Festive spirit? Just glad it’s all over
The Christmas and New Year schedule is the most intensive period of the season with matches every few days. And the festive period just gone was no different, believe me. I think we’re only just getting over it. The fixture planners even threw in a mid-week Premier League game, which I know a few managers complained about.
It’s a tough time, especially for people with families, as you are usually working during all the Bank Holidays, including Christmas Day, Boxing Day and the turn of the New Year. The fixtures can be particularly harsh with an away game on the Boxing Day, when we train and travel to an overnight hotel on Christmas day/evening. You have to have a very understanding spouse … and kids!
With the games coming thick and fast, there is no time for intensive training. You are just patching players up for the next game in a few days. Many players won’t train at all between games, especially if they have long-term problems that can’t take two or three games in seven days as well as training.
Optimal recovery is essential. There is no problem of not refuelling enough over Christmas, as with all of us, but keeping to the right foods and avoiding too much alcohol is paramount. Players from different countries do things differently. Some celebrate Christmas Eve more, enjoying a drink and enormous amounts of food, whereas the British tend to shoot off after training on Christmas Day, as this is their day with the family.
After a game, we always try and keep the team together for a “warm down/recovery” session as a group, either on the field or in a pool. This, basically, consists of a light jog and stretch for 20 to 30 minutes. The players that haven’t played will be put through a normal training session with the coaches.
The medical team’s time is mostly taken up assessing issues from the previous game, making decisions on how severe the injury is and whether it will be a problem for the next game. You have to be on your toes as you have to decide quickly and accurately what the prognosis is as it will affect team selection. Many teams will be travelling with an uncertainty on a few players and will take a slightly larger squad to the next game to cover the eventuality of the player not being fit.
The beauty is that January is a much quieter month with usually only one match per week. As there can be a couple of FA Cup games, too, but no European games until February – if you’re still in the competitions – it enable squads to be rotated. Players can be rested, players not playing regularly have a chance and players returning from injury given an opportunity to get some matchplay.
Many of us in the game would love a mini-break at this time. Many teams do take a few days in sunnier climates for some R&R. Trouble is, this still doesn’t keep those at home happy as you are away from home yet again! Who would work in football, eh?
I’m just glad Christmas is all over and we’re now back to some sort of normality. Bah humbug, indeed!