One of the things I look forward to most about Christmas is the football, something that’s particularly true if you’re a fan of a team in one of the lower tiers. Premier League clubs play 38 games per season, not counting the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup and any European competitions they happen to be in. Championship clubs, by contrast, play 46 league games every season and try to cram in as many as they can over the holidays. But even allowing for that, QPR has an unusually crowded fixture list this year – no fewer than eight matches between 1 December and 1 January.
This would normally have me purring with pleasure. I remember racing to Loftus Road after a Christmas lunch in 2014 to rendezvous with my wife and six-year-old son to see the Rs play West Brom. I was so worried about keeping Caroline waiting that I ran straight into a lamppost, smashing my glasses. As I squinted into the floodlights, trying to figure out what was going on, Charlie gave me a running commentary, which turned out to be more exciting than watching the game. We were near the bottom of the Premier League at the time, having been promoted at the end of the previous season, and destined for relegation. The Baggies went two up in the first 20 minutes and another defeat looked certain. Then Charlie Austin, our 25-year-old striker, scored a hat trick in the second half, with the winner coming in the 86th minute. That was probably the best Christmas present I’ve ever had.
This year, I’m even more nervous than I was going into that match.