Kevin Kilbane: The Premier League should introduce a Christmas break, but only for the right reasons

Killer holds some fond memories of games at Christmas, despite the busy schedule.

BY Kevin Kilbane 14:11 Sunday 25 December 2016, 14:11 25 Dec 2016

Image: Chris Radburn PA Archive/PA Images

I think when you’re younger, you miss Christmas. I can remember as a 16 or 17-year-old footballer and you’re going into the game, you do get that feeling.

But then once you become established in teams, it’s half of the excitement. I used to love playing, particularly on Stephen’s Day, because there was always an extra buzz around at the grounds.

You haven’t got time to prepare for matches really once that first game is done and dusted, because you go from one game to the next in a short period of time.

There’s a very small window on the training ground to get meaningful work done, but it was good fun, and I enjoyed it. In terms of the games themselves, it looks as though we’re getting to the stage in the not so distant future where we’ll get some type of break around this time of year.

Jurgen Klopp has been speaking about it recently and Pep Guardiola has also talked about it too - the players just can’t be fully prepared.

You can’t get your body right again. I did feel tired during this period, and you know that you still have the previous game in your legs just a few days beforehand.

But I suppose that was part of the draw of it. You will probably see more mistakes than usual in the games around now, because lads are a little bit more tired, mentally and physically.

When managers talk about a packed schedule though, they're right. Off the back of Premier League fixtures at this time of year, you’d be straight into an FA Cup third round match. From the end of 2016 and into the start of 2017, most players would play on St. Stephen's Day, then again on December 29-30th, before having another match on New Year's Day. After all of that, the FA Cup action comes around at the end of that week again. 

That's three big games in six days, before you even count the cup action, and it is tough on the players. It’s a big ask for them to get themselves going again on such a tight turnaround. 

Heading into the second half of the season, you start to get back to your fixed routine again, where it’s week to week in general for most teams in the Premier League. Those teams involved in Europe -  when that kicks back off again - will have that to consider too.

A couple of times I had the conversation with players from outside Ireland or the UK about the tradition of playing matches around this break, and the majority of them were pretty clear: "It’s crazy playing that many games."

The British and Irish players did, in truth, have a pretty similar feeling when those discussions were had,  because it’s a tiring time of year to play for anyone. 

You look at the German Bundesliga, which finished on Wednesday night and they have about a month now where they don't have fixtures. They will get some time off, but  my fear would be that the Premier League teams would see that break as a tool; a time to go and make money by going to play out in the Far East or America on promotional jaunts.

If they are going to get that winter break someday, I’d like to see the clubs take that time to have a proper rest - for the sake of the players and the quality of football fans get to see.


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