You may double take at the title of this blog and assume that I have made a spelling mistake but please note that this is intentional. The return to matches after a Christmas lay-off has the potential to but the brakes on what is potentially a good season for all teams. This month is the exact one where the Managers and Coaches who run amateur teams really earn their stripes.
Christmas is undoubtedly a time where those that celebrate it partake in a daily over indulgence of selection packs for breakfast, a full box of mince pies for lunch and a constant question to yourself as to what time it is acceptable to have your first beer of the day.
Players report back for training to their respective clubs sporting their new boots from Santa, hoping that this will serve as a distraction to everyone to the added beer belly that they have accumulated since they have been away. Training starts and everyone is sluggish. Managers do their best to keep everyone working hard but the players just want the session over as soon as possible because they have told themselves to get the first one back out of the way and take it from there.
Training your squad in January can largely resemble a pre season in the middle of the season. It can be a difficult time, especially for those still in National competitions whose first match back could be a big tie to take you into the latter stages. Preparation can be thrown out of the window with only two nights to train before you have to play this huge game. Secretly I’m sure I am not alone in saying that you really have to hope, pray and hope again that the opposition players had a better Christmas than your own. It’s amazing how quick fitness can be lost and also scary how quickly weight can be put on.
Players get fit when playing matches, there is no doubt about that. So when you add into the mix that January is a notorious month for matches being called off then that is what I mean when I spoke about earning your stripes. You can’t really get your players match fit when they aren’t playing matches. With midweek full pitch bookings so scarce you have to be on point with your training and how hard you drill the players. Going five or six weeks with no game only results in rapid deterioration of the fitness of your squad.
The thing is, we are all in the exact same boat. We watch in horror as our players snapchat themselves out drinking for the fourth day in a row wondering what state they will be at training in. We panic about it and wish we had the luxury of pro managers who can crack the whip at such behaviour but ultimately every single team has players who put on a little bit of holiday weight. Some, if your lucky, more than others.
Earn the stripes