Christ­mas crack­ers fizz with at­mos­phere

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE -

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!

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

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case. RUM­PUS: Sh­effield United coach Chris Mor­gan, left, is sent to the stand by ref­eree Michael McDonough as man­ager Nigel Clough and Southamp­ton boss Ron­ald Koe­man ar­gue

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