The countdown to Christmas is almost over, and the festivities bring with it a feast of football. Since moving away from the north east, one of the best parts of this time of year is getting back up home to watch the lads. Even better is when a home game falls on Boxing Day.
The event of playing at home on Boxing Day feels like one of the true and genuine traditions left in the game. Those teams who are fortunate to be handed a home fixture tend to promote the fact across social media well in advance.
This year, it’s been wonderful to see SAFC ramp up calls for fans to come along to the match against Blackburn Rovers by adding £1 of each ticket sold will be donated towards the Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen Fundraiser. Knowing that I’ve been able to contribute further to the fundraiser whilst visiting the SoL is a great feeling.
I used to perhaps take Boxing Day home games for granted when I was a local. For many years through the Mick McCarthy and Roy Keane years my dad and I would go along to the Stadium of Light to enjoy some festive football.
A personal highlight from Boxing Day trips to the SoL of the past was in 2006. Under Roy Keane, Sunderland were moving up the gears. Dennis Wise brought his Leeds United side to Wearside and left empty handed as goals from David Connolly and Grant Leadbitter sent the Lads home with a 2-0 win.
In more recent years, I’ve been back home for Christmas and therefore able to get to a ticket as close to my dad and his mates’ season ticket seats. As they sit near the South West Corner, this tends to be tricky.
I had the pleasure of attending the 1-0 win against Bradford back in 2018 when a record high League One crowd packed the SoL. Aiden McGeady sent us all home happy. Sadly, 12 months later, things would not be so good.
Boxing Day 2018 we were floundering in midtable in League One and welcomed rock bottom Bolton Wanderers. The dreadful era of Phil Parkinson’s ‘Parkyball’ had gripped the club tight, and we were on a five game winless run heading into the match. The biggest crowd of the campaign watched a truly abysmal match. This dreadful season would never be ended thanks to the global pandemic.
The first home Boxing Day match in three years should, regardless of result, be one of the most enjoyable. A bumper crowd in what has been a solid season with plenty of reason to be optimistic should be the perfect cocktail for a great day out.
I’m not 100% sure when my next trip to the SoL will be- so I’ll be sure to make the most of it however the match plays out.