BBC BLOGS - Gavin Strachan
« Previous | Main | Next »

Of sleep and dream teams

Gavin Strachan | 11:00 UK time, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Hi, hope you are all well.

I have been fascinated to read recently that Manchester United have been employing a "professional sleep coach". This attempt to make sure their players get the proper rest is a further example of how the top clubs are leaving no stone unturned in their search for perfection.

Plenty of the scientific techniques that are used by the Premier League clubs to get the best out of their teams have slowly trickled down into lower league football but the sleep side of things is something that I have never known to be addressed in any depth before.

Alastair Scott-Johnson, Frankie Howerd

I have to say that my eyes lit up when I first saw the story, primarily because I saw it as an excuse for a lay-in. I could imagine my wife saying "it's your turn to get up with the kids" and me responding with "sorry love, my sleep coach says I need my rest", I think we can all guess what many wives would say to that!

On a serious note, for footballers (or anyone else for that matter) with young children it is very difficult to get the right amount of sleep. As I have got older and my family has grown bigger, my sleep patterns have had to change. Put simply, I go to bed a lot earlier than I used to. If I am not in bed by 10pm then that is classed as a late night.

There are other reasons why I and a lot of players in my position go to bed a lot earlier than many people might think. The main one is that many players playing in the lower two leagues have to set off early in order to commute to their respective clubs. I am only commuting an hour to Nottingham every day which is better than the hour and a half I had to travel to Peterborough and a lot better than the two-and-a-half hour commute from York to Peterborough that I experienced for six months. I know of many players who are currently commuting these distances.

You might think that the answer to this would be to move house rather than commute but this is simply not practical. This is mainly because in the lower leagues, contracts are invariably shorter with most only being for one year. This would mean in some cases moving house every year and with the housing market in the state that it is in just now, it would be well nigh impossible. You also have to try and have some stability in your family life, so moving your kids in and out of schools every year is not really fair on them.

Anyway, back to the sleep issue. Overnight stays in hotels become less and less frequent the further you slip down the league ladder simply because of the cost involved but over the years I have had many different room-mates and it's fair to say that some of them are the reason my sleep pattern has not always been as good as I would have wished!

Mark Tinkler, my room-mate for a spell when I was at Hartlepool, had a habit of making random noises while he was sleeping. Even worse, when I mentioned it to the other lads, he tried to convince them that I was the one who had been doing it. During my trial at Sheffield Wednesday, I had to share a room with a player who slept with one eye open (I'd better not mention his name but he knows who he is!). That was freaky, especially as I did not know him very well and was not sure if he was winking at me or sleeping. As far as I know he was sleeping or at least I hope he was.

When I first joined Peterborough, I had to share a room with Guy Branston. Now Guy is a lovely bloke and one of the great characters I have come across in my career but initially, I was a bit wary of him. He is a big, burly skinhead of a centre-half who - how can I put it nicely? - is very opinionated. He also let it be known to me just as we were putting the key in our bedroom door that he is a border-line insomniac. Little did I know that all the other boys at Peterborough were well aware of Guy's sleeping habits and had conspired for me, 'the new boy', to be paired with him. Thanks, lads!

Guy Branston

As it happens, I came up against Guy Branston at the weekend. He is now captain of Kettering who we drew 1-1 with on Sunday in the FA Cup second round. For the programme I was asked to provide a "dream team" comprising of players I had played with during my career. I opted for a central defensive partnership of Michael Nelson and Gary Breen. With 10 minutes of the game remaining I was introduced as a substitute. Now bearing in mind it was a very tense time of the match, with both teams determined to reach the next round, Guy jogged past me and said "how can you choose Nelson ahead of me in your dream team?"


More from this blog...

Topical posts on this blog


These are some of the popular topics this blog covers.

Latest contributors

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.