While Christmas Day matches now seem consigned to history, the tradition of Boxing Day matches has endured to the present day. Despite some calls within football for a mid-season break, many families and friends still love to experience some winter cheer through watching football at this chilly time of year.
101 years ago, Brighton & Hove Albion took the field on Boxing Day. Then, as now, their opponents were Reading. On 26th December 1913, 10,500 spectators watched the Southern League game at Elm Park end in a 2-1 victory for the home side. Third from the left in the back row in the first-team photo was inside-forward Bill Miller who hit Albion’s goal in the second half.
The first televised Albion match on Boxing Day came in 1958/59 when Fulham ran out convincing 3-1 winners at Craven Cottage in a Second Division match.
There was another Boxing Day defeat in 1966/67 when Division Three leaders Queens Park Rangers won 3-0 at Loftus Road. The result inspired Brighton manager Archie Macaulay to give 17-year-old utility player John Templeman his Albion debut in the return fixture. He was able to subdue the magic of Rodney Marsh enough for a 2-2 draw at Loftus Road the next day.
Perhaps the best all-round team display came in December 1978 when Alan Mullery’s Brighton strolled to a 5-0 victory over Cardiff City. Teddy Maybank’s superb hat-trick sent the Goldstone crowd home happy.
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Even so, the euphoria was topped a year later by a fondly remembered 3-0 success for the Seagulls over arch-rivals Crystal Palace in the top flight. On a frosty pitch, Brian Horton’s penalty paved the way, before Peter Ward and Gerry Ryan sealed the immaculate victory.
When Brighton dropped back to the Second Division, they still had the grit and skill to beat Crystal Palace 2-0 on Boxing Day 1983, with Danny Wilson and Neil Smillie on the scoresheet. In a shock move, Alan Mullery was now the Eagles manager.
Palace avenged this with a 2-0 win at Selhurst Park on Boxing Day 1986. By then, Mullery was back as Brighton boss. However, the Seagulls under Barry Lloyd did record a 3-1 triumph over Crystal Palace on Boxing Day 1988. You can see a photo of Kevin Bremner’s header for the opening goal in a subsequent matchday programme.
Lloyd had to wait another four years for another Boxing Day success, when an electric performance from Kurt Nogan helped Brighton to a convincing 3-0 win over Burnley at the Goldstone in December 1992. Watch out for an out-of-this-world finish from John Crumplin.
It was Albion’s last ever Boxing Day victory at the Goldstone.