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Should there be a winter break?

Gavin Strachan | 09:00 UK time, Thursday, 8 January 2009

Hi, hope you are all well.

The cold snap has caused a fair amount of disruption to the week's football fixtures.

We at Notts County were one of the teams to suffer at the hands of the weather. Our match at Aldershot was called off at 1.15pm on Saturday when we were just six miles away from the ground.

From a psychological point of view, it was very strange. At that time on the day of a match, I am well into the process of getting mentally ready for the game.

The ipod is on and I am trying to get as much fluid on board as is humanly possible (hence the fact that I try to get a seat near the toilet)! So to be told the game was off was a massive anti-climax.

Needless to say, the atmosphere on the bus was one of frustration.

While I understand the logic in waiting for as long as possible before making a decision on whether a game should go ahead, I do think that consideration must be given to the distance being travelled by the opposing team and their supporters.

You have to feel for the fans on a day like that. In the case of the Notts County followers, it meant a seven-hour round trip and no football, plus the cost that such a day incurs.

Please feel free to share your tales of woe concerning games that were called off and the journeys that were involved.

During the trip back to Nottingham a few of the older players began to reminisce about other occasions when games were called off during their career. The common theme during our conversation was the inconsistencies of those decisions.

I am convinced that the first hamstring injury I suffered at Notts County was due in part to the fact that the match at home to Darlington was allowed to continue even though one side of the pitch was frozen solid.

Although there is no scientific proof to back up this view, I remember feeling as if my whole body was compensating just to try to stop myself from sliding around and it was when I ran from the frozen part of the pitch to the part that was fine that the injury occurred.

Call me a conspiracy theorist if you like but another thought to emerge from the discussion was that the question of whether a game that is in doubt goes ahead or not occasionally depends in some part on the situation of the home club.

Snow at Northampton

For example, a team with an injury crisis or some key players missing may (just may!) only have a couple of people sweeping snow off the pitch compared to the 100 people they had doing the same job last season when they were on a five-match winning run with a fully fit squad!

When a spate of games are called off, it always sparks that old argument for a mid-season break.

I see that this is something that the Scottish Premier League is looking at re-introducing in the 2010/11 season.

Should it happen in England?

I think it is something that should certainly be considered, although in saying that, I feel it is important to make the distinction between Premier League teams and the rest.

In this day and age, when the majority of Premier League teams have undersoil heating there is no need for them to have a mid-season break if the only criteria we are looking at is the bad weather affecting fixture lists.

Going back to our discussion on the bus, we came up with our own idea on the issue.

We thought about possibly shutting down the lower leagues for two or three weeks during January and then extending the season for a week or two at the end of the season, which could result in clubs attracting increased crowds as the Premier League would have already finished.

Maybe it is a bit of an over reaction to the abandonment of one game but at the time it felt relevant to us, as I am sure it would have done to the thousands of fans up and down the country who travelled to a match only to have it postponed.

If you have any ideas on the issue, please let me know because I am sure you can improve on the idea that a frustrated group of footballers came up with!

Even though we are in the depths of winter and call offs are an inevitability, it is quite noticeable from a players' point of view that in general, the standards of the pitches we play on nowadays are very high. This is the case right through the leagues.

When I started my career, it was quite rare that you came across a pitch in the lower leagues that was of a good standard, now it is rare to find a pitch at any level that isn't. That includes some Blue Square Conference pitches that I have played on .

It seems to me that clubs are placing more emphasis on the quality of their playing surfaces, in terms of the money they are spending on the upkeep of them.

I would say that it is a reflection of the desire of managers to produce teams who try to pass the ball well.

Still, I refuse to give up my old excuse for not playing well.

Although I said the pitches are in a good state, I personally still prefer to blame a bobble, rather than my lack of ability when one of my passes goes astray!


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