There’s a big weekend ahead in the Premier League and Boxing Day fixtures in the past have certainly thrown up plenty of drama and eyebrow-raising scorelines. Here’s an XI made up from players who had an eventful Christmas period on the pitch.
Goalkeeper: Boaz Myhill
Hull City’s performance on Boxing Day 2008 drained manager Phil Brown of any Christmas spirit, with the Tigers boss surreally berating his players on the Etihad pitch at half-time following a first 45 minutes that saw goalkeeper Boaz Myhill concede four times. Brown hoped that the very public ear-bashing would inspire his players to a festive fightback but Manchester City ended up running out as comfortable 5-1 winners come the full-time whistle. If you fancy a goalkeeper challenge, try naming the Southampton ‘keepers who helped the Saints shock Arsenal on Boxing Day 2015 and Chelsea on Boxing Day 2019.
Right-back: Hermann Hreidarsson
Former Iceland international Hermann Hreidarsson fills in at right-back for the Boxing Day XI, with his first-minute goal for Charlton against title-chasing Chelsea on Boxing Day 2003 acting as the catalyst for a thrilling game at the Valley. Hreidarsson’s header after just 45 seconds was quickly cancelled out by a John Terry equaliser but the Addicks were in the middle of their greatest ever Premier League season and were 4-1 ahead early in the second half. Hreidarsson’s international team-mate Eidur Gudjohnsen pulled one back for Claudio Ranieri’s side late on but Charlton held firm to record an upset win over their London rivals.
none of these would get in the charlton side that beat chelsea on boxing day 2003 pic.twitter.com/CMOtbhxiyl
— steffan (@SteffanBlayney) August 28, 2020
Centre-back: Zat Knight
Going back to the 2008/09 season, on the same day as Phil Brown failed to liven up his Hull City players, Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa side did manage to give their boss a late Christmas present. Arsenal were the visitors to Villa Park and looked to be on course to overtake their hosts in the top four of the Premier League, with the Gunners 2-0 up in the second half. The home team saw three chances hit the woodwork but Gareth Barry (more on him later) did manage to pull one back from the penalty spot before West Midlands native Zat Knight scored in extra-time to dramatically earn his side a vital point.
Centre-back: Jonny Evans
Newcastle United fans won’t have fond memories of games ending in 4-3, with Boxing Day 2012 delivering another late sucker punch to the Magpies. Alan Pardew’s side took a shock lead at Old Trafford before Jonny Evans equalised for Manchester United in the 25th minute. However, the Northern Irish international knocked a cross into his own net just three minutes later to restore the away team’s advantage. The Red Devils pulled it back to 2-2 in the second half before two more quick-fire goals from made it 3-3 Alex Ferguson’s side weren’t finished though and Javier Hernandez turned in Geordie-born Michael Carrick’s perfectly weighted pass to gift Manchester United three points. Ferguson also received an unexpected Boxing Day present from Newcastle’s neighbours, with Sunderland defeating the Red Devils’ title rivals Manchester City on the same day.
Left-back: Ricardo Gardner
Ten years before Chicarito ruined Newcastle’s Christmas, the Magpies were on the end of another 4-3 defeat in Greater Manchester. The Boxing Day fixtures in the 2002/03 season saw Bobby Robson’s side visit the Reebok Stadium to take on a Bolton team in a relegation scrap. Newcastle needed three points to break into the top four but Ricardo Gardner set up new signing Jay-Jay Okocha to put the Trotters ahead before Gardner scored a fantastic free-kick to give Sam Allardyce’s side the advantage after just nine minutes. Michael Ricketts added two more to put Bolton 4-1 ahead but Shola Ameobi’s deflected shot and Alan Shearer’s 350th career goal made for a tense final ten minutes. It certainly wasn’t the most wonderful time of year for Newcastle but both teams ended up getting what they wished for, with the Magpies finishing in third and Bolton escaping the drop in 17th.
Defensive midfield: Gareth Barry
It wasn’t quite a blue Christmas for Chelsea back in 2007, but there was plenty of red as three players were sent off in a thrilling Boxing Day match that ended 4-4. Aston Villa were the visitors to Stamford Bridge and went two up before Zat Knight saw red for fouling Michael Ballack in the box just before half-time. Andriy Shevchenko pulled one back from the spot before equalising early in the second half and Chelsea soon made the most of the numbers game, with Alex putting the Blues ahead for the first time. However, Villa’s Danish hero Martin Laursen volleyed in a leveller before Ricardo Carvalho saw red for a two-footed tackle on Gabriel Agbonlahor. A superb Ballack free-kick three minutes from the end was soon cancelled out by a Gareth Barry penalty in extra time after Ashley Cole handled on the line. A true Christmas cracker for the neutral.
Central midfield: Juninho
Brazilian maestro Juninho made gave Middlesbrough fans a Boxing Day to remember in 1996 in a 4-2 thriller after scoring two second-half goals against Everton to give Bryan Robson’s side three vital points in their battle against the drop. An exciting first half saw the teams go in level at the break, with Craig Hignett and Clayton Blackmore scoring for ‘Boro whilst a David Unsworth penalty and a classic Duncan Ferguson header put the Toffees in contention for all three points. However, the much-loved Juninho sent the home fans wild, with a delightful give-and-go goal with Fabrizio Ravanelli the icing on the Teesside Christmas cake.
Central midfield: Brian McClair
Manchester United’s victory over Sheffield Wednesday late in the 1992/93 season is perhaps the most well-remembered match of the campaign but the reverse fixture on Boxing Day also provided plenty of drama. Yorkshire’s finest David Hirst put the Owls up after just two minutes before Mark Bright added another shortly after. John Sheridan scored a third in the second half to give Trevor Francis’ side a seemingly unassailable lead with less than 30 minutes remaining. However, a characteristic Manchester United comeback was on the cards after Brian McClair scored twice before enigmatic Frenchman Eric Cantona equalised to help the Red Devils’ title bid on track. McClair was at it again two years later, scoring the winner for the Red Devils in a 3-2 win over Chelsea on Boxing Day in the 1994/95 season.
Striker: Jason Roberts
Another 4-3 Christmas classic occurred 15 years ago, with Wigan Athletic stunning Manchester City on Boxing Day in the 2005/06 season. It looked as if both defences were suffering from a Christmas hangover after several mistakes at the back were punished in a goal fest at the DW Stadium. Latics striker Jason Roberts took advantage of a botched clearance attempt to score his first goal before City defender Ben Thatcher unwittingly set up the Grenada forward for his second to put Paul Jewell’s side 3-1 up at the break. A fight-back from the Citizens late in the game saw them pull it back to 4-3 but Stuart Pearce’s team couldn’t find an equaliser and the result left the City boss bemoaning his side’s yuletide brain-farts.
Striker: Callum Wilson
The Christmas period in 2017 certainly delivered plenty of gifts to the neutrals with the bore draw between West Brom and Everton the only dud. Bournemouth and West Ham served up a feast of goals in a relegation six-pointer at the Vitality and saved the best action for the last ten minutes of the match. The Cherries had a 2-1 lead going into the 80th minute, having come from behind following a superb James Collins header early on. Bournemouth ‘keeper Asmir Begovic then gave Marko Arnautovic a late Xmas present, falling at the feet of the Austrian, allowing an easy finish. Arnautovic bagged another eight minutes later to seemingly tie up all three points for David Moyes’ side but a controversial Callum Wilson goal that was initially flagged as offside salvaged a point for Eddie Howe’s men.
Striker: Harry Kane
On the same day as Bournemouth and West Ham shared the points, Tottenham’s Harry Kane took home the match ball from Tottenham’s clash with Southampton as a late Christmas gift after netting a hat-trick. The England striker surpassed Alan Shearer’s record of 36 goals in a calendar year following his exploits in a 5-2 win at Wembley. Dimitar Berbatov is another player who bagged three goals on Boxing Day, with the skilful Bulgarian achieving the feat in Manchester United’s 5-0 win against Wigan in 2011, whilst Thierry Henry left Leicester players wishing that they stayed at home for Christmas in 2000 after scoring a hat-trick in a 6-1 win for Arsenal at Highbury.
James Wiles – whose Instagram has a whole load more XIs