Not just the gormless we-invented-the-game invective of the tabloids, either; the moneyed Premier League clubs, despite their distinctly pro-European squads, reacted more than a little sniffily to UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rulings (as well they might) and, as we all know, English players have always been strangely reluctant to try their luck overseas.
This week players in Italy, France, Spain, Germany and elsewhere (including north of the border in Scotland) will be packing their Louis Vuitton luggage and heading off to lie down a beach somewhere in the Maldives (Brazilian players will head back home for carnival, eventually re-surfacing sometime around Easter).
Then, having worked on their tans for a few days, they’ll join their clubs at some swanky training camp in Dubai for some leisurely muscle stretching, a quick run out against a local side and then the odd bit of autograph signing. Nice.
Meanwhile, back here in England, players will be passing up another serving of Christmas pud, sticking to fizzy water and hauling themselves on to a coach to play some crucial fixtures on Boxing Day. And then again on New Year’s Eve. And again on the Bank Holiday Monday.
The tradition of playing football over Christmas is long-held and cherished, but in times past it invariably meant a derby game against local rivals (thus hopefully avoiding travel problems).
That seems to have gone a long time ago; this holiday season, Wolves supporters will have to find their way to north London for their game against Arsenal, while Manchester City fans will hit the motorway south to West Brom (not just in the Premier League either, Championship fixtures are equally unhelpful for away supporters).
Maybe it’s time to finally break with tradition, to get in step with our Euro brethren. Taking a two-week break would give everyone a chance to regroup, rest and revive. It also, and now we’re talking Premier League clubs’ language, allows for a bit more brand leverage, a chance to flog a few more away shirts to spoilt brat schoolkids in the UAE.
It would also go some way to mending bridges with the national team and the suits at the FA, sending out a signal that, in those years with a major international tournament taking place, club football can do its part to help, rather than hinder, English fortunes.
The broadcasters will doubtless be yelping with excitement at this “festive football feast” or some such (“It’s Stoke versus Wigan/Bolton versus Newcastle/West Brom versus Everton – and it’s live!!!”, etc) and fans will be there in decent numbers, but the rest of Europe will be looking over at us as if we’re all batshit mad.
And they’ll have a point. As will surely be revealed next summer during the European Championships.
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