The day for going cold turkey

Kevin Borras is not looking forward to joining the escaping dyspeptics as they rise too early and travel too far If someone has bought you a stressbuster for Christmas, one of those squidgy rubber things with a bizarre face that's horribly reminiscent ofRay Parlour, I have one piece of advice. Throw it away and go to a football match. It's said that Christmas is the most stressful time for a family, and a large percentage of couples who split cite differences at Christmas as the catalyst for their break-up. Well, excuse me for being Desmond Morris for a minute, but I'd like to know how many of them had been to a match on the Boxing Day. Very few probably.

I don't have a particularly large family and neither does my wife, but on Christmas Day it feels like half the population of north-east Surrey has come to my house to talk about previous Christmases, people they knew who had died at Christmas and about how people who don't celebrate Christmas must feel left out. I hate it. Just give me my presents and leave on the tinsel-covered horse you came in on.

Of course they don't leave. There has to be an argument over which channel's broadcast of the Queen's Speech we watch before anyone can go. For the majority of what's meant to be a day of celebration, I sit there looking forward to Boxing Day and going to see Wimbledon play.

I always go to the Boxing Day game. I don't get to as many away games as I would like these days, but I haven't missed a Boxing Day game since 1978. Usually, thanks to an understanding computer (one that understands that most football fans don't want to travel up and down England's fine motorway system when they have a hangover and would be instantly sick at the merest mention of the words "mince'' and "pie'') most of the Boxing Day fixtures are reasonably local affairs - today's fixtures include Crystal Palace v QPR, Coventry v Forest, Manchester City v Blackburn - at worst, you have to drive 50 miles.

But this season has seen an ominous shift away from the fan-friendly fixture with a number of Premiership games bringing together teams from opposite ends of the country (Chelsea v Manchester United for example) and several kicking off at noon.

"Oi, FA, noooo! You may well be the governing body of the world's most popular game, but that doesn't mean that you have to make us get up at eight o'clock in the morning to go and see it being played by professionals when we, and indeed they, would rat

h er be at home with the wife and kiddies.''

Normally, I quite enjoy travelling to away games. Bumping into fellow supporters gives you a sort of sense of belonging, born of brief motorway service station camaraderie, but I take exception at being expected to drive to Southampton this morning for amidday kick-off.

What's the big idea? Would a three o'clock kick-off mean that there would be more alcohol-sodden people in the ground than usual? No it wouldn't. A three o'clock kick-off would mean that we had three more hours for the effects of the previous evening to wear off. (I don't feel any sympathy for the players. For the money some of them earn I'd give up Christmas altogether).

My favourite part of Boxing Day football is half-time. I love looking round the ground trying to spot who's brought cold turkey sandwiches wrapped in silver foil. Last year one of my Main Stand compatriots at Selhurst Park bought such a huge bird for Christmas he was still eating cold turkey sandwiches at the beginning of this season.

So, if you're reading this at a match, or you're going to a game later on today, have a scan around the ground at half-time for the Bacofoil Brethren. It might be more fun than the game, Ipswich fans.

n Kevin Borras is a contributor to the Onion Bag magazine.

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