Boxing Day football has supplied us with plenty of thrilling matches... but is it actually any better than other dates?

Are Boxing Day games REALLY more exciting? When were the most goals scored in the Premier League era? And who has the BEST December 26 record?

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British football’s Boxing Day tradition has acquired a mythological reputation over the years. 

Other nations might swaddle themselves in blankets for sporting hibernation and pat themselves on their backs for taking care of themselves, but not here. Not us. 

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Here, hordes of fans make the pilgrimage to frostbitten terraces on December 26 as winter settles its freezing rump across the footballing heartlands. 

And it’s not a begrudging trek. There’s genuine anticipation in that commitment, an expectation of something special. A noble hope that sacrificing frozen hands and ears in the name of football will bring some greater reward. 

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The Ghost of Christmas Goals Past feeds the narrative. Every year, we’re reminded of that Boxing Day – the one of 1963, when 66 goals were scored in ten top-flight games.

Boxing Day football has supplied us with plenty of thrilling matches... but is it actually any better than other dates?

Boxing Day football has supplied us with plenty of thrilling matches… but is it actually any better than other dates? 

That day, Burnley walloped Manchester United 6-1, Fulham thrashed Ipswich 10-2, and Blackburn notched an 8-2 away win at West Ham

In recent years, we’ve Manchester City triumph in a 6-3 thriller over Leicester, Arsenal trounce Norwich 5-0, and Bournemouth play out a 3-3 draw with West Ham with three late goals. 

Meanwhile, Liverpool have busted the net 16 times in their last four festive bank holiday meet-ups. So much for a Christmas hangover.

It all adds up to what feels a reasonable conclusion. Boxing Day football is special, right? 

Right? 

Well, the stats actually suggest that while there are indeed more goals per game on Boxing Day, it’s a minute difference. 

In Premier League history, it has served up an average of 2.71 goals per game, a minor increase on the norm of 2.67 goals across all games, according to Opta. 

Despite the greater number of goals, there are fewer shots in Boxing Day games – 26.3 compared to an average of 26.5 – so you could cruelly argue that goalkeepers are too distracted by their chattering teeth!

For all its great moments, Boxing Day only gives us 0.04 more goals per game than usual

For all its great moments, Boxing Day only gives us 0.04 more goals per game than usual

The most goal-heavy Premier League Boxing Day came in 1999, when there were 35 goals

The most goal-heavy Premier League Boxing Day came in 1999, when there were 35 goals

The chances of sitting through a dud 0-0 are pretty rare – only 30 of the 269 Premier League games to be played on Boxing Day have ended goalless. 

However, hopes of having a modern 1963 remake feel pretty far-fetched. The most bountiful Boxing Day in the Premier League era, that of 1999, only bestowed 35 goals upon us, just over half the haul of 1963.

In 1999, there were a few crazy scorelines as Everton vanquished a European-threatening Sunderland 5-0, while Manchester United and Tottenham recorded 4-0 wins.

But we’re still waiting on a day to come remotely close to 1963 on the bonkers scale. 

Do tempers flare more intensely in the biting cold? Ever so slightly – Boxing Day feeds us an average of 0.15 red cards per match, as opposed to a usual 0.14, and there are marginally more fouls.  

The 2007 edition of Chelsea vs Aston Villa was a particular thriller, blessed with both goals and heated moments. 

There were three red cards when Chelsea played Aston Villa in 2007 - and Boxing Day games do see slightly more fouls

There were three red cards when Chelsea played Aston Villa in 2007 – and Boxing Day games do see slightly more fouls

Chelsea came from 2-0 down to establish a 4-3 lead going into stoppage time, but Gareth Barry scored a 92nd minute penalty on a day when Zat Knight, Ricardo Carvalho, and Ashley Cole were sent off. 

Perhaps the stats can give us some intriguing forecasts for the Boxing Day to come. 

Manchester United have the best record of any side on Boxing Day in the Premier League era, winning 21 of 27 matches and only losing twice.  

In those games, United have scored 71 and conceded just 27, accumulating 67 points – an average of 2.48 per game. 

Meanwhile, Aston Villa rank fairly weakly, winning just five of their 25 assignments and accruing 0.84ppg – a feeble record which is foreboding for their trip to Old Trafford this season. 

Whichever angel is top of the tree on Boxing Day typically navigates it with little trouble. 

Manchester United have a brilliant December 26 record, winning 21 of their 27 games

Manchester United have a brilliant December 26 record, winning 21 of their 27 games

Boxing Day records of EVERY current Premier League team, 1992-present (ranked by points per game)
Rank  Team Played  Won  Drawn  Lost  For  Against  GD  Pts  PPG  
1 Manchester United 27   21  71  27  44  67  2.48  
Arsenal  25  16  47  20  27  55  2.2  
Liverpool  25  16  52  19  33  53  2.12  
Tottenham  26  15  53  21  32  53  2.04  
Manchester City   21  12  43  25  18  38  1.8  
Chelsea   28  13  46  34  12  48  1.71   
7 Everton  28  11  10  38  33  40  1.42   
8 Brighton  1.4   
9 West Ham  21  39  29  10  28  1.33   
10  Fulham  15  15  18  -3  17  1.13   
11 Crystal Palace  13  16  -8  14  1.08   
12 Nottingham Forest  4 1 2 1 -6   
13 Aston Villa  25  14  28  38  -10  21  0.84   
14 Burnley  10  -5  0.83   
15  Wolves  -5  0.8   
16 Newcastle United  24  15  31  44  -13  19  0.79   
17  Bournemouth  12  -8  0.6   
18  Brentford  -2  0.5   
19  Sheffield United  -4  0.4   
20  Luton   

Boxing Day 1963, Division One results

In 1963, Boxing Day served up 66 goals! 

Blackpool 1-5 Chelsea

Burnley 6-1 Manchester United

Fulham 10-1 Ipswich

Leicester 2-0 Everton

Liverpool 6-1 Stoke

Nottingham Forest 3-3 Sheffield United

Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 Bolton

West Brom 4-4 Tottenham 

West Ham 2-8 Blackburn

Wolves 3-3 Aston Villa 

In 28 Premier League games on December 26, the table-toppers have won 19, drawn six, and only lost three. 

Arsenal have the second-best Boxing Day record of any team in history, winning 16 of 25 outings and drawing seven. 

Their opponents this year, West Ham, aren’t too shabby themselves, winning, drawing, and losing seven in 21 games.  

Near the bottom of the pile, Bournemouth and Sheffield United are still waiting for their first Boxing Day win after five attempts, while Brentford haven’t won either of their two goes so far. 

The Bees will have to wait until at least next year to make amends, as they host Wolves on December 27 this time around. 

Newcastle have a surprisingly shambolic record, winning a meagre five of 24 Boxing Day tests and losing 15. 

Coventry, currently in the Championship, surprisingly have the third-best points per game record in Premier League Boxing Day history, gaining 17 points from eight games, with five wins. 

If you’re looking for a Boxing Day saviour, Harry Kane would usually be your man. 

He holds the gong for the top scorer in the date’s history, notching 10 strikes in seven games. 

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None of the current Premier League contingent come close to that. 

We’re probably not in line for a record-busting day this year in terms of goals, simply because there are only five games being played on December 26 amid a packed festive calendar

All the same, it should be exciting if the last couple of years are to go by.   

Out of 13 Boxing Day ties in the last two years, eight have been won by the visitors, giving hope for some upsets this time round. 

Perhaps the magic of December 26 is akin to that of the FA Cup, something oozing with nostalgia that, regardless of whether we feel it convenient or not, we must keep alive in order to preserve the uniqueness of the British game.





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