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He was born on Christmas Day

Steven Lynch December 24, 2012
Alastair Cook will have been one of those kids who received only one present for Christmas and birthday © Associated Press

Who was the most famous sportsman born on Christmas Day? asked Mark Johnston
Cricket probably leads the way here: both England's current captain Alastair Cook and another recent Test opener, Marcus Trescothick, were born on Christmas Day. So was Simon Jones, like Trescothick a member of the England side which won the Ashes in 2005. Before them the Australian legspinner Clarrie Grimmett - the first man to take 200 Test wickets - was born on Christmas Day in 1891. Away from cricket, the Brazilian footballer Jairzinho - who famously scored in all his team's matches as they won the World Cup in 1970 - was born on Christmas Day in 1944, two years after the French tennis champion Francoise Durr.

My dad says there used to be a full Football League programme on Christmas Day itself in England. Is that right? asked Roy Macklin
It is true: up till the 1950s there was usually a full league programme on Christmas Day in England. The last time there was a relatively full programme was 1957, when there were 38 league matches. After that, though, the number fell off sharply, as the amount of public transport reduced and more and more fans decided to stay home. In 1959 only two matches were played on December 25, and the last instance of it in England was in 1965, when Blackpool beat Blackburn 4-2 in the top division. (The tradition lingered longer in Scotland, where there was a full programme most years until 1971, and some matches as late as 1976.) A few years ago Brentford thought it would be a good idea to play their third-division match against Wimbledon on December 25, in what they called an attempt to "revive the old tradition of husbands going to football on Christmas Day while the wives cook the turkey". But modern wives didn't think much of that idea, and the match was brought forward to Christmas Eve instead. But one man who didn't seem to mind letting his wife tackle the turkey was the former England cricket captain Walter Robins, whose Football League career for Nottingham Forest amounted to just two matches - both of them on Christmas Day, in 1929 and 1930.

Has anyone ever won the world heavyweight title on Boxing Day? asked Nick Robertson
The world heavyweight title has only ever changed hands once on Boxing Day - in 1908, when Jack Johnson pummelled Tommy Burns at Rushcutters Bay in Sydney. You could say that Johnson caught up with Burns, because he'd been pursuing him around the globe for a crack at the title - Burns had made six previous defences in 1908, and Johnson had turned up to most of them, obtained a ringside seat, and taunted the champion until he finally agreed to face him in the first official title fight to pit a white man against a black one. Johnson, who was 30 and in his considerable prime, knocked Burns out in the 14th round, and held the title for more than six years, eventually losing it to Jess Willard in Havana in May 1915.

Jack Johnson was a winner on Boxing Day © Getty Images

How many times did Arkle win the King George Chase on Boxing Day? asked Gerry Darbyshire
Actually the great steeplechaser Arkle only won the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park once - in 1965. He was a strong favourite to win again the following year, but broke a bone in his foot, which eventually led to his retirement (he still finished second, not far behind the winner Dormant). The record for the race - five wins, by Kauto Star between 2006 and 2011 - is unlikely ever to be beaten. The other horses to win the King George (which started in 1937) more than once are Halloween (1952 and 1954), Mandarin (1957 and 1959), Pendil (1972-73), Captain Christy (trained by Arkle's jockey Pat Taaffe; 1974-75), Silver Buck (1979-80), Wayward Lad (1982-83 and 1985), Desert Orchid (1986 and 1988-90), The Fellow (1991-92), One Man (1995-96), See More Business (1997 and 1999) and Kicking King (2004-05).

Am I imagining it or did the Barbarians rugby side used to play somewhere every Boxing Day? asked Lionel Ross
You're not imagining it: for years one of the Barbarians' regular fixtures was against Leicester on - or soon after - Boxing Day. The first such match was in 1909 - a 9-9 draw - and they had some terrific encounters down the years, with the Baa-Baas usually coming out on top (notably 35-0 in 1969). But the advent of professionalism, and league rugby meant the match was an endangered species, and the last one at the festive season was in 1995, when Leicester won 51-25. Since then Leicester Tigers have met the Barbarians a few times - but not in the Christmas period (except in 1998, when the Barbarians won 38-24 on December 29).

Cricket has a tradition of Boxing Day Tests, especially at Melbourne. But have they ever played on Christmas Day itself? asked Edward Murray
The first Test match to start at Melbourne on a Boxing Day was in 1968, when Australia went on to beat West Indies by an innings. The next one was in 1974, when England drew a close match, but it wasn't until 1981 that the tradition really took off, after a thrilling Test between Australia and West Indies. Since then, with a few exceptions - for example when the holidays fall at the weekend - there has usually been a Test at the MCG starting on Boxing Day. There have often been Test matches - or sometimes one-day internationals - in New Zealand and South Africa on Boxing Day too in recent years. Surprisingly, perhaps, the odd Test match has included play on Christmas Day as well. The first one was in 1951, when the third Test between Australia and West Indies at Adelaide finished on December 25, the third scheduled day of the match. West Indies completed their six-wicket win midway through the day, so the players might have managed to fit in some turkey after all. Sixteen years later, in 1967, it happened at Adelaide again, in a Test between Australia and India. Two years later they met again on Christmas Day, this time at Madras (now Chennai). At Delhi in 1972 England completed a six-wicket win over India shortly after lunch on December 25, and in 1979, the fourth Test between India and Pakistan started in Kanpur on Christmas Day.

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