It is Christmas time and the goose is getting fat as they say!
It is also that time of year when the English football season goes into overdrive. Our four professional leagues make silly demands on our footballers to ask them to play four games in the space of ten days while the rest of Europe’s stars put their feet up and roast chestnuts over an open fire.
I know the arguments will come flooding out about how much these players earn and it is the least they can do to entertain the rest of us mere mortals during the festivities.
However, I would argue that the fans are getting robbed of quality football by the time it comes to watching the New Year’s Day clash.
Wafer thin squads already rocked by injuries could be tipped over the edge in this demanding spell with managers opting to ‘rest’ key players as they try and scrape through certain games to prepare for what they perceive to be a trickier test later in the week.
In a nutshell, this crazy period could make or break a side’s title or European aspirations, while teams in the lower reaches could be up to their necks in the proverbial muck in the space of a week if things don’t go to plan.
My own team Middlesbrough have been handed a harsh deal by the fixture list. After a home game against West Ham at the Riverside on Saturday December 22, it is a trip to Birmingham on Boxing Day then off to the south coast for a match at Portsmouth, before returning to the Riverside for Everton on January 1.
I doubt manager Gareth Southgate and his men will see their families anytime between the end of the Queen’s Speech on Christmas Day until the day before New Year’s Eve. It does not matter who earns what, everyone deserves the chance to spend some time with loved ones at this time of year so why should footballers be any different?
Personally I enjoy going to games at this time of year and have the excuse of my job to fall back on, but how many families end up at war when a huge planned get-together of the clan on Boxing Day is wrecked by the notable absence of several members who have gone to the match instead?
Therefore I propose a two-week break from after the December 22 game and a return to action for the FA Cup third round in early January will be a good move for everyone.