixtures can’t still be thrilling occasions. Boxing Day football is a tradition that is comforting for fans, despite the annual argument over festive fixture congestion. Having said all this, as a season ticket holder in my teens throughout the mid-noughties, we didn’t make a home Boxing Day game. Possibly like a lot of families, my Dad had decided long in advance of the fixture list being announced that Boxing Day was ‘recovery day’.

Despite living in Romford, the hassle of getting to Upton Park in the post-Christmas sales traffic meant leaving early for a three o’clock kick off. After the late night and the few fizzy drinks from the night before, we were never really up for the challenge. I do have one particular favourite memory of a Boxing Day game in the form of a Trevor Sinclair screamer; goal of the year 2001, in fact.

We played Derby at home on Boxing Day 01/02 and won 4-0. Schemmel and Di Canio already had us 2-0 up when one of the most glorious goals scored in my lifetime came along – I’m sure you all remember. Di Canio took a corner in front of the Bobby Moore stand and it was floated to Joe Cole, who stood on the edge of the Derby box. He then beautifully controlled it and sent it through the air to Tricky Trev, who duly scissor-kicked past Mart Poom.

The ball didn’t touch the floor from the corner and it was utterly beautiful. Happy Christmas indeed!
Co-incidentally, it had been 365 days since Sinclair had scored for West Ham, another Boxing Day beauty in 2000, this time against Charlton. Harry Redknapp’s side put up a 5-0 win, with Trevor scoring the fourth with a stunning 25-yard volley after controlling the defensive header with a flick up. He rarely scored average goals, right?

The most memorable Boxing Day game in recent history has to be the 3-3 draw with Bournemouth in 2017 under David Moyes’ first reign. With 80 minutes gone at the Vitality Stadium, the Cherries were two goals to one up. Up stepped an in-form Arnautovic to score two in 10 minutes to put the Hammers ahead.  

But the drama wasn’t over yet. Callum Wilson (who else?) would go on to score an injury time leveller for Bournemouth in controversial circumstances. He headed the ball on to his arm and into the net, leaving Adrian to pick the ball back out again, leading the protests. At the same time, the linesman stood with his flag up for offside against Wilson, which was ignored by Bobby Madley.

This was, of course, pre-VAR. The line of questioning for Moyes after the game was whether technology could have handed West Ham the win that day. He diplomatically stated that the refereeing standards were better in England than he had seen in Spain, but was clearly disappointed at the duo of poor decisions. Earlier this year, Wilson himself was asked about the goal when reminiscing and admitted that it wouldn’t have counted with VAR in play.

So that’s two thrilling wins and a disappointing draw to speak of; memorable for varying reasons. But statistically speaking, West Ham sides don’t love playing on Boxing Day and their form on this date speaks volumes.

From 2010 to 2020 we played eight times in the Premier League on December 26th. We only won two of those fixtures, against Fulham and Swansea. We let in 14 goals, with five sides letting in more than that. However, seven teams did have a worse average goal difference.

BBC also put together a handy Boxing Day league taking into account Premier League Boxing Day fixtures up to 2020, in which West Ham appeared ninth, with a worrying 36.8% win percentage, sandwiched between Blackburn Rovers and Southampton.

It’s fair to say that the last few years have reflected this festive disappointment. In 2019, West Ham slumped to a last minute defeat to Crystal Palace thanks to a Jordan Ayew goal in the dying stages. There was then a draw against bogey team Brighton on Boxing Day 2020. We did come from 2-1 down to rescue a point, which is better than being ahead and sinking to a draw.

Last year the Hammers twice came from behind to level with Southampton, before succumbing to a 70th minute winner by Bednarek. So let’s hope this year for the right type of drama in our favour and a memorable game for the Boxing Day archives.

We’ll be playing Arsenal under the lights after the World Cup break, so it’s very tricky to call.  The Gunners are on the crest of a wave at the moment so Santa is going to have to be very generous to David Moyes and his side this year!

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