Christmas Day

Dec 24, 2021 | News


Merry Christmas to Bristol Rovers supporters everywhere; time was when football was played on Christmas Day and huge crowds were recorded for the festive fixtures played on this day and on Boxing Day.

For some reason the fixtures were arranged so that sides met each other in the space of 24 hours, home and away.

For instance, Rovers travelled to Bury on Christmas Day 1956 and suffered a 7-2 beating at Gigg Lane where the attendance was 8,962. The following day Bury were at Eastville where Rovers gained revenge for the previous day’s thumping by winning 6-1 in front of 19,672 fans!

The following year was the last time Rovers played a league match on Christmas Day, and on 25th December 1957 they met Swansea Town at the Vetch Field, while the Welsh side came to Eastville for the return match 24 hours later.

Whilst it’s only about 80 miles to Swansea from Bristol and, these days, takes no more than an hour and a half to travel between the two cities, it would have taken a fair bit longer 64 years ago as there was no motorway linking England with the Principality and no Severn Bridge crossing, either, the first bridge being completed in 1966.

Even though there was no pandemic to worry about back then, those facts alone, plus the small matter of it being Christmas Day and a public holiday, means that it’s unlikely that few Rovers supporters were at the Vetch and that there were very few Swans supporters at Eastville the next day.

Under the heading ‘ROVERS LET IN SIX’ the match report began; ‘This Christmas Day game was one Swansea fans will remember for a long time.

‘Luckless Swansea, struggling at the foot of the table, played brilliant copybook football which at times had Rovers in so much trouble that even centre forward Meyer was seen in the Rovers penalty area lending a much needed hand.

‘Although Swansea were in such devastating form, the Rovers were by no means outplayed and deserved full credit for the way in which they fought back to level the score at 4-4 after being 3-1 down. Nevertheless, for manager Bert Tann, it could not have been a very Happy Christmas Day.’

Bottom of the table going into this game, Swansea opened the scoring on 19 minutes through Mel Charles (brother of John) while Cliff Jones, the future Spurs star, added a second, from the penalty spot on the half hour mark before Peter Sampson scored his first goal in more than two years to reduce the deficit on 36 minutes.

Two minutes later Ivor Allchurch restored the Swans’ two goal lead though Ward, on 42 minutes, and Biggs two minutes into the second half, made it 3-3. Jones scored again for the home side on 62 minutes, but it was 4-4 eight minutes later as Meyer equalised for The Gas.

However, Swansea finished with a flourish as Charles scored his second goal of the game on 72 minutes and Jones completed his hat trick after 78 minutes.

The Christmas Day crowd of 11,340 certainly got their money’s worth as they saw these sides in action.

(photo shows Peter Sampson, who scored a Christmas Day goal for Rovers at Swansea in 1957.

Rovers: Nicholls, Bamford, Watling, Sykes, Hale, Sampson, Petherbridge, Biggs, Meyer, Ward, Hooper.

Swansea: King, Griffiths, Beech, Brown, Peake, Kennedy, Allchurch (L), Lewis, Charles (M), Allchurch (I), Jones (C).

The following day a crowd of 22,640 were at Eastville to see Rovers exact revenge, winning 3-0 thanks to a George Petherbridge brace and another goal from Barrie Meyer.

Unfortunately, there’s no festive game for Rovers supporters this year, so please make sure you stay safe and well until the next time we can all watch the team in action at The Mem.

Keith Brookman