Winter break? No thank you

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For clubs like Swindon, thinks Nick Judd, the cons outweigh the pros 

Last Wednesday, the Football League hosted a meeting at the Madejski Stadium so southern clubs could discuss, among other things, a winter break.

Looks like they’re going to introduce one between January and February for the Academy and Centre of Excellence programmes, with a view to bringing it in at professional level in the future.

The question is, do we need one?

This season, Swindon have a match on Boxing Day, another on December 28 and a third game three days later.

That’s three games in a week, no more than if we had a cup game in midweek.

Last season, because we were beaten by Histon (stop laughing at the back please) we didn’t have a game between December 28 and January 13 because we weren’t involved in the third round of the FA Cup.

Admittedly this isn’t advisable financially, but we returned with a run of one defeat in seven (although some of that may be down to getting a new manager, too).

It’s not as much of an issue as in the top flight. There are no Champions League or Carling Cup fixture pile-ups.

Nor are there many players fearing burnout: there are few players down here hoping to fill Fabio Capello’s squad.

The number of sides competing in the FA Cup isn’t substantial, while the Johnstone's Paint Trophy is at an advanced stage by January, meaning few teams are affected.

I guess it also depends on how your team is getting on at the time, too.

Last year, with Swindon failing to win any of their 11 games before the turn of the year, I would gladly have had a break from the misery, as would the players, no doubt.

Yet I doubt Leicester City – with seven wins in eight games – would have appreciated having to halt their winning run.

What about other logistics? Groundsmen across the country would snap your hand off for time to work on pitches battered by the elements, an ongoing contrast of wet and cold.

Physios would also relish having time to get players back to full fitness.

Managers would hate it; having two weeks off or more would be like starting the season all over again.

"Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go"

More importantly, many clubs would struggle to operate as it would be a week or more lacking the revenue brought in by matchdays.

Matchday ticket sales, hospitality, food and drink sales, club shop takings, programme sales... having a steady stream of games keeps clubs alive.

Also, look at your team’s attendances over the season: those in this holiday period are often among the highest of the season.

And what about the fans? Granted, driving up to Carlisle and Stockport when it’s raining – or worse – is as appealing as spending a night in the company of Nick Griffin.

Adverse conditions can make public transport and roads a nightmare, but it’s all part of the experience.

Whether you take a flask of tea or tackle 10 pints for your winter coat, watching your team in the cold is as much of an obligation as wearing the new shirt in August.

I would suggest the answer is not about introducing a break.

Instead, the League should ensure that all games in the festive period – and January too, if possible – are against local opposition.

That way, travelling becomes easier for the fans – cheaper, too – while the stress on the players is also reduced.

Let’s face it - take the football away and what are we left with?

At least in the summer there’s cricket on telly...

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