BOXING Day fixtures spoilt many a Christmas for players of my generation, but it is with a tinge of sadness I note the absence of many first-team games between the local clubs this coming Wednesday.
As a Gosforth man it was always Northern we were pitted against and it made for entertaining fare.
People looked forward to getting off the sofa, getting some fresh air and going out to watch a game during the holidays.
You could quickly tell which of the respective players had enjoyed their Christmas day to the full!
It is sad we do not have that local rivalry on Boxing Day, as the social nature of the sport always made them great occasions for everybody involved.
Thinking back to those days, if you were serious about the game then you prepared as professionally as an amateur player could.
Those players who were putting themselves about then would have been the equivalent of our professionals today and the element of sacrifice has always been there even before payments came into it.
You hear the tales of Jonny Wilkinson practising his kicking on Christmas day.
The likes of myself and my contemporaries were making comparable sacrifices all that time ago.
THE autumn internationals have demonstrated just how fine the margin is between success and failure.
At the start of November Wales were the great European hope but they have struggled to cope with the loss of a mercurial talent like Shane Williams out on the wing.
He could always be relied on to spark things into life with his innate footballing ability and in his absence Wales have looked ordinary and he is a player they miss enormously. …