Christmas crackers fizz with atmosphere
WHEN the fixtures come out in July, the first one every player looks for is the Boxing Day game. Why? Well we all want it to be at home, of course. If it isn’t, you know you’re spending Christmas Day in a hotel.
As a young kid growing up, I used to love the Christmas fixtures. It was a time where you saw family and went to football together and everyone was in high spirits.
Even when I was younger I loved playing in those games because the atmosphere was always fantastic.
It was only when I got older and had a family that it became more of an issue. If you’re away, you always want to know when the coach is leaving. And if you’re at home, you’re eager to hear when training is.
Because the most special time for any parent is Christmas morning when you get to watch your kids opening their presents. I was happy to miss almost anything, but I was gutted if I didn’t see that.
That said, managers are pretty understanding. On a normal Saturday, they’d usually take a squad of 18, plus two or three extras in case someone went down with sickness or got an injury in the warm-up.
Away on Boxing Day, you’d be very surprised if they took anyone who wasn’t in the matchday squad.
Can a player have a normal Christmas dinner? I suppose that depends on what you see as normal. For me, it was the usual – loading up with a big plate of carbs. One thing you certainly can’t do is stuff yourself with Christmas pudding and get on the beers.
Very few players would dream of doing that because it’s just so intense.You’re playing the 26th, the 28th and then New Year’s Day. You need to be in tip-top shape.
In that sense Championship clubs are quite fortunate. They have a big enough squad to rotate. But clubs in League One and Two don’t have that luxury. For their players it’s serious graft – especially at a time of year when lots of people are carrying knocks.
With all the money in the game, I don’t think many people will shed a tear for the footballers who spend Christmas on the road. That’s fair enough.
But as fans, we’re lucky in this country. While the rest of Europe shuts down for a month, we get a period packed with fixtures that are usually among the best in the whole calendar.
And now I’m retired, long may it continue!
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