We are now in the middle of my favourite period in the footballing calendar – Christmas.
I love how thick and fast the games come, and they are often local derbies or fixtures with a little bit of needle to them.
This year, there are not as many matches as usual, mainly because of when the bank holidays fall. In fact, it is just like a normal footballing week, with three outings in seven or eight days.
Nonetheless, I feel it is always a great time for watching the game (and also a top excuse for getting out of the house!).
So, it saddens me to see some foreign managers coming into England and proclaiming that the schedule around now is too busy.
In this country, it is tradition. Crowds are often up on Boxing Day and it is a time when teams can genuinely drag themselves into a promotion race or get cut adrift at the bottom of the table.
Of course, some people do not see it the same way.
“I understand Boxing Day is a very important date for football,” said Manuel Pellegrini, the Manchester City manager, last season.
“But Boxing Day is December 26th. I don’t know why we have to play December 28th and January 1st. Maybe we can play on Boxing Day and one game more before the end of the year.”
Is one more game really that big a difference? It is surely only like playing in the Premier League on two Saturdays, with a European match thrown in between. In fact, it is easier than that because there will be less travelling!
Personally, I feel it is an excuse that bosses roll out when their squads are thinning due to injury. But at that level in the game, with that money, clubs should be able to cope.
You very rarely, if ever, hear a manager from the lower levels moaning about playing too many games…and they have eight league fixtures more!
I can however understand the clamour for a winter break to a certain extent. If you look at the data provided across Europe, it does appear to benefit players.
The rest, be it a couple of weeks or longer, seems to allow their bodies the chance to regroup and kick on in the second half of the campaign…it would probably help England in the Euros or World Cup too.
BUT, I leave you with this question. If there was a winter break – would the “big” teams actually use it for some time off – or would they head overseas for some lucrative friendly matches and not have any break whatsoever? I suspect the latter.