Christmas Crackers: The five greatest yuletide sporting occasions

This latest blog from the Sport and Recreation Alliance is Christmas themed to help all our members get in the mood for some sporting festive time fun.

Christmas time has provided some amazing sporting occassions over the years and looking back through the mists of time, here are the Alliance's top five:

1. King George VI Chase, Boxing Day, 2009

The King George VI Chase is one of the most prestigious chases in Photo of Kauto StarEngland and in the latter half of the 00’s saw one of the greatest steeplechasers of all time, Kauto Star, dominate proceedings.

On Boxing Day 2009 at Kempton Park, Kauto Star attempted to win his fourth consecutive King George VI Chase.

Throughout the race, he was in control before going clear with three fences to jump, winning by a record margin of victory, 36 lengths.

In winning the race, Kauto Star was awarded a Racing Post Rating of 192, the highest ever earned by a National Hunt horse, and was also given a Timeform rating of 191, the highest given to a horse in almost 40 years.

Kauto Star went on to win the King George VI Chase one final time before retirement, but it was on Boxing Day 2009 that he gave his greatest performance.

2. Chelsea F.C. vs Portsmouth, Christmas Day, 1948

Christmas Day in 1948 saw the first appearance of what has become a stalwart of the football match day experience.

The match was between Chelsea and Portsmouth at Stamford Bridge and these lucky fans were the first ever to be able to purchase a match day programme.

Consisting of 16 pages and costing the princely sum of sixpence (or two and a half pence in today’s money) – the programme had been especially commissioned for crowd favourite Tommy Walker’s last home match for Chelsea.

Unfortunately Pompey were not in a charitable mood and secured a 2-1 victory.

3. The New York Knicks vs Boston Celtics, Christmas Day, 1985

The match between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks in 1985 can lay claim to being one of the greatest comebacks of all time.

The Celtics, who finished 67-15, and have a legitimate claim as the best ever NBA team came to Madison Square Garden and raced into a huge 25 point lead.

Victory was in the bag – until rookie Patrick Ewing came to play, scoring 32 points with 11 rebounds and leading the team into a 113-104 victory in double overtime.

The 1985-86 New York Knicks finished 23-59, the worst record the team has suffered in the last 50 years – but that Christmas day, they were the comeback kings.

4. Ashes Boxing Day Test, 2010

With the series delicately poised at 1-1 the 2010 Boxing Day Ashes Test was a must win for both teams. In front of 84,000 fans, Andrew Strauss won the toss and stuck the Aussie’s in to bat and what a decision that proved to be.

Chris Tremlett and Jimmy Anderson ripped through the opposition's batting line-up to bowl Australia out for just 98 runs before tea – their lowest Ashes total at the MCG.

In reply, England's openers, Strauss and Alastair Cook marched to 157/0 at the end of the first day's play. England went on to record victory by an innings and 157 runs and laid the groundwork for a first series win in Australia since 1986 –1987.

And if you missed it – here's the whole day's play.

5. Manchester City vs Hull, Boxing Day 2008

Phil Brown lecturing his Hull playersIn August 2008, the course of Manchester City FC’s history was changed permanently when the club was purchased by the Abu Dhabi United Group.

Following the takeover what followed was a flurry of bids for high profile players including breaking the British transfer record by signing Robinho from Real Madrid for £32.5 million.

Robinho, who often flattered to deceive at City, had perhaps his finest moment on Boxing Day – scoring two and having a hand in another two as City ran riot in a 5-1 victory.

However, half-time saw some extraordinary scenes as an apoplectic Hull boss Phil Brown delivered his half-time dressing down on the pitch – a scene famously parodied by Jimmy Bullard the next season.

For City it was the start of their path to eventual glory, and for Hull it was the beginning of the end of their dream start to the Premier League.


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