West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce has reaffirmed calls for the introduction of a winter break in the English calendar
The topic has been debated for many years now and has split opinions from leading figures in the game. Many feel the winter break should be brought into the domestic English season to help give players time for rest and recuperation and to avoid injuries.
When the fixtures are released in June one of the first things I look for are the Boxing Day fixtures. It usually throws up a derby game which generates an even better atmosphere in the festive period. Attending a game on Boxing Day is the perfect way to recover after Christmas. The attendances are usually boosted and it's a popular time for families to attend games together. The close proximity of the teams involved usually means it's easy to travel if it is an away game as well. There are plenty of games over the festive period and it's an exciting time with games every other day it seems.
The New Year's Day matches are also a memorable occasion. A winter break would also disrupt the FA Cup. The 3rd round usually takes place in the first week of the new year but that would have to be moved if the winter break was in place.
Some think a winter break would allow the English sides to perform better in the Champions League, as in the knockout stages they are coming up against teams who are refreshed after enjoying a rest from their perspective seasons. However that only benefits a maximum of four sides and wouldn't be worth it just for them. Besides the English sides haven't performed too badly in recent seasons so it doesn't seem a necessity.
Another reason to introduce the break would be to allow players to be better prepared for international tournaments. It is thought that with a break halfway through they will not be worn out by the end of the season, and therefore ineffective at a World Cup or European Championships. However the games still have to be played, and if anything it will just create a pile-up of fixtures further down the line. The season would also finish later and there will be minimal time in between the end of the season and the start of the international tournament.
Sam Allardyce has had the opportunity to take his side abroad for some warm weather training due the them already being knocked out of the FA Cup and therefore having no game to play last weekend. He feels it's vital to have a break as it can put players at risk without one.
"I've said for many, many years that our country needs to close down at some stage in mid-season for a few days. I think the data and the stats prove that," he told Sky Sports.
"The rest of Europe do it but we, because of our fixture list, find it impossible to do which is obviously putting players at greater risk. If you look at the injury count over Christmas and New Year, it's shot up immensely because of the extra games in that particular period."
Big Sam has been able to have his break now, as have Manchester United and many others get breaks due to postponements etc. The ones complaining don't seem to understand that they will still to have to play the games at some other point though. It's not as if they domestic season is reduced thanks to a mini-break.
I understand that players can get worn out and are more susceptible to injuries over the festive period when games come thick and fast but clubs have big enough squads to allow them to rotate and everyone else is in the same boat.
A winter break would add on a few weeks a the end of the season, and I don't think players would be too keen on that. It would ruin their holiday plans firstly!
There's nothing majorly wrong with the English domestic calendar as things stand and there is no overriding reason for it to be tampered with.
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