Offside’s Christmas countdown: At home for Christmas

At home for Chtistmas. All images via welloffside.com and welloffside.photoshelter.com.

Ah, Christmas. It’s all chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost nipping at your nose. Isn’t it? Wasn’t it? Jumpers for goalposts. Little Timmy in the park on a snowy pitch. Marvellous.

L'Equipe - Zinedine Zidane and his family, with Veronique and son Enzo, stand with Father Christmas.
L’Equipe – Zinedine Zidane and his family, with Veronique and son Enzo, stand with Father Christmas.

Most of us get a small case of the Bob Managers during the festive season, but for the football season it never stops. Some players do find time to get into the spirit of the season with their families, but in an odd twist as far as the modern game goes, it’s mostly the millionaires on the pitch who are inconvenienced by the sport rather than the man in the stands.

Archivi Farabola - John Charles by a Christmas tree at his home in Rome with his wife Peggy and sons Terry, Peter and Melvyn.
Archivi Farabola – John Charles by a Christmas tree at his home in Rome with his wife Peggy and sons Terry, Peter and Melvyn.
Archivi Farabola - John Charles and his family during Christmas.
Archivi Farabola – John Charles and his family during Christmas.

Christmas time is special for many reasons, above and beyond football, but it does almost offer supporters a vague snap shot of a bygone era that our current times appear to have forgot.

L'Equipe - Argentina footballer Carlos Bianchi sits with his family beside the Christmas tree.
L’Equipe – Argentina footballer Carlos Bianchi sits with his family beside the Christmas tree.
L'Equipe - Argentina footballer Carlos Bianchi sits with his family beside the Christmas tree as the un-wrap their presents.
L’Equipe – Argentina footballer Carlos Bianchi sits with his family beside the Christmas tree as the un-wrap their presents.

It used to be the case that the footballers out on show on a weekend where taking to the field partly as a sort of social service to the working man, whose laborious week had built up to big game on Saturday.

City Files - SL Benfica Christmas Party at Victor Hugo Cardinali Circus. David Luiz signs autographs for spectators.
City Files – SL Benfica Christmas Party at Victor Hugo Cardinali Circus. David Luiz signs autographs for spectators.

Managers such as Sir Matt Busby and Bill Shankly famously espoused the importance of putting on a show for the folks in the stands to their players. Not only were they the people who ultimately paid the teams’ wages, but they had gone through an often gruelling week of low-paid but hard, honest work to be there on a weekend. Putting their fullest levels of effort into the game at hand was the least they could do to honour these working men and women.

Ray Wright - George Graham of Manchester United at home with his family.
Ray Wright – George Graham of Manchester United at home with his family.

Today, most of those in attendance during the festive football calendar will arrive at their seat tanked up and full of turkey, or at least sitting down safe in the knowledge that a festive feast awaits them at home after the game.

Ray Wright - Stan Bowles of Queens Park Rangers at home with his family.
Ray Wright – Stan Bowles of Queens Park Rangers at home with his family.

With work over for many, the Christmas period is a time to put the feet up when not at the football, stuffing faces, filling bellies with beer and fixating eyes on a bumper TV schedule.

Ray Wright - Neil Ruddock and Trevor Sinclair of West Ham dress up for Christmas as Father Christmas.
Ray Wright – Neil Ruddock and Trevor Sinclair of West Ham dress up for Christmas as Father Christmas.

Meanwhile, it’s the footballs who toil, albeit very relatively. For once, it’s the man in the stands enjoying the full gamut and freedoms of the occasions while the professional footballer, regardless of all their obvious privileges, has to go without to some degree.

Ray Wright - Carl Cort and Robbie Earle of Wimbledon dress as Father Christmas.
Ray Wright – Carl Cort and Robbie Earle of Wimbledon dress as Father Christmas.

Just as a frozen or waterlogged pitch can be the great leveller for teams of disparate ability levels, the pressures of the festive fixture lists have become a brief flashback to a time when the balance of power between the stands and the players was a little bit different.

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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