The winter break discussion.
As annual and expected as the season itself. And just as spring follows, so does the moaning from managers lamenting its absence.
They’re right, of course. Particularly those managers whose squads are a bit thin on the ground.
Which makes the noises coming from clubs near the top of the table a bit rich given their superior resources, squad size and quality.
Until the time comes when a winter break is implemented, why complain about something you know is going to happen before you take over an English club?
It’s hardly modern day slavery but that said, if the Premier League want a premier product, then players having to play twice in 48 hours aren’t going to give you a premier performance.
Perhaps Sunderland would have stood less of a chance against an optimised Klopp machine but the circumstances are the same for both managers, so it’s up to them to manage the situation to make sure they get the result.
So until it changes, we have to deal with it.
Petty arguments and groans aside, cramming games in for tradition’s sake is stupid.
Regardless of TV scheduling and commitments, everyone would benefit from a three week break around this time.
From a player’s point of view, particularly those who have played the most minutes for their side, they will be beginning to see the weekly wear and tear take its toll.
They will be managing minor injuries on a daily basis and a week or two’s rest from pushing their bodies to the limit will give them the chance to make a full recovery and guard against them breaking down further down the line at a crucial point of the season.
With the transfer window opening, the 14 to 21 day period without competitive games will give managers the chance to integrate new signings into the group.
The mid-season window can be a bit of a craps shoot.
A desperate roll of the dice that throws players in to sink or swim situations.
A break would allow them crucial bedding-in time and take some of the risk away from potential transfers.
There are even benefits for those players who have been out in the cold until that point in the season.
Scotland are having a 28 day break this year but it’s not the first time.
It was trialled to great effect (I thought) during my time at Aberdeen and it actually paid dividends for me both times.
The first winter break during was during the 2000/2001.
We’d played on the 23rd/26th of December and January 2 before breaking off for 25 days.
I hadn’t played first team football for 15 months and it was make or break time for me.
After the game on the 2nd we were given seven days off to do what we wanted so I took the chance to get away and spend it in New York walking around Central Park in the snow and having dinner on the next table to P Diddy and J-Lo.
I’m sure when they talk about that night to their friends, they tell the same story about the lad from Grangetown who earwigged every word of their conversation he might as well have sat on their laps.
I also bumped into Britney Spears in the toilets of the Hudson Hotel too and although this has nothing to do with what I’m talking about, I haven’t told anyone about it for years.
When we returned to training, we spent 10 days on the Costa del Sol doing double training sessions and playing twice against 1860 Munich and their talismanic captain, Thomas Hassler.
Before anyone asks what’s the point of having break if you’re going to do double sessions and play games anyway, it isn’t the same.
Players can play 45 minutes here and there and still get fitter without pushing themselves into the red zones that result in fatigue and injury as happens in competitive games.
This training camp became a turning point for me as had given myself the task of using this break as my way back into the side.
I’d been working like a dog and as a result my form took an up-turn and so did my fortunes.
Myself and fellow keeper, Ryan Esson, played a game each against the Germans and then a half each against Danish side Brondby at a windswept Pittodrie.
I’d performed well and whilst Ryan did too, he conceded two goals direct from corners; one from Hassler, the other against Brondby.
That was enough for me to win my place back in time for the 3-0 win in the Scottish cup away to Alloa Athletic.
It’s amazing what a bit of J-Lo, some sun on your face and continental opposition can do for a footballer’s career.
Crediting that three week period with reviving my career in Scotland might be the main reason behind my pro-winter break stance but I really can’t come up with any drawbacks.
The rest would reinvigorate everyone’s hunger for the game, especially the fans.
For those still left in the Champions League, it still gives them enough games to get back in the swing of things before its return.
Teams could play Boxing Day and New Year’s Day and then return for the third round of the FA Cup three weeks later.
If we do away with FA cup replays after the fourth round that would alleviate some congestion whilst still keeping some room for replays and giant killing too.
The only argument I’ve heard against it is that players who are earning £100,000 a week should be able to play every day of the week for that money.
Well, money might be able to buy you many things, but it will never make you Superman.