So, Boxing Day 2009 was a break with tradition due to the weather, as a change of plan involved a Saturday afternoon in the company of Jeff Stelling.
My first Boxing Day (Just to clarify, ‘Boxing Day’ refers to the meeting between Linfield and Glentoran on Boxing Day each year, rather than the actual day itself, as if it actually needed explaining) was in 1991, and was my first ever football match. It finished 3-3 that year, and I was hooked. All the 8 year old me remembers is loads of noise and excitement. It was also the year I got my first two football kits, the then Adidas made Man United shirts of the time. 1991 was most definately an eventful milestone of a christmas.
In 1992, the clash was held at Windsor Park (as is tradition when the year ends in an even number. It’s easy to remember, it’s held at The Oval when the year ends in an odd number, and Glentoran most definately are an odd bunch)
Like the year before, all I can remember is excitement, noise and a 2-0 win. And getting home late as the home fans were kept behind on police advice.
By now, I was loving the Boxing Day experience, and come the final whistle, was already counting down until the following year’s game.
In 1993, Boxing Day was held on December 27th. Why? It was a Sunday and we don’t play football on a Sunday, so in that situation, Boxing Day gets rescheduled to the 27th.
An easy routine 2-0 win for Linfield. The return fixture, would go down in legend.
By November 1994, me and a friend that lived down the street from me and his mates from school were all now attending Windsor Park regularly.
So, we were all excited about that year’s Boxing Day game until my dad had to ruin it all by wanting to go.
How can I be rude and obnoxious and shout abuse at opposition players and referees when i’m with my dad?
After two successive victories, a 1-1 draw was a major culture shock.
Normal service was resumed in 1995 in a memorable and infamous game which got worldwide acclaim on clipshows (including Fantasy Football and They Think It’s All Over) as the Orange ball which was used in the snow burst at half-time, and the ref had no option but to play with a white ball. Throwing snowballs at Glens players and winning 3-0. What a christmas.
Stephen Watson, then a young reporter for UTV commented that the win saw Linfield slide up the table, displaying all the skills he needs to be BBCNI’s main sports anchorman
The following year was the first of four successive draws. A 0-0 at Windsor was not much to write about.
In 1997, I saw something I never thought i’d see, Roy Coyle in the Glentoran dugout. The 1-1 draw didn’t help either side, with both losing out in the title race to Cliftonville.
Back to Windsor in 1998 for a 1-1 draw, played in the midst of a near hurricane. Houses in Belfast lost electricity and the roof on a stand at Mourneview Park blew off during the game but we still played on at Windsor, because men are men, unlike in 2009 where a little bit of frost cancels 5/6ths of the fixture list.
The last Boxing Day of the 90s/century/millenium was a 1-1 draw, which wasn’t exactly dropped points due to Linfield having a double figure lead at the time, running away to a first title in 6 years. Strangely, the sides met 5 days later in a re-arranged County Antrim Shield game. On New Year’s Eve 1999, the last ever football match of the 20th century.
What a way to go out, playing for a shitty shield that nobody wants.
The first Boxing Day of the 21st Century saw Linfield running away with the league and this game billed as Glentoran’s last chance to stay in the title race. Tim McCann was most vocal in the media about how Glentoran “Always come good in the big games”.
The old mantra of “Glentoran say, Linfield do” was never more evident as first half goals from Tony Gorman and Gavin Arthur ensured a 2-0 Linfield win.
In 2001, it ended 3-3, like in 1991. I’m already excited about 2011, although hopefully Linfield will be so far clear at that point, we can afford to drop two points.
The draw was put into perspective by the tragic events that day, as football paled into an irrelevance, as it was announced that Steps had split up.
The 2002-2003 season was a non-event, and so was the Boxing Day after the 10th minute as it finished 1-1.
The following year will simply be known as “The Stuart King Show”. What a day. I was working on the floor in The Globe that night. I couldn’t care how cuntish the spidey little fucks that frequented The Globe behaved, Linfield hade just stuffed Glentoran.
By this point, Linfield were one game away from being 15 years unbeaten. On Boxing Day 1989, Band Aid II was Number One. On Boxing Day 2004, with Linfield already 6 points behind Glentoran, Band Aid 20 was Number One.
If we lost that match, Bob Geldof and Midge ure would have received some hate mail through the post.
We didn’t lose, although the 1-1 draw felt like a defeat.
The following year, normal order was restored with a 4-1 win at The Oval. We even missed penalty at 4-0. I love Boxing Day when the year ends in 5. I’m already excited about 2015.
By 2006, I was doing the final year of a degree and was picking my matches living on a student budget. Like 2002 and 2004, a 1-1 draw having gone in front felt like a defeat.
2007 will have a blank space next to it as the unthinkable happened. It was live on Sky with a 5.20pm kick-off. My mates decided to take advantage of the extra 2 hours and 20 minutes extra drinking time, while the only one with a driving licence (me, for fuck sake) is knocking back the water.
We were to meet a mate outside the ground to give him his ticket. He was late. As a result, i’m stood loitering at the top of Dee Street looking like a fucking drug dealer. He caused us to miss the first 10 minutes. We ended up thanking him as it meant we only got to see 80 minutes of that fucking shambles.
Thankfully, normal order was restored in 2008. the mate who delayed us in 2007 was now married and spending Boxing Day with the in-laws. He phoned me at 5pm that day to get the score. He replied by saying it sounded like an amazing match.
Now, beating Glentoran 3-0, them missing a penalty, Linfield having a player sent off and the PSNI beating the shite out of Legion 1882, the fruitiest firm ever sounds exciting, it was actually quite tame in comparison with past meetings in history, and even past Boxing Day encounters.
But still, i’m not complaining, a joyous day was heading, heading to The Eg to watch a bit of English Premiership action, then a celebratory Chippy Cheese in Stranmillis on the way home.
The ‘fearsome’ Legion 1882 sing “Where’s your famous section F?”, which isn’t really worthy of a response, especially as “Over there, it’s quite clearly signposted” doesn’t really work as a football chant.
To give you an idea of what the Legion are like, forget Section F, if they saw Test Card F, they’d be running crying to their mums.
So, as I finish typing, it is now 364 days until the next Boxing Day, which is to be held on Monday 27th December 2010. Mark it in you diaries. I know I have.