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Christmas Changes for The Hammers
Today teams play on Boxing Day but in the past Christmas was a very busy time for professional footballers and spectators. In the 1940s and 1950s teams would regularly have back to back league fixtures on Christmas and Boxing Day. Typically the back to back games would be home and away matches against the same local team. The last time the Hammers had Christmas back to back games was in December 1958, the season after winning promotion to Division One. On Christmas Day the Hammers were hosts to Spurs and then reversed the fixture for Boxing Day. The club were recipients of good Christmas tidings as they wrapped up four league points from completing the double over Spurs. A 2-1 home win was followed by a 4-1 victory at White Hart Lane.
At Christmas time it is an opportunity to reflect on how football’s approach to the festive time has changed. I have a couple of festive recollections though I’m sure there are many more. Even ignoring the more recent players’ Christmas parties with their well publicised antics.
There is no truth in any rumours that the only Christmas turkeys you will see at Upton Park will be running around the pitch. For West Ham Football Club another custom used to be giving the players a Christmas turkey. This custom may have started in Charles Paynter’s reign at Upton Park. I certainly recall reading about players receiving a turkey in the mid 1950s. A couple of pictures capture this West Ham Christmas custom. One is from the 1960s (right) and the other is from the decade before.
The 1959 shot below sees the players queuing up behind a butcher’s van for their bird after a training session. Left to right is Vic Keeble, Malcolm Musgrove, John Bond partially hidden by Noel Dwyer, Harry Obeney, Ken Brown, (youth player), Mike Grice, Bobby Moore and Phil Woosnam. The second local press picture captures Peter Brabrook, Billy Bonds, Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters and John Sissons receiving their Christmas fare in December 1967.
Receiving a turkey in the 1950s and 1960s would have been appreciated far more than it would today. In the 1950s and 1960s a roast turkey dinner was a special meal and for most families an annual event whereas today roast turkey is no longer that exclusive. The Mr.Scrooge in me wonders how players today would react to an offer of a Christmas turkey. In the 1950s players may have been happy to jump on the local bus to collect their turkey but would today’s players jump in their Mercedes or Ferrari to collect a turkey? Have a happy Christmas and let’s hope the Christmas cheer extends to three points on Boxing Day!
Alan Sealey, Jim Standen and Roger Hugo
all get the Bird...