Christmas Day rest becoming the norm for footballers

CHRISTMAS Day football was abandoned in this country almost six decades ago, but the tradition of players coming in for training as the rest of the country spends time with their nearest and dearest was one that endured. Times, though, are changing.

Bradford City Stuart McCall (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).

For the second year running, Bradford City’s players will be allowed to spend December 25 with their families. Manager Stuart McCall believes more and more clubs are going down this road.

“I was at Sheffield United versus Walsall recently and there were six managers/coaches sitting around at half-time, discussing whether their teams would be in on Christmas Day,” said the Bantam’s boss.

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“Five were going to be off and just one in – and they were near the bottom of the league, making me wonder if it was more of a punishment thing.

“I trust the players to do the right thing and I think more and more managers are doing the same.”

Phil Parkinson was at the helm a year ago when Bradford’s players were given Christmas Day off as reward for their efforts over the year.

The hope was this would leave the Bantams fresh for the visit of Burton Albion, but the Boxing Day fixture was postponed following the deluge of rain that left parts of West Yorkshire under water.

“The last time I was in on Christmas Day was when a player at Everton,” said McCall, who was at Goodison Park for three years until 1991. “I know a lot of clubs have brought their players in, but it just never seemed to be at a club I was at, no matter where I was playing.

“As a manager, I have never seen the point of getting players to drive 30 or 40 miles just to run through a bit of shape with a light session.”

City have taken just five points from their last five games and scored just twice. It is a run McCall knows has to improve.

“Frustrating is a good way of summing up the last month,” he added. “I would be more concerned if we hadn’t been creating chances, but we have been dominating games without getting our just rewards.

“We know we need more goals. But it is when you score that matters. We got three goals against Sheffield United, but just one points. Yet we could get three goals in our three games over Christmas and New Year, and get nine points. Football can be funny like that at times.”