My initial thoughts on the Christmas schedule for the Premier League teams this year is that it’s not too bad. The main dates of the matches are the 21, 26 and 31 December and 2 January. That’s four games in 12 days which with the size of squads these teams possess nowadays should be absolutely fine.
The only area of concern for managers will be the gap between the games on New Years Eve and 2 January. It is only 48 hours and the players will not be sufficiently recovered to be at their peak fitness for the second match. No doubt you will see a lot of changes to the starting line-ups for the latter fixture.
As much as people say you should be able to play every day and be unaffected that is just not the case. Most clubs in the top flight use a system called Prozone whereby every pass, how far you have run, how many tackles you have made, how many sprints you have done etc, is monitored. There will more than likely be a significant fall in each individuals statistics for the second game in a 48-hour period.
So what’s it actually like to be a footballer during the festive period? To be honest it’s business as usual. Throughout my career I think I only had one Christmas Day off. That was when I was at Bournemouth under the stewardship of Mel Machin. I think he felt sorry for us as we were away at Crewe the next day, which meant a 6am departure from Dean Court!
If I was playing at home on Boxing day then my typical Christmas day would be to get up early with the kids (sometimes having to wake them up) to open the presents and then head off to training about 9am.
It would normally be a short sharp session of about an hour and then return home around 1pm to have lunch. Of course I had to be careful what I ate and drank and certainly no alcohol could be consumed!
Sometimes managers would want you in a hotel on Christmas night to make sure players adhered to the rules so if that was the case it would mean returning to the ground early evening to go to the hotel.
If we were playing away from home on Boxing day the schedule would be slightly different. We would probably have most of the day at home before training late afternoon and then off to the hotel afterwards.
To be honest, I don’t think many players minded being in on Christmas day for training. It’s part of the job and getting out of the house for a kickabout when there was more than likely chaos at home wasn’t particularly a hardship. And when you think about the many heroes of our armed services/nurses etc that don’t even get home/work all day it puts things into real perspective.
There have been calls in the past for a winter break in the football season and maybe a couple of weeks off would benefit the players to re-charge the batteries and allow for one or two niggles to heal, but I wouldn’t want to see it over the festive period.
Invariably the crowds are bigger with great atmospheres at the matches and it’s also a great tradition. If there was to be a break I would prefer it to be in January.
I remember one Christmas when my children were stuck for ideas in choosing me a present. I said not to bother and that a goal and a win the next day would be just fine.
It was during my time at Charlton and we were playing Chelsea at the Valley. We won the game 4-2 and I managed to get on the scoresheet. It was the best Christmas present ever!
I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a fabulous Christmas and, if you are going to a game, that your team can deliver you three points!
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