Winter break needed to boost England, says Hull City boss Steve Bruce

Hull City manager Steve Bruce.
Hull City manager Steve Bruce.
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HULL CITY manager Steve Bruce insists English football can forget about being successful in major tournaments such as next year’s Euro 2016 until a winter break has been introduced.

As most major leagues in Europe put their feet up for Christmas and New Year, the Premier and Football Leagues will be undertaking one of the most hectic periods of the year.

Most clubs will play three games in the space of eight days, including two in a little over 48 hours.

It is a schedule that David Wagner, newly-appointed Huddersfield Town head coach, describes as “crazy” after spending his entire career until now as a player and coach in Germany, where the domestic game shuts down for a month.

France, Italy, Holland and a host of other countries also go into hibernation for part or all of the holiday season.

Spain traditionally has a two-week break, but that has been curtailed this term due to wanting La Liga to finish early in an attempt to help Vicente del Bosque’s preparations for the European Championships.

Despite reigning European champions Spain moving to a schedule that is more in sync with this country, Bruce believes England’s hopes of a first success since 1966 are being wrecked by players being fatigued come the end of a season that, for those playing international football, can be up to 10 or 11 months long.

“Unless we bring it (winter break) in, I don’t think we will ever be successful as a nation,” Bruce yesterday told The Yorkshire Post.

“If you are asking players to play all season in the Premier League without a break and then go and perform at a major tournament, it is very difficult. I don’t think it is possible.

“I can understand the tradition. Boxing Day is usually the highest attendance in everyone’s ground. People want a day out, don’t they? They want to shout and bawl, and get out of the way of all the turkey.

“It is part and parcel of our game but, on a bigger scale, everyone else has a break. And they don’t play as many games as we do, certainly not at the same intensity.

“I am an advocate of trying to build a break in if we possibly can. You could still have a break after Boxing Day and then shut it down in January for a few weeks, when it is usually the worst type of weather.”

Hull’s schedule is one of the toughest over the holiday season due to the trip to Queens’ Park Rangers having been pulled forward a day so it can be shown live on Sky.

That game at Loftus Road is one of only two in the Football League being played on New Year’s Day and means the Tigers face three games in the space of just seven days, as is the case for Leeds United.

Bruce added: “When you speak with some of the foreign coaches, they think we are bonkers.

“The demands are ridiculous so they shake their heads. But, in our country, we are used to it.”

Wagner, whose Huddersfield side host Preston North End on Boxing Day before heading to London to face QPR two days later, is one of those foreign coaches who finds the English way of doing things perplexing.

“As a player or manager, I never before had two games in three days,” said the 44-year-old, who will give his players Christmas Day off. “It is crazy. I am told you also played two in two days not so long ago.

“From a sports science side of things, it is crazy. From the health of the players, it is crazy. From mentality, it is crazy. Two in three days is also crazy so we have to make really sure that everyone gets help in this busy period.”

Wagner played for a host of clubs in his native Germany including Schalke and Eintracht Frankfurt before moving into coaching at Borussia Dortmund under Jurgen Klopp.

“It is something completely new and I have no Christmas atmosphere, unlike when I was in Germany,” joked Wagner before adding: “No, seriously, I am looking forward to Preston.

“In Germany and the rest of Europe, people do speak about Boxing Day in England. It is something special for English football and I am very excited to be part of it.”

Pressed on whether he would like to see English football fall more into step with the rest of Europe and take a break at this time of year, Wagner added: “As a player, I never had the experience of having no winter break.

“It was just normal in Germany for the league to stop. You would get to the last game before the break and know there would be four weeks until the next one. The first 10 days would be spent off.

“It was a break for the mind, not really the body. In those 10 days you don’t lose so much fitness. But, for the mind, it was good to calm a little bit down.

“We would always go away to a training camp, Turkey or Spain or wherever. Somewhere for one week’s sun, as that is very important for the mind.

“When I was a player and coach, I enjoyed the break. But now, I have to be honest, it is exciting to work at Christmas.”