Amidst the recent furore over the clamour by several leading figures in the game to introduce a fortnight’s winter break to Premier League proceedings, one salient piece of white-hot hypocrisy seems to have been conveniently overlooked.
Many a top-flight manager has been quick to deride the constipated domestic fixture list, with the resultant exhaustion used to vehemently excuse the various ailments and collapses in form that befall many players after toiling away for a 50+ game season.
Blackburn Rovers manager Sam Allardyce has long been a prominent voice in the crusade against the overly congested schedule, admitting recently that ‘most of the players who play in the Premier League will be very, very fatigued’ come the end of the season due to the gruelling demands of having to play so many games within such close proximity of one another.
Strange then that Allardyce should agree to wheel his side out on an eight-game, 23,475 mile round-trip pre-season tour of Australia – a tour which, you would think, sits in stark contrast to his very obvious concerns regarding his squad’s physical welfare.
Similarly, Everton aren’t far behind Blackburn (about 577 miles behind in fact), as the Toffees also chose to chase the Antipodean coin as part of their pre-season preparations under the frankly ludicrous guise of competing for the Roars Against Racism Cup in Brisbane.
I guess the Shameless Shill Cup didn’t have quite the same ring to the marketing department.
Again, when juxtaposed with manager David Moyes‘ continual bemoaning of his depleted squad’s injury problems over the last couple of seasons, his side’s 22,898 mile excursion ‘down under’ seems more than a little duplicitous.
Birmingham have clocked up 16,561 air miles during their tour of the Far East, no doubt pandering to the commercial whims of their Hong Kong-based CEO’s, and Manchester United, City, Bolton and Tottenham have racked up nearly 50,000 miles between them by travelling Stateside in a bid to meet those impending merchandise sales targets.
It seems that the wide-eyed promise of all those easily-acquired dollars may have served to distract the respective club’s hierarchies from the fact that all this pre-season globe-trotting may have just as serious fitness implications as a few extra FA cup replays or international friendlies – although the lack of (or lesser) commercial viability of the latter seem to make them an altogether more pressing concern when the time comes around.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with clubs suckling the corporate teat per se as it’s a measure now necessitated by the bloated financial folly that football has become over the years.
However, what does rile me is that this bare-faced hawking is continually written off as a factor in players struggling to perform in the quota of games that actually matter during any given season, when Liverpool’s 24-hour train journey to Madrid was elevated to the status of a mini-apocalypse in terms of player fatigue just three short months ago.
The ‘winter sabbatical’ debate will probably rumble on for a good few years before any tangible efforts are made to address it (as is the way of the current work-shy scheisters that staff the Football Association along with their European and global contemporaries) but, if Premier League clubs continue to choose to fill every waking off-season hour with revenue-boosting exhibitions in a relentless bid to sate the money men, then they probably deserve all the sodding hamstring tweaks they get.