Your brand-new Sparta Laconia’s are nestled in prime position underneath the tree and your Sparta branded snood warming over the fireplace after a training session in the snow. Yes, it truly is Christmas time yet again.
Other than a time where companies are shamelessly plugging their merchandise in a desperate attempt to grab the appeal of the last-minute shoppers, it is also a time of unrelenting festive football. The British tradition of labouring our professional footballers for our entertainment over the Christmas period shows no sign in ceasing.
The wintery weather + the fatigue from a ridiculous amount of games can be a recipe for disaster and equally so, Christmas miracles can unfold between the sticks as they did one faithful night in Bethlehem.
This week we take a look at some Christmassy goalkeeping stories.
Sam Bartram – Not the Foggiest
Chelsea V CHARLTON ATHLETIC, Christmas Day 1937
Festive football is as much of a staple of our December as consuming 12,000 calories a day for a month, cause ‘**** it, it’s Christmas.’
Up until the 1950’s Christmas Day football was as synonymous with the religious festival as pigs in blankets, with another game usually taking place on Boxing Day.
In a pre-war fixture between Chelsea and Charlton at Stamford Bridge on 25th December 1937, thick fog saw the game abandoned after 61 minutes. Naturally the players retreated to the changing rooms. That was everyone, but Charlton ‘keeper Sam Bartram.
Bartram, completely oblivious that he was the solitary figure on the pitch, thought that his side were penning Chelsea’s defence so far back into their own half that he couldn’t even see a red or blue shirt around him.
Delighted at his teams perceived dominance away from home, Bartram paced about his own goalmouth before around 20 minutes after his counterparts had marched to their early baths, a policeman emerged from the all-immersing fog to drop the bombshell that he was playing a game that had finished a quarter of an hour ago.
Much to the hysterics of his teammates, who had long since been ready to board the team coach, Bartram sheepishly made his way back to the changing room, feeling very much like a Christmas turkey.
Petr Cech – Blue Christmas for Chelsea defence
CHELSEA V Aston Villa, Boxing Day 2007
70 years on in the same arena as Sam Bertram, a hatted Petr Cech would look quite the Christmas pudding.
They may have lost their previous two home games, but in back in December 2007, Chelsea had been impenetrable at Stamford Bridge since their first title winning season of 2004/05.
However, thanks to a weak display from goalkeeper and defence, they very nearly lost that record to an Aston Villa side also at the peak of their recent powers.
Chelsea were all at sea and after Sean Maloney’s opener and thirty minutes later, Maloney would double the lead from 20 yards. Cech went down on one knee to gather but got his angles all wrong and the ball squirmed up off his arm and into the corner of the net.
The Blues played almost all of the second half against ten men but would concede twice more after they were able to pull it back to 2-2 and then taking the lead twice, succumbing to a last-minute penalty to draw Villa level at 4-4.
Two Premier League defences, who at the time were amongst the most solids, endured a torrid time in the festive thriller and Petr Cech’s uncharacteristic error epitomised the sluggish defence.
Neil Finn - Young Lang Zyne
Manchester City v WEST HAM UNITED, New Years Day 1996
You may never have heard of Neil Finn, but in the early years of the Premier League he smashed the record for the youngest ever player since the competition’s inception in 1992 and remains the leagues youngest ever goalkeeper.
New Years Day in 1996 saw West Ham travel to Maine Road to face a struggling Man City, where Finn would start his first and only professional game at just 17 years and three days.
First choice, Ludek Miklosko was suspended after a red card in the previous game against Everton and Les Sealey had suffered a training ground injury, which left Harry Redknapp with little choice but to turn to Finn, who had made only a handful of appearances for the reserves.
Donning Miklosko’s oversized jersey, Finn looked the proverbial fish out of water, but put in a very respectful display for one of such inexperience.
City won the game 2-1 courtesy of a Niall Quinn double, but was far from the barrage that many would have anticipated, and the teenager was able to walk off the Maine Road pitch with his chest puffed out and his head held high.
Finn, who won the FA Youth Cup that year in the very same team as Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard, would never make another professional appearance and after being released by West Ham in 1998, did not play for six years, joining Romford in 2004.
Roy Bailey - Christmas Stuffing
Fulham v IPSWICH TOWN, Boxing Day 1963
The Boxing Day of 1963 has been engrained in the football history books. A mammoth 66 goals were scored in the top flight across ten games, which included two 3-3 draws, an 8-2 and a 6-1.
Not to be outdone, and surely after their opponents had enjoyed one too many sherries on Christmas Day, Fulham managed double figures against an Ipswich side who unsurprisingly were relegated at the end of the season.
Roy Bailey would face the indignity of picking the ball out his net ten times in a First Division game. In a supposed season of good will to all men, Fulham were in no mood to share the sentiment at Craven Cottage.
Astonishingly, Ipswich would actually beat Fulham in the reverse fixture just two days later but Boxing day The Cottagers inflicted the third worst defeat in English top flight history.
Graham Laggatt and Bobby Layfield helping themselves to a hattrick each, with the late Bobby Robson also getting in on the act.
Unfortunately, there is little in the way of match reports from the St Stephen’s day fixture to gage how if any at all that Bailey was at fault for, but regardless it was surely one of the worst days of the South African’s career and a blight on his record.