First of all, a very merry Christmas to all of you. Wherever you’re celebrating the day, however you’re celebrating the day, or even if you’re not celebrating the day, a very merry Christmas indeed.
All last week in the run-up to the 500th match at the Madejski Stadium (let’s forget about that one, shall we?), and indeed throughout December, we’ve been piling on the nostalgia. Besides sharing some of our favourite Mad Stad memories, there have also been special Reading-related moments behind our advent calendar doors.
What better way to mark Christmas Day itself by looking back at Reading’s record on the day itself? Yes, it’s been a while since the Royals had such a festive fixture, but in fact it used to happen quite a lot - as this piece from Four Four Two explains, games on December 25 were a proper festive tradition.
Between 1920 and 1953, the Royals played nine home games on Christmas Day - we couldn’t find the away records - all of them of course at Elm Park. Generally speaking, the games were fairly high-scoring (there were at least four goals on 5/9 occasions), and Reading tended to come out on top. Overall, our record reads:
Goals for: 19
Goals against: 15
However, things got off to a bad start with a 3-2 loss at home to bitter rivals Swindon Town, the Robins coming away from Elm Park with a narrow victory in 1920, in front of around 8,000 spectators. A similar number of punters were in attendance for the visit of Bristol Rovers three years later, although the Royals turned the scoreline on its head to themselves snatch a 3-2 win.
Reading were unbeaten in their final four Christmas games at Elm Park before the Second World War. Three of those again came against Swindon Town - a 2-0 win (1925), 2-2 draw (1936) and a 2-1 victory (1937). Amidst all of that, the Royals edged Fulham 1-0 in 1926, one year before they would reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup for the first time in their history.
Three years after the end of World War Two, Reading were beaten 2-0 by Swansea City - 14,621 Loyal Royals packing into Elm Park in the highest ever attended Christmas Day match at our old ground. Another three years after that came the Royals’ only post-war win on December 25, with Reading trashing rivals Aldershot Town by five goals to one. 1953 saw the last ever time that Reading played a home game on Christmas Day - a 4-2 loss to Torquay United.
The 1950s saw the gradual death of Christmas Day football in general - this from Four Four Two:
“In 1958 there were only three First Division matches played on December 25, and in 1959 just one. The last English League match played on Christmas Day was Blackpool versus Blackburn in 1965. A crowd of 21,000 turned up to see Blackpool win 4-2.”
Realistically, I don’t think a revival of festive footie could work in the modern game. Too many other things are now set fixtures of the standard British December 25, whether you’re watching Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, or yet another showing of The Muppet Christmas Carol (as I am whilst writing this - it’s incredible, right?).
Plus, it would inevitably lead to wall-to-wall televised games, with Sky Sports broadcasting one match that coincides with your Christmas meal, another with the Queen’s Speech, and the last with a round of tipsy charades in the evening.
After all, we’ve got Boxing Day to look forward to instead. Well, not if you consider how badly things are going for Reading at the moment...