Spate of League One international call-offs highlights an area where fixture list needs more balance

Technically, English football's international break only extends to the Premier League and the Championship, but with just four games left standing, it will be slim pickings in League One on Saturday.

That so many matches have been called off shows the depth of quality in the English pyramid – a depth that means football addicts can still turn to League Two, non-league and a full programme of FA Cup fourth qualifying round games and hand money over at the turnstiles of clubs who really need it.

That Barnsley have lost two Saturday home games in a row to international football and have a third scheduled in the next break shows the fixture compilers maybe need to plan a bit better.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In the Premier League, with its multi-billion-pound television deals, gates can sometimes be largely irrelevant but to clubs such as Barnsley, they are significant in trying to pay the bills.

So losing September's game at home to Portsmouth and this weekend’s scheduled match against Bolton Wanderers because of call-ups to the visiting teams does matter. No new date has yet been set for the Trotters' trip but like Pompey's, it will almost certainly have to be in midweek.

At least November's game is against Carlisle United, one of the eight League One teams in action at the weekend. March's is the return at Portsmouth, which could also be under threat.

For now it is right that third tier clubs continue to play during the international breaks, with the proviso that they can ask to call off matches if three or more players are called up for international duty at senior or junior level. Who plays where in them just needs a bit more thought.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Third-placed Barnsley are actually better away from home than at Oakwell, where all four of their league defeats so far this season have come, so being in a run of three matches on the road is not so much of a footballing hardship.

WEEKEND OFF: International call-ups to Bolton Wanderers players have left Barnsley with another free weekendWEEKEND OFF: International call-ups to Bolton Wanderers players have left Barnsley with another free weekend
WEEKEND OFF: International call-ups to Bolton Wanderers players have left Barnsley with another free weekend

But this season's fixture list has seemed unusually skew-whiff when it comes to home and away games.

Three of Leeds United, Doncaster Rovers and Harrogate Town's next four matches are at home, three of Sheffield Wednesday and Bradford City's away.

Remarkably, Huddersfield Town do not play outside of Yorkshire until the end of November, Rotherham United's next four are all in South Yorkshire.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It evens itself out over the course of a season, but that is no consolation to managers Neil Warnock, Xisco Munoz and Mark Hughes who were only in charge of their clubs for a matter of months this season.

Playing three of their first four Premier League matches at Bramall Lane meant Sheffield United had passed up the chance for nine home points before loanee James McAtee was eligible to play for them. You might say the Blades should have been more organised in getting their business done but their interest was registered even before the transfer window opened. Manchester City hung onto the youngster until the last possible moment.

Football has bigger problems than this, but it is an easy one to fix next season.