"It's a must. It's imperative" - Steve McClaren calls for introduction of winter break

Ex-England boss recalls players "dead on their feet" during major tournaments

BY Stephen Long 15:57 Thursday 8 February 2018, 15:57 8 Feb 2018

Steve McClaren during his time in charge of Derby County

Steve McClaren is the latest manager to call for the introduction of a winter break in English football, saying players look "dead on their feet" on international duty.

The UK Times reported on Tuesday that the Premier League is preparing for the introduction of a break before 2022, ahead of the sale of domestic TV rights from 2019.

Christmas football has been a long-standing tradition in the top-tier of England but is increasingly rare compared to its European counterparts. This year's calendar saw teams play 4 times across 15 days, with just one day without Premier League football between December 26th and January 4th.

Former England manager Steve McClaren knows what it's like on both ends of the spectrum, working with England at three major tournaments as assistant to Sven-Goran Eriksson while also managing the likes of Newcastle United and Middlesbrough in the top-flight.

Speaking on The Keith Andrews Show on offtheball.com, McClaren was unequivocal in his desire to see a winter break introduced.

"It's a must - number one it's a must", he said. "I experienced it in Holland, Germany and Israel and it's absolutely imperative. It was such a relief because you could easily divide the season into two halves, so you could be a completely different team in the second half. Your mentality could change, the rest that you would be get before getting back into camps - it's like having two seasons."

He also shared his experience in the England setup, where the 'golden generation' of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, David Beckham and others were unable to replicate their club form.  

"We didn't know what to do with players at the end of the season. They looked absolutely dead on their feet. If you kept them going they'd die. If you gave them a break at the end of the season it was difficult to get them back to their levels again. It was so difficult, and we found that we were ok at the start of the tournament, but come the last 16 and quarter-finals we were dead on our seat."

"I remember it well in Japan in 2002 against Brazil. A fantastic first-half, but they came in [to the dressing room] and the players were white. Exhausted. Gone. We were 1-0 up and I thought 'we just need to hang on'. But fatigue got us in the end and we lost 2-1. And in every tournament since the players have looked leggy, tired and mentally very difficult to get up for a major tournament after a long slog of a season."

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