Offside’s Christmas countdown: The best of December football

The best of December football, via welloffside.com and welloffside.photoshelter.com.

Mark Leech - David Ginola connects with the ball as he makes a spectacular overhead kick.
Mark Leech – David Ginola connects with the ball as he makes a spectacular overhead kick.

December is a busy time in the world of sport.

Simon Stacpoole - Cardiff owner Vincent Tan watches from the stands amongst the other fans and guests.
Simon Stacpoole – Cardiff owner Vincent Tan watches from the stands amongst the other fans and guests.

As work schedules take a break to allow the public to indulge in the festivities, the world of sport kicks itself up a gear to take advantage of the glut of punters suddenly available to their turnstiles and gates.

Simon Stacpoole - A plane leaves it's vapour trail across the blue sky as it flies beyond the floodlights at Goodison Park.
Simon Stacpoole – A plane leaves it’s vapour trail across the blue sky as it flies beyond the floodlights at Goodison Park.

Christmas is a time for people to come together, and what better way can there be than coalescing amongst friends and strangers in the stands at a football match?

Mark Leech - Supporters packed on a terrace as the electronic scoreboard proudly displays ' Swindon Town FC Premier League'.
Mark Leech – Supporters packed on a terrace as the electronic scoreboard proudly displays ‘ Swindon Town FC Premier League’.

As we’ll cover in later countdown blogs, the festive period holds a special place in the heart of football in the UK and beyond, for reasons of tradition, family and more.

Simon Stacpoole - A supporter waits inside an inflatable 'zorbing' capsule before taking part in the half-time entertainment to amuse the seasonal crowds.
Simon Stacpoole – A supporter waits inside an inflatable ‘zorbing’ capsule before taking part in the half-time entertainment to amuse the seasonal crowds.

Yet the extra games that tend to fill the stockings of the mind and free time in modern times makes for an intense and bumper collection of games that can make or break a title bid.

Mark Leech - Wayne Rooney sends Reading goalkeeper Federici the wrong way with his penalty kick to score the 2nd goal for United.
Mark Leech – Wayne Rooney sends Reading goalkeeper Federici the wrong way with his penalty kick to score the 2nd goal for United.

The cold conditions, occasionally icy pitches and frosty, blue skies can make for dramatic spectacles and skin-shivering scenes as teams pack in two or sometimes even three games a week as month of December comes to a glorious close.

Mark Leech - Grass roots football in Enfield.
Mark Leech – Grass roots football in Enfield.

December can also be the month in which the hearts and minds of non-league and Sunday league players at tested the most. A kick about can become an endurance against the cold; a match a distraction from the opportunity of filling a plate or a pint glass in the pub to get into the seasonal spirit.

Mark Leech - A goal keeper keeps goal on a crisp Sunday morning in December.
Mark Leech – A goal keeper keeps goal on a crisp Sunday morning in December.

In so many ways it is the month for football in England, if not the UK. August and September may be the starting points of the season, with May being the time winners are made and trophies issued.

Mark Leech - Ian Wright launches himself as Rovers goalkeeper Tim Flowers tries to head the ball clear..
Mark Leech – Ian Wright launches himself as Rovers goalkeeper Tim Flowers tries to head the ball clear..
Ben Angel -  Swansea City's Ben Davies, Ashley Williams and Leon Britton celebrate their team's second goal scored by Michu.
Ben Angel – Swansea City’s Ben Davies, Ashley Williams and Leon Britton celebrate their team’s second goal scored by Michu.

But beyond the logic, glory and official significance of these book-ends, there is so much about the nation’s passion for football that is encapsulated in the month of December that it’s hard not to think of it as the time in which the soul of the game naturally resides.

Simon Stacpoole - Chris Smalling of Man Utd shields himself from the torrential hail.
Simon Stacpoole – Chris Smalling of Man Utd shields himself from the torrential hail.

Stay tuned for more blogs from Offside counting down the days until Christmas, and be sure to visit welloffside.com and welloffside.photoshelter.com for more information and access to our picture archives.

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Author: gregianjohnson

Football writer for The Blizzard, FourFourTwo, The Mirror, Squawka and VICE amongst others. Follow me on Twitter at @gregianjohnson.

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