Christmases Off? Never!
Provisional Go-Ahead Makes For Familiar Workload
Gone, for now, is the prospect of Wolves facing their quietest Christmas for decades.
Yesterday’s decision by clubs to plough ahead with Premier League and EFL fixtures keeps alive the hope that it will be festive business as usual.
The game at home to Watford on Sunday and the trip to Arsenal two days later are still dependent on players in the two camps staying sufficiently safe and healthy in the face of football’s rising covid cases.
But the prospect of a sizeable guaranteed Christmas break has not materialised – and the anticipated workload in the coming days is something hundreds of former Wolves players will be familiar with.
We have to go back to 1987 for the last time the club did not play on the 26th or 27th of this month, that nine-day break in the Fourth Division title-winning season under Graham Turner including one postponement.
In 1981, a substantial 23 days elapsed between first-team matches after a December 5 derby with Albion and bad weather resulted in a fortnight’s break between fixtures from the 21st of this month to January 4 in 1968-69.
But all of those spells of inactivity pale into insignificance compared with what happened in the middle of the 1962-63 campaign.
Then, during one of Britain’s severest winters of all time, Wolves drew 3-3 at Manchester City on December 15 and didn’t play again until sharing the points with Sheffield United at Molineux on January 19, a full 35 days later.
What a strange feeling that period of relative rest must have been for Stan Cullis’s players, who were used to an altogether different sort of festive schedule.
They still played Christmas Day matches fairly regularly until the one at Charlton in 1956 and their programme in 1951-52 summed up the workload they had to face at this time of year.
As if six games in 15 days weren’t daunting enough, the side had to contemplate long pre-motorway trips to Arsenal, Sunderland and Liverpool during that pile-up of assignments.
In more recent years, Boxing Day games (or those the day after) have been productive for Wolves, notably when they reeled Manchester City in despite a two-goal deficit two seasons ago to win 3-2 in a Molineux blockbuster.
Not since 2012-13 have the club lost their main Christmas fixture – that a crushing 3-0 home defeat against Darren Ferguson’s Peterborough in their Championship relegation season when Stale Solbakken was in charge at Molineux.