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The Agony Of International Breaks And Why They Hinder More Than They Help

MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 10: Fabio Capello the England football manager watches inside the Ferrari garage during practice for the Italian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza on September 10, 2010 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

International breaks; like taxes and the poor, they are always with us; always hanging around the street corner waiting to disrupt our domestic contentment.

Just when things have settled into a nice groove; just when the season’s drama is beginning to unfold its latest plot twists, along comes the International Break to spoil it all, putting it all on pause for two weeks while we sit around and stare at our blank TV and at our empty grounds with an unbearable sadness.

While I enjoy international football, the waiting around for it to be played drives me nuts. There is no football this week until Friday’s internationals and if you’re an England fan and also a fan of a side in the top two leagues, you’ve got one game to watch in twelve or thirteen days.

We hear plenty about footballers playing too much football but less about times like these when some get two weeks off and even England’s international players are currently enjoying an eight or nine day break before the game against Montenegro.

Perhaps we could call it the Autumn Break? Feet up boys, you’ve had a long two months of football; you’ve played at most, a dozen games in two months, so you must be shattered.

Time was that internationals were played on Wednesdays and there was no break from the league programme to accommodate them. The FA was keen to change this because exhaustion and injury was said to be a cause of England’s failure to perform. Yes, really, it was.

We now know that this was always a delusion, England’s failure being much more down to old fashioned reasons such as players, tactics and coaching not being good enough rather than merely being knackered.

These days we have the break before the games and we still don’t win anything and, just as previously, we occasionally fail to qualify for a tournament. The break hasn’t helped us at all and players seem to be absent through injury in ever greater numbers regardless.

Perhaps it has helped other nations, but it certainly has been of no benefit to our national side. Indeed, I sometimes wonder if the break, rather than rest the players, makes them lose their edge by a few degrees. But this is heresy.

Despite no evidence that it has made England perform better, everyone in the game seems to agree they do and this break to the league programme is therefore most necessary, so perhaps I’m just howling at the moon; just jonesing for some football.

Editor’s Note: Johnny’s new book: “We Ate All The Pies: How Football Swallowed Britain Whole” has received the massive honour of being listed as one of William Hill’s Sports Book Of The Year 2010 – the biggest, most prestigious sports books prize in UK.

Buy it here via Amazon US or Amazon UK.

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  1. tnnelson

    October 7, 2010 at 12:31 am

    it might be the case for England based players that it is easier for them to just play on Wednesday in England or Western Europe and get on with the normal schedule, but what about players from other countries that might have fixtures far from England? the US, for example, or any other team that may have another game far from the English mainland(Africa, South America, etc.), will be hard pressed to get their key players from England for a Wednesday game, just to send them back for a game on Saturday or Sunday. it wouldn’t be beneficial to those particular players who have to log thousands of travel miles in just a few days, or to the respective teams that wish to have their top talent with them for important games. i just personally think the viewpoint against the international break is particularly biased towards the English players based in England, rather than the countless other internationals based in England that want to appear for the national side

  2. Goal Addict

    October 5, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    I think international breaks are good for some teams and bad for others but on the whole I don’t think it is a bad thing. It shows that the international game is still important and I’m sure the international managers really appreciate the two weeks they spend with their players. What I like about the international breaks is that everyone for a week or two are united in supporting their country and I think it just has a feel to it that domestic football will never have.

  3. Mitch

    October 5, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    I’m not really too bothered by this break. The USMNT has 2 winnable games over the weekend and my friends who are anti club soccer will watch them with me. There is also something to being crowded in a corner at a sports bar watching soccer on a college football on a saturday night, what a great way to meet new friends.

  4. Jason

    October 5, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Well look at this weekend as a chance to take a weekend road trip without having to miss anything good.

  5. David

    October 5, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Instead of trying to make a meal of this topic, it simply comes down to whether you like international competitions or not. Which you clearly don’t.

    Qualifying is part of the WC and the Euros and so on. If you don’t like that, than I’m sorry for your frustrations. There’s nothing else that really can be done. Believe it or not, this issue doesn’t revolve around the English National Team, either. At least they don’t have to travel back through crazy timezones and flights to play their matches (see Asia, N/S America etc.).

    You English fans could have it much worse, but it’s funny that I only hear English fans complain about international breaks, yet claim to be huge supporters of their national team.

    • VillaPark

      October 5, 2010 at 12:27 pm

      This might be due to the fact that you’re on an ENGLISH Premier League web site called EPL Talk. Maybe.

      • David

        October 5, 2010 at 6:35 pm

        Touche, VillaPark. However, many other nations (especially Americans) are represented on this site, and we actually think that the breaks are great.

        My general point is that it’s very contradicting to be a fan of your nation’s team, yet complain when they’re called in for duty.

  6. Drew M.

    October 5, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Johnny – please tell your publisher about the wonders of the Kindle! The US options for buying your book are rather grim.

  7. Robert

    October 5, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Excellent post, I think you can copy this sentiment for the other major European nations – definitely Italy

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