Grillo’s Ground: Christmas fixtures for Keighley Town

The festive period has not always been a quiet one for local football. Rob Grillo puts on his white beard and red suit to raid his festive present sack for some seasonal nuggets.

Christmas day fixtures in the professional game were popular in the early and mid 1900s, attracting huge attendances for Football League clubs.
Amateur and semi-professional teams were also required to play fixtures during the Christmas period.
The earliest-known Christmas Day soccer game (as opposed to rugby) involving a Keighley team was a friendly fixture when an early Keighley AFC spoiled Shipley AFC’s festive celebrations with a 6-1 victory in 1896.
Years later, Keighley Town had a remarkably busy Christmas period in their two Yorkshire League seasons, with three games being played in four days over Christmas 1946, and then three in three days the following year.
On Christmas Day 1946, Town played host to Goole Town on Christmas Day, travelled to Leeds United the following day, and after a day’s rest went to Selby Town on the 28th. All three games were lost.
1947 was a little more successful, despite the team being rock bottom of the league.
Keighley Town hosted Halifax Town at their Beckside ground on Christmas Day, drawing that game 2-2.
Leeds United defeated them 2-1 24 hours later, before another game at the Beckside on December 27, against Selby Town, was also drawn, this time 1-1.
The Keighley team did not really benefit from increased attendances, as their support at the time was exceptionally poor, made worse by the fact that they were a struggling team.
If any of today’s local teams were to play Leeds United (albeit their ‘A’ team) on Boxing Day, then I’m sure there would be a fair few local football fans there to watch…

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