It’s gotten to that time of year now where English football fixtures are beginning to fill in the calendar with two games a week and will continue over the festive season where other European countries are having a break from the game to re-energise. The re-occurring question has therefore crept back into divided opinions among England’s fans — should there be a winter break in English football?
Many fans would not be too keen on the idea as it part of the tradition of Christmas is to settle in on Boxing Day with your cold turkey sandwich and watch a bit of footy…isn’t it? The PFA chief, Gordon Taylor, recently raised the question again as the feeling is that it will be beneficial for the national team. But is that a justifiable reason for England’s players who can never quite ‘perform’ at major events or is it just an excuse when the Premiership has the most foreign players than any other league in the world and yet they can still turn out for their national team’s?
The player’s union representatives from each Premiership side were contacted for their views and 13 of the 15 who actually responded were in favour of the mid-season break. Phil Neville of Everton and England said, “It will get the players fresh and revitalised. Then England might go into a European Championship or World Cup fresher and with a better chance of winning.” Of all the major European leagues, only England and Portugal do not have winter breaks.
As it turns out, I’ve found out that there are several who support the idea. UEFA believe that it would reduce the number of injuries to players, who will be looking forward to an upcoming major tournament or important national team games. It is reported that there are four times as many injuries in the Premiership between April and May than leagues that do have winter breaks. Sven-Goran Eriksson backed the idea when he was in charge of England and is still in favour. Phil Neville thinks that more players will retire from international duty sooner if something is not done to the heavy schedules and out of those 15 players that responded to the proposal, eight of them admitted that they suffered burnout with the current set up for the season.
In something as important a matter as this though there are always going to be divided opinions and Arsene Wenger recently expressed his in that he was NOT in favour of changing the current schedule. He did agree though that the strain the amount of games played has on his team is tough, especially after the awaiting international football break Arsenal face 13 games in a six week period. He believes that his squad is big enough to cope with the amount of matches. As he has shown in the Carling Cup where he likes the second string Arsenal line-up to have a run out and in the return leg against Slavia Prague this week where the Gunners just needed a point to qualify, which they eventually grinded out. He also quickly brushed aside the possible idea of the league being reduced to 18 teams rather than 20 as “stupid”, which I agree with.
Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson was also one to voice his disagreement with the suggestion as being ‘unjustifiable’. Gibson said in a radio interview that the players were “fit young men who are very well pampered, have the best diet in the world, and travel to games in luxury surroundings.” Gibson continued in saying that he’s never met a player yet who doesn’t want to be playing more football. Clearly one of those fifteen players from the players’ union wasn’t from Middlesbrough then!
Gibson concluded by saying that any highly-paid professional footballer who moaned about the physical demands of the game should feel more grateful for their ‘privileged profession’. “Any player complaining should come and do a 14-hour day in industrial Teesside. We’re not asking them to go to Afghanistan or Iraq, we’re asking them to play football,” he added merrily.
So should the English game welcome a winter break to its congested calendar in order for players to relax, spend time with family and maybe get some extra training in? Is it unnecessary and England should not follow in the footsteps of other European countries? Could you hold out for a few weeks without football over the Christmas period so that your side to come back refreshed and raring to go? Or could it disrupt their decent run and harm their flow by the distraction of the break?
Let me know what you think in regards to the idea by adding your comments below.