AS always there is a full programme of football matches on Boxing Day, as well as on December 28/29, while there are also 10 Premiership games scheduled for New Year’s Day before 64 teams compete in the third round of the FA Cup between January 3-6. This is why clubs have such big squads!
On Boxing Day, there are two London derbies in the Premiership – Arsenal against QPR at The Emirates and Chelsea v West Ham United at Stamford Bridge. Manchester United play Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion entertain the reigning champions Manchester City.
In the Championship, it’s much-improved Birming-ham City v Derby County, high-flying AFC Bournemouth v Fulham, in-form Brentford v Ipswich Town, Middlesbrough v Nottingham Forest and Watford v Wolves.
The big games in FL1 are Bristol City against Yeovil Town, Notts County v MK Dons and Walsall v Swindon Town, while Burton Albion meet Tranmere Rovers, New-port County play Plymouth Argyle, Oxford United welcome Shrews-bury Town and Wycombe Wanderers entertain Luton Town in FL2.
Then, a few days after Christmas everything kicks off again in the PL with Manchester City against Burnley, Newcastle United v Everton, QPR versus Crystal Palace, Southam-pton v Chelsea, Spurs against Manchester United and West Ham United v Arsenal.
Elsewhere the top games in the other three domestic Divisions are Blackburn Rovers v Middlesbrough, Derby County v Leeds United, Ipswich Town v Charlton Athletic, Millwall v AFC Bournemouth and Wolves v Brentford, Gillingham v Bristol City, and Swindon Town v Port Vale, Luton Town v Ports-mouth and Shrewsbury Town v Wycombe Wanderers, plus Celtic v Ross County and Inverness Caley Thistle v Aberdeen in the SPL.
On to the FA Cup, and here are my pick of the ties:
AFC Wimbledon v Liverpool (a repeat of the 1988 final), Arsenal v Hull City (who met in last year’s final), Aston Villa v Blackpool, Blyth Spartans v Birmingham City, Burnley v Tottenham Hotspur (remember their 1962 showdown at Wembley?), Chelsea v Watford, Dover Athletic v Crystal Palace, Everton v West Ham United, Fulham v Wolves, Leicester City v New-castle United, Man-chester City v Sheffield Wednesday, Sunderland v Leeds United (you must recall Ian Porterfield’s winner for the Wear-siders in the 1973 final), West Bromwich Albion v Gates-head and Yeovil Town v Manchester United.
At least six of these matches will be live on TV (various channels).
Away from football, and right now, running through until early January, we have the William Hill World Darts Championship from London which will be followed by the BDO World Championship from Lakeside.
For horse racing fans, there is the King George VI Chase meeting from Kempton Park (starting on Boxing Day) and on December 27 it’s the Coral-sponsored Welsh Grand National from Chepstow. And we have the Women’s European Handball championships from Croatia and Hungary.
Looking into my 2015 ‘Golden Globe,’ wouldn’t it be great to see the following: England’s cricketers win every Test Match they play in 2015; Rory McIlroy triumph in every golf competition he takes part in; Lewis Hamilton repeat his Formula 1 Grand Prix exploits by winning the driver’s championship for a third time; Amir Khan continue beating his opponents in the ring; GB’s athletes collect medals galore in track and field events; England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales all register record breaking victories in Six Nations matches; and Andy Murray win three major tennis tournaments (at least).
While in football let’s see an outsider win the FA Cup, perhaps the Champions League, even the Europa League and that both Lionel Messi (Barcelona) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) continue to score goals, especially in La Liga but not against British clubs in European competitions.
And finally that my forthcoming books (all due for publication next summer) on (a) Steven Gerrard, (b) Ryan Giggs and (c) West Bromwich Albion (Baggies Abroad) sell like wildfire!
CHRISTMAS FOOTY FACTS
• The first-ever League game played on Christmas Day ended Preston North End 3 Aston Villa 2 in 1889.
• Derek Dooley was the first manager to be sacked on Christmas Day – dismissed by Sheffield Wednesday in 1977.
• West Bromwich Albion, bottom of the Premiership at Christmas 2004, avoided relegation – the first team to achieve this.
• In 1936, Wrexham’s Ambrose Brown was the first player to get sent-off in a League game on Christmas Day, taking an early bath against Hull City.
And a very Happy Christmas to you all.