Why Sir Alex Ferguson Is Wrong About Wanting a Winter Break

Feb. 15, 2010 - Italy - Football - Manchester United Training - San Siro Stadium, Milan, Italy - 15/2/10..Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson during training.

We all like a couple of weeks off work don’t we? Time to kick back, do sod all and have a few beers; time to de-stress your self from the daily grind. Yeah, we all need a holiday from time to time.

However, we work for a living and damn hard too. Well I don’t, I just sit at a computer which ain’t exactly hacking coal out the ground, but you may well do. This contrasts sharply to a footballer who really only has a part time job. Three hours a week plus a couple of hours a day training and that’s your lot. The rest of the time is yours to shop for large watches, expensive trousers and fake blonde ladies.

So when the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson call for a two week winter break for players to give them time to recover from injuries, arguing it would make them fresher for summer tournaments, it makes no sense to me at all.

Almost no top flight player goes a whole season without either having a minor or major injury which puts them out for a week or two or a month or two. That’s some rest, right there.

On top of that many get rested by management for League Cup games or less important league games. More rest for the weary super-fit athlete.

So by the time January comes around – many players – especially the most important internationals have not played four months of solid football, they’ve frequently had at least a few weeks off. How rested do they want to be?

For those that have played constantly, if they’re tired or carrying injuries, it’s for the management to rest or recuperate them. That’s why they have a squad, surely.

If there was a two week break, would it really make that much difference? Is 14 days without playing football in January really going to make England defenders take proper positions in June? Is it really going to make players with poor ball control better at controlling it six months after the break? It is surely a spurious notion.

Let’s not forget players have the very best medical and physio available to them on tap 24/7. They play on carpet-like pitches most of the time; they are given perfect diets and training regimes. Life is as easy as possible for them. And if that wasn’t enough, this year they had a full month away from competitive games to prepare for the World Cup. How much more time off do they need so they can get totally fit?

Advocates point to how the winter break benefits the likes of Germany and Spain in tournaments. However, when you look at the total amount of games their squads had played throughout the season and compared it to England’s they were very similar. Iniesta played 42 games for Barcelona last season, Gareth Barry played just 38 but was still much, much worse than Iniesta. This isn’t because he’s tired through not having a winter break, it’s because he’s much, much worse a player. Period. Resting for two weeks in January will not change that.

It’s easy to point to other successful countries and think that a winter break is a silver bullet that would save England but it is pure delusion. Our players are not tired, they are just not good enough and no amount of rest will cure that.

20 thoughts on “Why Sir Alex Ferguson Is Wrong About Wanting a Winter Break”

  1. Even if your premise that being a professional athlete at the top level of ANY sport is a part time job wasn’t ridiculous, which it is, it still doesn’t mean there is no advantage to taking a break.

    A break in a long season is a good thing. That is why the other football leagues have one. That is why players that go deep in the world cup get some extra time off before rejoining their clubs. That is why (at least in sports here in the US) every major sport has a built in rest. Hockey, baseball, and basketball gets the all star break, and American football teams get a bye week.

    You are right in that the break won’t turn Barry into Iniesta, but that doesn’t mean breaks have no point.

    1. With respect, I think you really have misinterpreted the point of the breaks in American Sports. The All-Star Breaks after all generally are rather short, and they don’t provide much of an opportunity for the star players to rest. The bye week in American Football does give the players a chance to rest, but since it is scattered through out the season, different teams benefit more than others. The real reason for the bye week is to provide an extra week of television and thus to increase the revenue.

      Now, I do tend to agree that professional sports generally need an off season to allow players to recover. The reality is that top professional soccer players get very little off season… but I am not sure a week or two in the middle of the season is enough to help them much.

  2. Good point. Also, when most of us are done with work, we have to go jogging or work out, players have already done that!

    I do think they need the mental break, however, and week off for each team in January would be good. I’d love it if they could do half the league at a time so we’d still get our football on the telly every weekend in January.

  3. This is, by far, one of the most ill-informed articles I’ve ever read on EPLtalk. I’ve seen good arguments against having a winter break in the Premiership, and this is not one them.

    You completely neglect the fact that time off from injuries is not really time off. Have you ever been injured? Ever tried rehab and the intense training to get back up to match fitness? It’s harder than being fit, training, and playing every week.

    As far as England are concerned, it wasn’t just the poor performance from them that suggested a need for change. It was the fact that other than Dirk Kuyt, Carlos Tevez and Park Ji-Sung (three players renowned for their stamina and ability to run forever) , the Premier League players from all nations were extremely underwhelming in South Africa.

  4. This is one of the worst articles I’ve read on this forum. Why is it that almost all managers believe that a winter break is needed? Are they all that ignorant? Do you know of ANY manager in the EPL or elsewhere that thinks having a winter break will be harmful to the players or their clubs?

  5. I agree with John.

    Not least because football over Christmas in England is the one thing that keeps people sane during a crazy time of year.

    Also – nice coup on getting John Nic writing for the site!

  6. awful article. if you wrote this on F365 you would get destroyed. professional sport a part time job??

    do not write abut tiredness and the effects of being a professional athlete on the body if you do not understand it. the human body cannot perform at its peak if it has to work every 3 days at the serious pace of professional football. it does not get the chance to recover and leads to more injuries.

  7. Daft this. A break wont fix all England’s problems but a break is a break and can be applied in January rather than Xmas. Allows players to recover for 3 weeks than constantly playing on and running themselves into the ground. This is a good idea and John Nic needs to learn the game and not just watch a lot of it.
    Its not the only idea mind but would be a good start.

  8. I don’t recall Wayne Rooney getting a lot of time off last year. When he was able to be on the pitch (and he played injured a lot), he was in the starting 11. Pretty sure he could have benefited from a winter break.

  9. I agree with the article having a winter break will not make the England team players better they are simply over-hyped especially wayne Rooney, John Terry and Frank lampard remember if there is no football for 2 weeks that means a net loss for the football league,sky sports and football clubs. Football in this country is already held to ransom with a lot of clubs going into liquidation by footballers pay demands,if their clubs had to say to players we all have to take a pay cut in favour of a 2 week break you will see how many players will agree to that break. I enjoy watching football as much as i can footballers get enough time off on their highly paid part time jobs lets not in courage them to seek more knowing it wont make a difference to their technical ability i work 3 times as hard as a footballer most of us do so lets not argue on their behalf because when your busting your gut for little pay making ends meat in your job no one give a toss thats your problem “we won the world cup in 1966 with players playing a lot more games than they do now” why ? because its wasn’t about money it was about passion commitment and a love for the game “ENGLAND”

  10. i dont know if i exactly agree with your arguements,but the reason i dont want it to happen is because i hate weekends without soccer

  11. I will say this though, the idea of this winter break is because a lot of the players in the Prem didn’t perform in the world cup, not just the English ones but prem players from other countries too.
    Now if you think that Ferguson gives a crap about the English team you are kidding yourselves, he played Rooney half dead, he doesn’t give a shit about any country or whether the players are fit for the summer competitions, he only cares about Man Utd and what is best for them.

    I say give them a winter break in the years we have the world cup or the euro’s on, they don’t need a break in the other years when there’s nothing going on in the summer.

  12. or say like this.. Christmas holidays.. lot of us are at home(can’t go out, weather sucks), nothing to do.. so you want footy to pass time..

  13. what a load of crack! kicking around a in the park is so different from playing in a league; and both of these amateur football is nothing compared to professional football. you have to give up your life just to make sure you are conditioned to the peak physically and mentally, in other words, you are working at all times.

    Even though I’m not a professional footballer or athlete but I have experience playing a league with my local football club, 2 nights training and match day, as much as I love football, I can’t imagine doing that for a living. My sister I was actively involved in sports in high school, I know how it feels to train 5 days a week. My sister was national champion in swimming, she has to train 6 days a week, day and night sessions a day. I decided to back off and not to choose the path my sister took as I know how much sacrifice she made.

    Moreover, due to their celebrity status (sadly), they are spokesperson for their clubs and country thus, every of their movements are scrutinized. Being a football star has a price.

  14. No undertsanding of the elite athlete here. Germany have always done better than the talent of their players would suggest because after a 6 week winter break their players are peaking again at tournament time, when England are just off the pace. Its not just about total number of games, but physical and mental performance cycles. Do you really think that with no break after 10 games in December and first week of Jan alone, England players can go on to sparkle in July?

    The EPL could have 3-4 weeks break in late Jan with no games lost if the FA freed up other slots: 1) No FA cup replays 2) EPL teams have to field under 23 teams in League cup 3) and have two weekends where only half of EPL play either side of the 2-3 non-playing weekends (so the money men don’t lose too many TV weekends).

    That would be a proper break to then start a new training cycle and the League Cup would be much more interesting as a genuine competition between emerging EPL talent against Championship sides – with a buzz like U.S. college football.

    John, get a sports physiologist to back up your view and I’ll humbly defer.

  15. I think the best idea is to reduce the number of teams in the Premier League, and spread 34 games, rather than 38, over the nine months of the schedule. Teams would gain four weeks without a midweek contest, and I think that would be more beneficial than a winter break.

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