Its hard to believe that in the first half or so of the 20th century that Christmas Day fixtures were generally very much part of the footballing calendar, unless they fell on a Sunday, and bear in mind there were no floodlights so these games were played on the morning which was handy for the women folk to get their partners out of the way for a couple of hours whilst cooking dinner.
Also there was little or no public transport on this particular day so men would simply walk to the game! Before the Second World War many local derbies were spread over two days of public holidays-the Christmas Day and the return fixture on the Boxing Day- unless the latter was a Sunday then it would be played the next day.This often occured with Walsall, right up to 1957.
Overall in Football League games Walsall have played 26, Won 14, Drawn 7 and Lost 5. Saddlers have scored 59 goals and conceded 42. Walsall have also featured in a further 12 from their non-league and war time days which have also been featured here.
The first such game took place in 1891 in the Football Alliance with a 7-0 home win against Bootle when a crowd of 2,000 turned up at The Chuckery Ground, which was situated near the Walsall Arboretum. 1894 saw Walsall’s first ever Football League game on this day but it turned out to be a bit of a disaster with a 0-5 thumping at Meadow Lane against Notts County. In 1896 Walsall made the short trip to Small Heath and took part in a 3-3 draw with a gate of 7,500. The first ever Fellows Park game on Christmas Day took place in 1899 and Walsall defeated Barnsley 4-2 in a Second Division game.The following year it was a visit to the Potteries to take on Burslem Port Vale where the game ended in a 2-2 draw.
Walsall lost their Football League status in 1901 and there were not too many games played on this day during this period of the club’s history. 1901 saw the Saddlers in the Midland League and the club played out a 0-0 draw at Burton United Reserves and the following year drew away 1-1 with Gainsbro Trinity Reserves. There were no more Christmas Day games involving the club till 1912 when Walsall had a convincing 4-1 win at Fellows Park against Coventry City Reserves before a good turn out of 2,000 in this Birmingham League fixture.
In the same competition in 1914 we faced Coventry City Reserves away and enjoyed a 2-1 victory.In years 1919 and 1920 we went to Willenhall on both occassions. Winning 2-1 then drawing 1-1. Those were to be the last from the club’s time in the non-league wilderness as a return to Football League status occured in 1921.There wasn’t a game for the club that year but in 1922 came a 2-0 win at Lincoln City in a third Division (North) game. 1923 saw a comfortable win at Fellows Park against Wigan Borough 3-0 with a decent gate of 7,1178. The following year saw a 1-2 defeat at Grimsby. 1926 saw another game with Wigan Borough and a 3-2 win was recorded with 7,000 inside that day and an entertaining 4-3 home win against Northampton Town the next year at Fellows Park (7,785). The final game from this decade saw yet another home game in 1929 in a 0-0 draw against Crystal Palace with 4,800 in attendance.
Saddlers played seven Christmas Day fixtures in the 1930′s starting off in 1930 with a home draw against Watford (2-2) however the team crashed 1-5 at Southport the following year. 1933 saw a 2-1 win at Mansfield. Then in 1934 the Fellows Park faithful were rewarded with a splendid 5-2 win over Rotherham United with the legendary Gilbert Alsop notching two goals and in 1935 another good home win defeating Wrexham 5-0. The following year saw a 3-2 home win against Clapham Orient but 1937 saw a 2-5 defeat at Bristol Rovers.
Suprisingly, there was plenty of festive football about in the 1940′s even during the Second World War of sorts with only 1944 missing out. 1940, in a Regional League (South) game, Walsall smashed Birmingham 6-3 with Rowley bagging 4 goals and Vinall got 2. In 1941 in a Football League (South ) fixture Walsall went down 3-4 at Wolves watched by 3,895 and in 1942 in a Football League (North) 1st Comp game Walsall drew 2-2 at home to Stoke City. The following year in a Football League (North) game Walsall won 1-0 at Stoke City. 1945 saw Saddlers crash 1-5 at Fellows Park to Port Vale in a Football League (South) Northern Section match and when ‘normal’ football returned in 1946 saw a 2-2 draw away at Bristol Rovers. There were two further home games with a 3-0 win against Aldershot (1947) and Ipswich (1948). Its worth mentioning the gates for those two games- 16,608 and and 12, 956 flocked to Fellows Park.
There were six home games in the 1950′s. The start of the decade started with a 0-0 draw with Newport County and a 2-0 win against Southend United in 1951. Two years later 9,404 turned up to see Eddie Holding score a hat trick in a 3-1 win against Brighton and in 1954 a sparkling 4-0 win over rivals Shrewsbury Town with goals from Richards, Myerscough (2) and Meek with no less than 17,054 packed into Fellows Park and in 1956 Walsall battled out a 1-1 with Shrewsbury with Tony Richards again finding the net. Walsall’s last ever game on this day was the following year away at Shrewsbury this time and suffered a 0-1 defeat.
1957 turned out to be the last ever complete Football League programme on Christmas Day. The only games threrafter saw two games in in 1959- between Blackburn and Blackpool in Division 1 and Coventry City and Wrexham in Division 3.There was one final league game on this day that took place between Blackpool and Blackburn in 1965.