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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!


  • 1. At 07:37am on 08 Jan 2009, ChelseaSaffer wrote:

    What I'd like to know is whether or not clubs in the lower leagues can afford underground heating? If they have underground heating can it be sustained financially? I'm not too sure whether it's the pitch that's unplayable or whether it's just the overall conditions? Spurs could play against Burnley, so i dont get it?

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  • 2. At 07:44am on 08 Jan 2009, chesney strachan wrote:

    The winter break is a good idea and would certainly solve a lot of the League's fixture woes (especially up here in Scotland). However as a fan who regularly travels home and away, the Christmas period is one to look forward to as you tend to be off work and look forward to the festive banter! Good blog once again Gavin, Sports Journalism seems to come natural to you!! Now how's about tapping your old man for some transfer exclusives!

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  • 3. At 07:49am on 08 Jan 2009, WonderboySA wrote:

    Hey must be really frustrating when youve prepared yourself so much and then a game gets postponed.birmingham and wolves game was postponed aswell.they were a premier league team last year so shouldnt they have undersoil heating?this is one of the few examples that fans are not actually put into consideration in alot of things when it comes to football but i think its fair to say that you must think of the footballers too.great write hey.

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  • 4. At 07:59am on 08 Jan 2009, karl01978 wrote:

    Hi Gavin,

    Keep up with the great blogs!!!

    As a Wrexham supporter I couldn't agree more with the ideaof 2-3 weeks off Jan then these added to the end of season. At present Wrexham have 4 games in hand due to postponments, and these will all be crammed into an already tight fixture list.
    Dean Saunders has done a great job with Wrexham this season and we are confident after a good string of results but we need the games whilst the team is on a high, not crammed in 2 months later when there is a possibility of major injuries, loan signings that have returned etc. Wrexham should be back in the legue next year but I am interested to hear what you think about the way Saunders has come into management and had a sudden effect on the game?

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  • 5. At 08:18am on 08 Jan 2009, richard crisford wrote:

    why not go further. how about playing in the lower leagues until june. crowds would certainly be higher in the warm weather and there would still be a 1 month gap between the higher leagues to accomodate player transfers. also, the clubs would save money on their bills for heat and light.

    sounds a good idea. it'll never happen.

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  • 6. At 08:21am on 08 Jan 2009, Simonty_Burns wrote:


    Great blog!

    I regularly turn out for both local Saturday and Sunday league teams and I agree that the winter period is indeed a frustrating one. Not only because of the psychological effects (driving an hour or so into the middle of nowhere, getting kitted up, warmed up and then having the game cancelled) but also the physical ones. Fitness goes completely out of the window as, with the relentless frost of late, even training gets pulled. Obviously a 'winter break' would make little difference as far as pub league football goes but I agree that at a proffessional level (championship downward) it may prove a good idea. As you say - not only would it mean bigger crowds for lower league teams - but less time waiting for the season to start again!

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  • 7. At 08:40am on 08 Jan 2009, stuckathome wrote:

    With the winter break, I absolutley love the idea that we can all predict the exact 3 weeks where bad weather will strike!

    We have had perfectly playable january's in the past and frozen February's.

    Imagine having 3 weeks off only then for the cold snap to come and suddenly you are playing 4 games a week at the end of the season.

    We do not have predictable enough weather to allow for a winter break.

    And lengthening the season is no good either as it is too long as it is.

    The answer is actually to play more midweek games in September and October so we get to the new year playing 27 or more games so that gives some slack in the winter for weather postponed games and cup runs.

    There are plenty of blank midweeks in the late summer early autumn to use.

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  • 8. At 09:05am on 08 Jan 2009, SugarDunkerton wrote:

    Move it indoor over the winter like the old Tennents Soccer 6's!!! That would be brilliant.. and you could start using one of they big mad tennis balls that you cant swerve.

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  • 9. At 09:13am on 08 Jan 2009, Ali_Don wrote:

    It should be compulsory to have undersoil heating for all clubs in the top two divisions. Its a complete joke that a club like Birmingham City are calling games off due to the weather.

    I fully understand that lower league clubs cannot afford to have that, but certainly all Championship club should have it.

    Im not too convinced about a winter break. It’s a festive period and one of the exciting times of the year. What would Boxing Day be without football, for example.

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  • 10. At 09:23am on 08 Jan 2009, I actually like Sven wrote:

    The cost of undersoil heating is something like £70k, something Birmingham City are looking to invest in.
    As for the mid winter break to avoid the games being called off, is it to be a fixed break or can we move it? We could end up having a two week break when the weather is fine and then imediately after the weather turns nasty and matches are off for a further week because of frozen pitches. Unfortunately the British climate has never been that predictable.

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  • 11. At 09:24am on 08 Jan 2009, philtoon82 wrote:

    i remember a few year back travelling all the way down to west ham (from newcastle) only for the match to be called off less than an hour before kick off! we were already in the ground!! now that was a long bus ride home!!

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  • 12. At 09:25am on 08 Jan 2009, kevthered83 wrote:

    I think its a good idea. Leagues below the championship should play over Xmas, then after the FA Cup 3rd round have a few weeks off.

    The extended season will not only create interest from the fans, but could get some extra television money. I am a premier league fan, but when the premier league season is over I need my fix of footy on the box, so id be happy to watch a league 1 match or league 2 match. It could work!

    Also if there is a tournament in the summer, it shouldnt effect league 1 and 2 clubs much as few of them will be competing in the go for it!!!

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  • 13. At 09:41am on 08 Jan 2009, Danny Crow PE15 wrote:

    I have been very lucky over the 10 years ive been following The Posh that i have never got to (or near) an away ground only for the game to be called off.

    Having said that,im going to Tranmere this saturday so theres a first for everything .....

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  • 14. At 09:44am on 08 Jan 2009, Ted 42 from Sheringham (61 R.I.P) wrote:

    Great Blog Gavin always enjoy it,

    As a follower of local team Colchester United i can comment on a recent game that was postponed at the brand new community stadium due to a frozen pitch, the media got on the backs of Colchester and wanted to know why undersoil heating had not been installed in the new stadium? Colchesters response was that the cost of having undersoil heationg was about £500,000 which for a club of Colchesters size is quite alot to shell out.

    Agree with the winter break for lower divisions i dont travel to any away games in the winter for the sole reason that i wouldnt want to get half way there to find the game has been called off.

    Good Luck for the rest of the season!!

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  • 15. At 10:11am on 08 Jan 2009, sirius84 wrote:

    Nice idea, but it wouldn't work!

    Say the break happened from the championship down, surely it's hard enough for promoted teams to establish themselves in prem without giving them weeks less to prepare than already established teams?

    Then theres the playoffs too, meaning by the time the playoff winners finally get promoted, it will almost be time to start the season again!

    And in which time most of their transfer targets would have prob been snapped up by small prem clubs!!!!

    I'm much more in favour of the prem having a winter break, like other top euro leagues, as it would give internationals a rest, and increase lower league gates over xmas!!

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  • 16. At 10:15am on 08 Jan 2009, Bamber Boozler wrote:

    From a purely selfish point of view, I would HATE to see a winter break at any level in football.

    I REALLY enjoy the games that go on over the festive period. I look forward to them as much as I look forward to Christmas itself.

    I for one would be very dissapointed if this break ever came to fruition.

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  • 17. At 10:18am on 08 Jan 2009, SewerSide wrote:

    In December 2007 I travelled from Oxford to see Sheff Weds v Coventry, bought tickets on the gate, then the match was called off after 30 mins due to a waterlogged pitch. There were no refunds, and we were told if we wanted to come to the rearranged fixture on a tuesday night, we'd have to pay another £5! Luckily I didnt, as that game was frozen off too.

    There should be more contingency dates in the schedule, and anything that looks like a 'Pitch Inspection' currently should be called off at least 3 hours in advance.

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  • 18. At 10:33am on 08 Jan 2009, SmackMyPitchUp wrote:

    Only problem with extending the season is the play off's, when would they be played?!

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  • 19. At 10:34am on 08 Jan 2009, faster than our kes wrote:

    Another fine blog Gav.

    Just out of interest, what's on that iPod of yours? Also, what do you listen to in particular to get you mentally prepared for your games?

    Cheers Gav.

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  • 20. At 10:37am on 08 Jan 2009, Maddog wrote:

    sounds like a good idea in theory but it will probably never happen firstly clubs need the steady income 3 weeks of no earning could sink some clubs, and secondly echoing previous comments a cold snap can happen any time from late Nov to Feb so you could have 3 weeks of awersome weather in Jan and awful weather in Feb so would solve the problem.

    On the subject of games that were on that shouldn't been and onces that were off that shouldn't been. You get a lot of gamesmanship at the lower levels one season we had a couple of games called off on pitches that were very playable but that teams didn't want to ruin for the rest of the season then the next week we went down to wycombe and played on a pitch that i kid you not they were bailing the water off the pitch with dustbins in some places the pitch was about ankle deep in water! Another time played in gale force winds on a hill top pitch with little shelter for about 40 mins of one half the game went goal kick, corner, goal kick corner and so on but the team had travelled a good couple of hours so we wanted to play and the game was fairly irrelevent for us so we wanted to get it over with. I was recently at Alty and they had southport in the vase, the next game they had somebody (Burton i think) on Setanta the Alty pitch was very wet but they wanted to play because if they didn't a reply would cancel their setanta date and therefore their payday, in the end the burton game got cancelled anyway and therefore they setanta date and they lost to southport!

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  • 21. At 10:38am on 08 Jan 2009, Maddog wrote:

    re Strachans ipod- mate don't tell us R+B and Emienen (or however you spell his name) footballers have a awful taste in music!

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  • 22. At 10:41am on 08 Jan 2009, lastonsunday wrote:

    Why not have a winters break in January, i mean its not as if we ever get games called off in febuary due to bad weather is it?

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  • 23. At 10:43am on 08 Jan 2009, Jay wrote:

    The winter period is one of the bet parts of the footballing calendar because so much changes in such a short space of time. If a game gets postponed, it wil be played again and nobody loses out. I understand the players and fans frustration but at the end of the day its just part of football. This is part of the English game which is unique and keeps us unique. The fixtures have also been going for a long period of time and now people have just started making problems with it even though it was fine before.

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  • 24. At 10:45am on 08 Jan 2009, 26average wrote:

    Great Blog. I enjoy reading these and other articles about the lower/non-leagues as I am quickly losing interest with the top flight game. I work at a Step 5 Non-League Club, with most of the players and staff working for nothing so appreciate all the costs involved at all levels below the millionaires in the Premiership.

    However I have to agree with Post 7. Last year we had a faily mild winter if I remember (if my clubs pitch is playable, they all are!). If we cancelled all football for 2 weeks in January, then had two weeks of weather like we are now in February, that's 4 weeks with no matches that teams have to catch up on.

    My team had a situation like that several years ago. Our pitch was so bad (it has since been improved) that we pretty much cancelled all home matches over January. By the end of the season we were near bottom, but with close to 10 games in hand on everyone else. So we had to play Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays for two weeks and at this point of the season most other clubs first teams had gone on holiday so we were playing reserve and youth teams.

    Needless to say we went from bottom to 12th, but were not popular with the league committee!!

    I think there is too much of risk with the British Weather to be able to cancel two weeks at one point of the season. However, maybe the FA should be helping fund undersoil heating for clubs in the lower levels (they're quick enough to demand money for fines!!!)

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  • 25. At 10:47am on 08 Jan 2009, Chris Walker wrote:

    I'd be in favour of a winter break, and I think it would benefit the players, too. Sitting in the Upper Rous at Vicarage Road in the FREEZING wind, watching Watford get beaten 4-2 at home by Bristol City was a memorable experience for all the wrong reasons.....

    Football fan though I am, the fixture congestion is huge and I do think a case can be made for giving spectators and players a "rest" to reduce the risk of injuries and to re-stimulate interest in the game. Over the Christmas period, the games are often too close together to allow players to recover properly between games.

    Having said that, I've no idea how it could be implemented without extending the season. I know what my wife would say about that!!

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  • 26. At 10:47am on 08 Jan 2009, geafax wrote:

    The season finishes too late as it is - as a cricket as well as football fan I get fed up of football dragging on well into the cricket season.

    There's also the problem of when the mid-season break should be - a three week break in January could be followed by three weeks of bad weather in February. Keep it as it is and invest in covers etc.

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  • 27. At 10:48am on 08 Jan 2009, Jay wrote:

    The winter period is one of the bet parts of the footballing calendar because so much changes in such a short space of time. If a game gets postponed, it wil be played again and nobody loses out. I understand the players and fans frustration but at the end of the day its just part of football. This is part of the English game which is unique and keeps us unique. The fixtures have also been going for a long period of time and now people have just started making problems with it even though it was fine before.

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  • 28. At 10:53am on 08 Jan 2009, huddersfieldtownhi wrote:

    No i disagree as this is a one off and also bigger clubs like Huddersfield Town have underpitch heating.. It should be a necesity for newly made grounds..

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  • 29. At 10:53am on 08 Jan 2009, GaryTheAddick wrote:

    Although not a long journey, I remember a few years back, Charlton were at home to West Ham on New Years day. After a heavy nights drinking and no sleep I dragged myself on to the train up to Charlton, as the train pulled in some bloke informed me and my brother to just turn back as the game had been called off due to the rain. We thought he was taking us for a ride and as we’d travelled up there decided to wander down to the ground only to find that he was right.
    If I’d known sooner I’d have been able to stay at home and sleep off a killer hang over

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  • 30. At 11:15am on 08 Jan 2009, paul-orchard wrote:

    The pitch at Birmingham was watered on Friday night following instructions from the board. So not suprisingly the pitch was frozen and the game cancelled. When all other games in the midlands seemed to go ahead without to many problems.
    Birmingham issued 8000 free tickets to season ticket holders as part of thier PR gimmick "A new start". Wolves complained as the oher clubs area meant to receive 50% of ticket revenue this meant a massive loss in income for Wolves. A legal wrangle is underway. It needs to be resolved before the game kicks off or Blues could be forced to pay wolves the going rate for 50% of the 8000 tickets issued free.

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  • 31. At 11:18am on 08 Jan 2009, Alan Moon wrote:

    hey gavin just a few words for you first id like to say congratulations to your barber who always seems to do a great job. next i would like to say i like the way you always start with 'hope you are all well' it is a good method to make people feel familiar with ur articles and it definitely doesnt look like you dont know how to start your work in another way. by the way i hav seen your record history on football manager and i seen you only have played for small town clubs i support man u how much would you pay from your very own hands to play for the world champions i would love to hear back from you thanks

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  • 32. At 11:19am on 08 Jan 2009, ArgieWizard wrote:

    If the football season extended beyond the current reaches it already has then I would probably lose interest immediately. I totally disagree that an extended season would cause extra interest from fans. There's no point looking forward to a new season when the old one's barely finished.

    As mentioned it could cause a major problem for the national team during tournaments. This period is also useful for busier teams to catch up fixtures perhaps missed by being involved in a high number of competitions. Bear in mind that lower league teams play in excess of 40 league games as it is, plus their involvement in competitions outside of the FA and Carling Cups.

    That's practical stuff, and doesn't even start on the traditional festive period that people bang on about. This time of year is actually one of the more congested fixture periods over the course of a season, despite the occasional abandoned match, so the idea of then alloting the busy period as a break just doesn't add up to me.

    A possible solution is to make the leagues smaller (yes, cue uproar and outrage). Why are their 24 teams in the leagues outside of the Premiership, necessitating an extra 8 league games a season, compared to the Premiership's 20 teams? Teams these days, unfortunately, have to exist more like businesses and the sad fact is that some go into administration because the competition is too fierce in their market (division).

    I apppreciate Gavin's frustration (I haven't played a league match since the 7th December, 3 in a row called off!) but I don't think the problem really warrants such a hefty solution.

    Plus give global warming a chance, then we'll have no more frozen pitches ;).

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  • 33. At 11:20am on 08 Jan 2009, crcb1987 wrote:

    I'd be happy to take a break in January but keep Xmas fixtures, which are great to have.

    Cash is always tighter after Xmas, and it's a bit of a struggle right now to pay for QPR away this Saturday, and then a trip to Torquay in 2 weeks time as well. Post Xmas break would help the wallet out.

    If the season was extended by a couple of weeks to accommodate the "missed" games, then this would make the play-offs happen later. I can see the players being unhappy at a shorter holiday if they get to the playoffs, but surely the thrill of a play off final, and prospect of promotion would offset those few missed days in Ibiza?

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  • 34. At 11:26am on 08 Jan 2009, wulfran wrote:

    A winter break in England needs to be when the weather is at its worst if you have a break at all. So just when is the worst 3 weeks or so in the winter? Each winter is different so you could end uo with a break with all pitches playable followed by 2 weeks of frozen ground!! It's just not practical to have a break, we must put with posyponements from time to time.

    However Birmingham's match against Wolves certainly looks fishy. Injuries suspension, loan period ended, cold weather so lets water the pitch!! Yes I am a Wolves supporter but it looks like Brum were running scared.

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  • 35. At 11:29am on 08 Jan 2009, ToonDreamer wrote:

    It would save fans an awful lot of hassle if there was a winter break. I think it should be organised so that when playing away, you play teams local to your area during the winter months.

    I play Sunday morning football and we haven't had a game since November so we've technically had a winter break. It is really annoying when you peel yourself out of your nice warm bed to get down to the pitch to find out the game is called off. It's even more annoying when I think of how I could have had a few more drinks the night before!

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  • 36. At 11:30am on 08 Jan 2009, tarquin wrote:

    I think you're overreacting Gavin

    With Scotland I can understand - almost every week in December/January half the games up there are postponed

    But in England? it's usually only a couple of matches across the winter period - if one or two are off in a week why make the rest suffer? and how do you know when to have it - the weather in this country is very changeable, you can get a mild christmas, or a frozen one like this year, and cold snaps that freeze a pitch can occur anywhere between november and february

    While I do like the idea of extending the lower leagues after the prem finishes, I think a winter break simply to avoid frozen pitches is a bit silly

    Also, I was very annoyed at the Histon call-off - the ref was blatantly influenced by the Swansea team - he called it off at about 10am! It was cold, but it was the only postponement in east anglia (the others were out west) and Swansea didn't fancy playing a non-league side in such horrible conditions, cowards - was the ref a meteorologist?

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  • 37. At 11:35am on 08 Jan 2009, Bkkred wrote:

    Why do footballers and fans always find something to complain about? If it is not too wet it's to dry, if it's postponed it shouldn't have been, or it should have been postponed earlier, if it's played it shouldn't have been, it's either too hot or too cold, we would have won it in January but got beat 3 - 0 on March. Our undersoil heating cost us a new striker and too many games in April cost us the league. I think we should all be called Fergus Wengerson and get on with it come rain or shine whenever we are supposed to!

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  • 38. At 11:36am on 08 Jan 2009, anglo_dutch wrote:

    Here in Holland we always have a winter break.However, this is no guarantee that games do not not suffer in February.
    A break does give teams time to have a rest , reduce the injury list and put in work on the training ground ( most Dutch teams are now in Spain and Turkey for a week).
    In the Uk it may be a good idea for a 2 week break in January.Keep the Christmas fixtures and then after the 3rd round cup , 2 weeks off.

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  • 39. At 11:38am on 08 Jan 2009, BaggieJonathan wrote:

    No, no Winter break at all for the premiership.

    Just how do they justify extra breaks when they already get longer holidays than I do yet get paid more in one week than I do in four years!

    Oh the poor players - NOT!

    It comes with the territory.

    In fact players of past generations would find it laughable - they had to play more, not less, over the festive season.

    Enough with the molliecoddling of these multimillionaires already.

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  • 40. At 11:48am on 08 Jan 2009, ArgieWizard wrote:

    p.s I am also a cricket fan more than a football fan when the sun is hot, so I don't want football encroaching over the County Championship season anymore than it already does.

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  • 41. At 11:54am on 08 Jan 2009, contllangefni wrote:

    They seem to do it successfully in other European countries so why not here? The Bundesliga have around 8 weeks break for Winter and it doesn't seem to affect their form in Europe. I have travelled from Merseyside to Carlisle to find a game was off. Not funny. I also remember seeing some very upset Plymouth fans at Prenton Park having taken the day off work to come up for a night game that was called off. Not acceptable!

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  • 42. At 11:55am on 08 Jan 2009, Woody1903 wrote:

    good blog once again Gavin. In the SPL there is of course a prerequisate for clubs to have undersoil heating installed to get into the top league. However, when my team (Aberdeen) were away to Kilmarnock at the beginning of December most fans were halfway down the road to the game (Aberdeen to Kilmarnock in one of the SPL's longest away days)

    Kilmarnock claim their undersoil disturbs the residents and thus did not turn it on? Sound like nonsense to me.

    It's expensive enough following your team these days without a such an amateur set-up.

    What do you reckon?

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  • 43. At 11:57am on 08 Jan 2009, BognorRock wrote:

    As a fan I love going to a match on a freezing cold day, scarf, hat, cup of bovril, its what being a fan is all about. Football is a winter sport (in Britain at least) and so should be played in Winter.

    Good points made earlier about predicting the winter weather. How long has winter only been two or three weeks long? It could be nice and mild during the break and then blizzard conditions when play resumes meaning a massive backlog of fixtures. Also a two week break means missing only one round of matches. Hardly seems worth it to me.

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  • 44. At 12:23pm on 08 Jan 2009, Bamber Boozler wrote:

    Look, it is hard enough for me to go from May to August without putting a weekly accumulator on at the bookies!!

    Christmas time, no betting, it makes me cold sweat at the thought!

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  • 45. At 12:30pm on 08 Jan 2009, ExFleetAirArmMan wrote:

    Perhaps the global warming brigade would care to pass comment as to why it's so cold.

    Perhaps the fact it's winter has something to do with it.

    Now, if the very rich at the top of the football pyramid were to put some of their wealth into a fund to pay for every league club to have undersoil heating there wouldn't be a problem would there?

    As a supporter it is most frustrating when a game is called off, particularly if the two clubs concerned are doing well as was the case with Peterborough and MK Dons.

    I can see your point Gavin, but I'd much rather see the games without a break in the season.

    After all, I've never heard of a break in the cricket season because it's too hot.

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  • 46. At 12:40pm on 08 Jan 2009, yellowAmberArmy wrote:

    again another very interesting blog.

    a career in journalism would be a good move id suggest!

    i dont think its workable for lower league clubs due to cup commitments.

    it would be unfair for say torquay v coventry in the 4th round, what if torquay had been on a 3 week break prior to this.

    coventry would have better mach practice.

    premiership breaks in some senses makes more sense due to international commitments it would certainly help the national team, but on the flip side its the premiership clubs with undersoil heating that can play when its very cold.

    this is an unusually cold period also.

    perhaps if a game is to be called off it must be done so by 9am on the day. this way supporters / teams etc hopefully wouldnt have to far to travel back. that might mean some games are called off though that perhaps could of taken place if the inspection had been later.

    not sure there is an answer to be honest

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  • 47. At 12:42pm on 08 Jan 2009, rockintommo wrote:

    Good blog, again. Although personally, I do not think a winter break could be introduced to solve the problem of cancelled fixtures. If one was introduced, say, for the first 2 - 3 weeks of January, then surely we will have the warmest January on record, and February will be arctic conditions, just because it's Britain! If we had a more predictable climate, then yes, but the fact is there is a chance it can get cold enough to disrupt fixtures from November through to March, so unless we know when the coldest weather will occur, the only solution is expensive under-soil heating.

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  • 48. At 12:43pm on 08 Jan 2009, Pete wrote:

    While I can appreciate that some fans, and indeed players, do occasionally get caught out by short-notice postponements at this time of year, I do not believe that a winter break is necessary for the lower leagues.

    As a Stevenage Borough fan, the club was able to complete all our scheduled fixtures over the Christmas period. If we are to encounter any fixture issues this season, it is more likely be due to cup commitments rather than the weather.

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  • 49. At 12:44pm on 08 Jan 2009, bluetrimmtrab wrote:

    Last month Mossley played at Durham City in the NPL 1st Division North. Durham were unbeaten at the time. Mossley were 4-0 up when on 43 minutes the game was abandoned.

    Yet Durham play on a plastic pitch. nrever have I known of such a conspiracy and it being allowed to happen

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  • 50. At 12:46pm on 08 Jan 2009, oohnotyouagain wrote:

    firstly when exactly is winter in Britain? We can have snow and frost from October through to March ,so if you have two weeks break, when would you allocate it? Premier Clubs pitches are usually very well looked after. But with lower League clubs there will always be a few cancellations during the Football Season,it is inevitable when you play from Auguast through to May rather than summer months. So I think there is really no other option but to carry on as before.

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  • 51. At 12:48pm on 08 Jan 2009, fabisgod wrote:

    A good article. As a Newcastle fan, I remember a game on Teeside being cancelled for snow on a Thursday, but it had melted by kick off time. 'Boro had an injury crisis at the time and a couple of key players suspended - coincidence??
    A home game was called off against Charlton at the last minute a couple of years ago. The roads into Newcastle were almost impassable, but the Charlton fans got a bad deal. I have travelled to Watford in the 80's to see us play and got to the ground before it was called off - but then saw the home team jogging ON the pitch!!

    I don't believe in the January break. When it was tried in Scotland, the weather was mild, and the severest weather did not come until after the break, causing a worse backlog.

    Also, how do teams keep match fit in this time? The 'bigger' teams ended up going abroad and playing meaningless friendlies.

    I don't think there is a 'one size fits all' answer. Some you win and some you lose.

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  • 52. At 12:54pm on 08 Jan 2009, SnoopDonnyDog wrote:

    I don't think a weather-based mid-season break is a good idea in this country. We have not had a cold snap for a few years in this country, and if some are to be believed we will have a Mediterranean climate before long. Cold snaps are not guaranteed to be the first week in January either. In Britain, they can be in April. Next year and the year after, we will probably have mild winters and we won't be having this debate.

    I also don't think it is wise for lower-division clubs to have undersoil heating. I read on this website of a Scottish club using 4000 litres of oil to power their system in the days leading up to a game, and it still got cancelled. That must have cost a colossal amount of money. I believe you are not allowed to have the heating on while a match is in progress. I could be wrong but if this is the case, and the temperature during a game is below freezing, it would defeat the object somewhat, as the game would probably be abandoned. My team have covers that work to -5C. That should cover most eventualities.

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  • 53. At 12:54pm on 08 Jan 2009, JL(SFC58,AFCB) wrote:

    There is only a point in having a winter break if you can make it long enough to cover the whole of the "bad weather" period. Actually it is frozen pitches that are the real danger, rather than the weather on the day.

    On the continent, many of the lower leagues have a break from about Christmas through to early March, but then they have smaller divisions (Luxembourg has something like 14 teams per division, and the German Regionalligen mostly have 18 or so).

    If you do have a short break, then the coaches have some difficulty in maintaining player fitness. Hence rather than actually having a full break, the squads are often taken to meaningless tournaments in Hong Kong etc, rather like in a pre-season.

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  • 54. At 1:04pm on 08 Jan 2009, gonnascore1or2 wrote:

    I think, as you said Gav, that there definately needs to be a distinction made between Premiership and lower leagues, and with that in mind I would personally say that there should never be a break for the top flight.

    When the likes of Sir Alex complain about fixture congestion, I don't think they've got a leg to stand on. Big clubs gladly reap the rewards of success and these should help them overcome the slight negatives success brings too.

    Top clubs have the squad depth to cope with more fixtures, with Utd and Chelsea easily able to field two different sides in the Prem, either which could do a job.

    Also, pretty much all top flight teams have not only the matchday facilities to cope with the long winter months, but also the training and medical facilities to help keep the squad in fitness.

    Lower league teams don't have this and can often find squads depleted and games mounting up. The idea of extending the season and having a break in Jan for the lower leagues sounds a good one. Leave Xmas alone tho-one great British footballing tradition that should always stand.

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  • 55. At 1:06pm on 08 Jan 2009, Anadir wrote:

    As others have said, I think it would be difficult to pinpoint the two weeks when the weather would be 'guranteed' to be bad enough, and you may find you come back from the break straight into another cold snap.

    As far as stories goes. I am a London based Notts fan. When we played the 'old' Wimbledon in the cup, I made it all the way to the Vat and Fiddle before finding out the pitch had been soaked, well, flooded actually. Whren the re-arranged fixture came up, we were winning at half time and all was well. Then, out of nowhere, the fog descended and, although Wimbledon 'apparently' equalised, and although I was on the half way line, I couldn't see it, and shortly after the game was abandoned.

    When we finally played the match to a conclusion, I'd clocked up a fair few miles, and eaten far too many Ginsters!

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  • 56. At 1:10pm on 08 Jan 2009, smee18 wrote:

    I understand your view for having a mid-season break but doing this for the benefit of bad weather is surely not going to work. For instance, when would you have this break? winter in England is so unpredictable that games can be called off between december and as late as march. Maybe it could be looked upon not to have as much congestion of games during the winter months but then games would have to be played at key times such as start or end of the season.

    I dont personally see it working even though it is a nice idea in theory but good blog it brings up an interesting debate.

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  • 57. At 1:10pm on 08 Jan 2009, Brian wrote:

    A break isn't really feasible because the England hasn't cut the size of the lower divisions like other European countries. Therefore, Football League teams play EIGHT extra league matches compared to Premier League clubs. Plus, they play extra early round ties in the FA and League Cups. Combine that with playoffs and an FL club might play as many as 15 more matches than a non-European PL club that goes the same distance in domestic cups. How do you squeeze in fifteen extra matches with a winter break?

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  • 58. At 1:15pm on 08 Jan 2009, TrashcanSinartra wrote:

    Gav! Cracking blog again!

    Love reading about your adventures in the lower league! i sympathise with you as i know what it is like traveling all that way, as i go to Carlisle (although i'm a city fan they are my local team)..and its so dissapointing when the game gets posponded and i've already got my train ticket and i'm hafl way there

    but on another come you aren't ginger like your old man?

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  • 59. At 1:16pm on 08 Jan 2009, Johnnygray26 wrote:

    Of course there should be a winter break, for the Premiership and everyone else in England. Not because of the weather but because every other country does it. They do it because it helps players in their countries stay injury free and play better in the spring and the summer. Result = they have all their players at international tournaments and stand a real chance of winning them. We, on the other hand, are always crippled by injuries and have no hope of winning anything at all.

    References to what players did in the past are irrelevant. Today's footballers play against today's footballers, not yesterday's. The main reason people are against the idea is fear of the unknown and refusal to change.

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  • 60. At 1:23pm on 08 Jan 2009, AReaderAndAMiller wrote:

    #45: "After all, I've never heard of a break in the cricket season because it's too hot."

    No, but sun stops play a few times every year at Derbyshire's ground.

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  • 61. At 1:26pm on 08 Jan 2009, Huntex wrote:

    With the lowe English Football Leagues having 46 games a season, I'm not sure how feasible a winter break would be.

    As an Aberdeen fan, I hated the winter breaks we had a few years back. Mainly just because they were boring for the fans, I had nothing else to do on a Saturday!

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  • 62. At 1:27pm on 08 Jan 2009, sg5180 wrote:

    A winter break would only serve to disrupt the season and would eventually have the clubs against it. If a team was on a winning streak before the break then a losing streak after the break, they would blame the break as being the main contributary factor. Instead, why not just have the season from march till november instead of august to june ?

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  • 63. At 1:37pm on 08 Jan 2009, gonnascore1or2 wrote:

    I can see where people are coming from saying that the weather is unpredictable, so no to a break, but January does generally cover the worst weather.

    And a break, regardless of the weather would alleviate pressures on the lower leagues. At the moment any postponed fixtures have to be fitted in before the official end date of the season. A break and season extension as Gav puts forward will give teams more time to fit extra games in.

    Also, as I said in my earlier post, its also training that is affected in the winter as there aren't many all weather facilities below the Prem. Fitness can be kept up in gyms, but match fitness can only be obtained on a playing surface.

    Again already stated is the fact that lower level football isn't blessed with squad depth, and a break of this kind would allow all squads to rest and recuperate. I think it could also lead, in the long term, to a better standard of football being played.

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  • 64. At 1:53pm on 08 Jan 2009, Ken wrote:

    It's all very well saying that because of bad weather there should be a winter break - but how are you going to schedule that winter break to coincide with the bad weather? We only get a few days a year that are bad enough to cancel football matches, but they can fall anywhere between December and April. The chances are that if you did schedule a winter break it would fall during a couple of weeks of unseasonally warm weather and we'd have snow immediately the football season recommenced.

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  • 65. At 1:57pm on 08 Jan 2009, stonao wrote:

    I don't think that lower league teams shoulf have a winter break, not least beacuse players are entitled to a holiday, and if the season was to finish in june, and start in september, they would get two months pre-season, during which players would have their holiday, effectivly making a month pre season.
    Also, as a Luton fan (I'm posting on stonao's account as I cant be asked to make one) I have seen my share of football in teh lower leagues over the winter, and while some games have been called off..its only this season a lot of them have been.

    Also Gavin, what are your views on Lutons 'punishment'?

    Once again a superb article, I look foward to teh next one.

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  • 66. At 2:20pm on 08 Jan 2009, theroosterpie wrote:

    Hi Gavin, Notts County fan here.

    Some great points made, and here are mine.

    For a few seasons now I've thought that regionalising the League would be an advantage. Having the Premiership and Championship as they are and Leagues 1, 2 and Blue Square Premier would form a Northern, Southern and Central League.

    With this development, most games would be a local derby. This I think would give better chances to the possibilities on having midweek games earlier in the season as the crowd size wouldn't penalise clubs as much.

    Also, I think an away match for Notts at say Leicester City being postponed at 1.15pm wouldn't be the same problem as being called off at Aldershot.

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  • 67. At 2:25pm on 08 Jan 2009, RAF Hammer wrote:

    No. Play like they did in the better days of football. Rub away the snow, to reveal the white lines and bring on the orange ball!! Mind you, we wouldn't have the Mamby pamby foreign footballers coming over because they'd get a little bit chilly. :(
    Mind you (again) is that a bad thing?

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  • 68. At 3:20pm on 08 Jan 2009, leeboy20 wrote:

    Fair play to clubs that will only have two people out sweeping snow when they have an injury crisis! Sure it is annoying when the boot is on the other foot but that doesn't change the fact that any fan would rather there team have a game re-arranged if it put's them in a stronger position.

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  • 69. At 3:33pm on 08 Jan 2009, babylaughingshrimper wrote:

    Trying hard to remember how many games were called off in the 40/50s. I seem to remember going regularly to seen Southend United. Anyhow, how many months off would be required to avoid the bad weather? Severe weather can be, in December/January/February/March and I have shifted Snow from my driveway in April and once in May. Under soil heating obviously is the answer, maybe hard for smaller club's but maybe a scheme should be set up for wealthier clubs/FA to help fund this.

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  • 70. At 3:37pm on 08 Jan 2009, boris75 wrote:

    A winter break is certainly a good idea and I regret the fact it was done away with in Scotland. A break though would have no impact on the festive programme as it would not start until after new year has begun. Commonly in Scotland it commenced around second week in January for a period of three or four weeks. There is no ned th extend the seaon though, the three or four games that have been missed can be played mid week at other times in the season. Good blog Gavin!

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  • 71. At 3:39pm on 08 Jan 2009, NVFCTRICKY wrote:

    Things can be horrendous in non league. As a Northwich Vics fan (i weep continuously) I'm currently enjoying a spell of 7 games canceled and only 4 played since December 3rd. (particularly bad, as a club with well documented financial problems, and we had 2 games due to be televised on Setanta! also, a former chairman couldn't be bothered to pay for electricity to the ground, we have a generator failure before kick off in a game in which we led 1-0 at half time, only for the game to be called off, and lost a re-arranged FA Cup 4th round qualify. that's 21 grand of players wages + i opponent not paid still!!! )
    A couple of seasons ago, it was that bad that for the last 40 days of the season we played 14 games. Only had 4 players on the bench for the last 4 games as well (one was a schoolboy at that point)

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  • 72. At 4:03pm on 08 Jan 2009, redtreeofdav wrote:

    A winter break is a good idea in principle but where do you put it? After all, we had snow in October. I've heard talk that they want a weekend off in January. What sort of break is that if it's intended to beat the freeze? The freeze can last throughout January and February so from this perspective a break could be pointless other than to give certain players 'a rest'. Again there is a problem with the 'rest' argument as how often do you see a club - particularly from the Premiership - arranging a fixture to fill the void. Often they will fly off to the sun for a fixture. Is that a rest or a moneyspinning fraud? For lower league clubs, if they can afford a break and take the chance that their pitch is frozen that particular week but not the next (when they're not resting), then it could be beneficial financially, but it'll always be a gamble unless you take 2 months off - which is impossible of course.

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  • 73. At 4:06pm on 08 Jan 2009, U13773450 wrote:

    I actually woke up this morning and thought...isn't Thursday the day for this blog?
    We once travelled to Meadowbank Thistle in a snowstorm, the game was then given the go-ahead, but we werent allowed in the main stand (the only covered section) because they had a cat show going on inside.
    Miserable. On many levels.

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  • 74. At 4:16pm on 08 Jan 2009, docksboy wrote:

    Hi Gav.

    No. I don't think it would be a good idea to have a winter break. Maybe I'm only seeing it from a supporters point of view, but I don't think I would want to go a few weeks without football mid-season. It's bad enough when the internationals break up the early season. The international breaks affect my club in the championship and one or two others in the lower leagues. If you asked their fans they'd probably mostly say the same.
    Another thing is it could affect a teams form. Games can't come quick enough when you're winning so a break would be unwelcome.
    And a couple of clubs really need the money generated from a home match to pay their staff, some clubs could potentially go weeks without a home game.

    Great blog, keep up the good work

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  • 75. At 4:23pm on 08 Jan 2009, BeppeSapone wrote:

    No and if Middlesborough get offered more than a fiver for Downing ,they should sell.
    The guy blames lack of success on the rest of the team . Not him of course . He's priceless......

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  • 76. At 4:25pm on 08 Jan 2009, AndyWilts wrote:

    My experience of a late call off : travelled from Westbury (Wilts) to Ilfracombe (North Devon) for a Western League match - a journey of about 130 miles so 260ish round trip.

    We got to the ground and it had just started raining at 2pm. There followed a deluge that resulted in a river forming on and running off of the pitch!

    The match was called off by the referee, though he did wait until 3.30pm to see if the rain stopped.

    That was a long day.

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  • 77. At 4:42pm on 08 Jan 2009, GosportWelshman wrote:

    On the subject of travelling to an away ground only for a game to be called off - I took part in a charity cycle ride a couple of years ago from Portsmouth to Newcastle. 400 miles in total when you can't use the motorway!!! Admittedly it was to watch a rugby match, but no matter when the ref decided that he was going to call off the game due to a 3m square area underneath the posts you can imagine how we felt.

    Talk about anti-climax!!! Fortunately in rugby you can still talk to players and referee's and we managed to talk a member of the newcastle staff to boil a kettle and pour it over the frozen area to thaw it out, and then the ref did another inspection!!

    Game went on, and we had a fantastic afternoon after cycling of two days and nights solid, and then we slept all the way home.

    Bit of ramble, but the great british weather is something we can do nothing about, imagine a non-league team trying to play in the FA Cup 3rd round versus a premier league team without the sh1tty pitch to help them??

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  • 78. At 4:43pm on 08 Jan 2009, IAWT wrote:

    It makes sense for a winter break, but to balance the argument of satisfying a need for clubs to cash in at a lucrative time of year, the break should only apply to Premiership clubs. The rest of the league can play through this period, thus ensuring they maximise the revenue opportunities, while the top flight clubs (who rely less on attendance cash) can take a month off between mid December and mid January.

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  • 79. At 4:52pm on 08 Jan 2009, ECFC1981 wrote:

    Good blog...

    My thoughts on the winter break are that supporters should be the number 1 priority. Living away from home, the christmas fixtures are a great opportunity to take in a couple of games and these games always have a special atmosphere. I'd hate to see these dissapear, and I don't think I'm alone.

    In contrast, I don't think January would be massively missed. I'd rather see 3 or 4 games in May that in January.

    Good luck to you and Notts County for the rest of the season (after saturday, when I hope you have a howler).

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  • 80. At 4:53pm on 08 Jan 2009, kevthered83 wrote:

    at number 78 - The break should only apply to premiership clubs??? Are you insane. What do you base this on???

    A) The premiership games will never be in danger of being postponed

    and more importantly

    B) How the hell are you going to fit these games in to the season??? The season cannot be extended due to the european finals and any international tournaments, and there is no room for top teams to reschedule. Man Utd already have a packed fixture list with rescheduled prem games, FA Cup, Carling Cup and champions league games. There is absolutley no way in hell this could happen for premier league teams.

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  • 81. At 4:55pm on 08 Jan 2009, Edd M wrote:

    Just a quick point of contention for those of you hoping Global Warming will sort this out - global warming would actually make Britain a colder country, not a warmer one!

    I don't like the idea of a mid-season break, I like to go on holiday in the summer without worrying about the costs of contacting home from half the world away to check the footie scores :P

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  • 82. At 5:32pm on 08 Jan 2009, littlejklc wrote:

    Understood your frustration.
    Your idea is not bad either. Why not having a break for the lower league as their facilities are not ready for bad weathers. And late May and early June has not much football actions, having actions from lower league give no harm at all.
    The only thing is the FA Cup 3rd round needed to reschedule as well.

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  • 83. At 6:10pm on 08 Jan 2009, tomrostron wrote:

    i cant for the life of me see why we play in the freezing winter. if the season started about march, i'm sure the grounds would have more supporters.

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  • 84. At 6:50pm on 08 Jan 2009, goonergetit wrote:

    Commercially YES, I'd rather see a game live in a warm temperature rather than a cold one. Minus 1 or 2, rain or snow and uncertainty (postponement or fog), freezing and shivering. Summer games will attract more punters. If the Atlantic conveyor system that brings heat to Britain fails due to global warming, which is a realistic scenario then you'll have no choice because it'll be about minus 15 to 20 during winter and then we'll want indoor stadiums that are heated ! A job of a journalist is not to give unfair free publicity to the makers of MP4 gizzmos, especially on the BBC. Statistically, more games in June will result in more heart attacks amongst players and less hot drinks and fatty meat pies being sold at half time, so maybe amongst the crowd there will be less heart attacks.
    But what the game really requires is a longer ban for accumulation of yellow cards to cut out the professional fouls that save three points and the option for a team to "make two decision appeals per game, subject to a video replay" and get rid of the weekly farce of injustice and blaming a Ref that has to discern the truth amongst 22 cheats.

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  • 85. At 7:00pm on 08 Jan 2009, Dozzie81 wrote:

    I'm undecided on the winter break, the fixtures do seem to stack up this time of year when the weather plays it's part; and i find it a bit farcical when the FA Cup draw ends up with so many either/ors.

    The call for a winter break from Premier Clubs has regularly cropped up of the years purely for reasons of giving their players a rest. I don't understand this really as when you look at overseas leagues that have a break like Germany and Italy, the teams quite often end up arranging friendlies during the 'break'!? What a nonsense!

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  • 86. At 7:07pm on 08 Jan 2009, Jay wrote:

    this blog is silly.... there is no problem!!!

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  • 87. At 7:14pm on 08 Jan 2009, Heineken_FC wrote:

    Winter break ? No thanks !

    1. no guarantee will get bad weather during the break
    2. dirsupts continuity of season, unfair on a team that goes on a run before break

    Here is Scotland, there is an argument for summer football. March - early December

    1. Better conditions for players and fans.
    2. Good for TV revenue
    3. Encourges better style of football


    1. clash with Euros / World Cup
    2. clash with Golf and holidays
    3. no Christmas / New Year derbys

    I would personally like it, I go to Old Trafford and Pittodrie so I'd have competitive football to go to all year round!

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  • 88. At 7:30pm on 08 Jan 2009, Gavin Strachan wrote:

    post 19 . I tend to listen to a lot of the bands . The Killers , Oasis , Biffy Clyro , Kings of Leon and James (remember them!) . I went to see them in concert recently and they were fantastic.

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  • 89. At 7:32pm on 08 Jan 2009, Gavin Strachan wrote:

    Post 21 . Not sure what you think of my selection but at least there is no r and b!.

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  • 90. At 8:12pm on 08 Jan 2009, lionihatethisgame wrote:

    Non-league Worthing FC who I support and write match reports for, have had 3 games postponed due to frozen pitches over the later week or so. We are hoping that the game will be on this weekend though.

    The problem I see with a winter break though is that you may actually miss the cold spell and it will take place when temperatures are mild, whereas a week later it is frozen. I agree that smaller clubs have higher attendances when the Premiership is not taking place, not only because the supporters come to watch them, but the armchair fans do too. However if the season was lengthened then would it not clash with the FA Cup final?

    I think it could work to lengthen the season, however just imagine a two week gap in the middle of the season if your team is in a great run of form. it may affect the run. Also it would be a significant gap without football and would seem very strange to me.

    Currently I am against it, but we will see what happens if it is introduced into the Scottish leagues.

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  • 91. At 8:24pm on 08 Jan 2009, Greg MacKenzie wrote:

    Hi Gavin, another good blog!

    As a supporter in Scotland I am against the SPL winter break being reintroduced as I feel it had a negative effect on the SPL teams in the Scottish Cup.

    Previously the first game after the break was the 3rd Round of the Cup (as was, before the Juniors stepped up).

    The SPL teams would step off a plane from warm weather training to some small ground in the snow and with the exception of the OF get horsed! I feel the problem is when it gets to the final stages of the trophy, while Morton, Ayr or Raith can beat Well, Killie or Hibs not properly prepared at their ground, they get hammered by the OF at Hampden! This is a poor spectacle to promote our game.

    I don't like the idea of the winter break, but agree with #87 on summer football. As regards English Ch, L1 and L2 given these clubs can outbid SPL for players should the FL make it mandatory to have undersoil heating like the SPL.

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  • 92. At 10:29pm on 08 Jan 2009, SCFC_DAN wrote:

    Hello Gavin, I have really enjoyed reading your blog so far, I felt I had to sign up today to tell you about an away trip that went horribly wrong.

    Myself, my wife out 6 month old son and three other family members travelled by train on a friday to Torquay from Stockport, We stayed had booked into a hotel for 3 night and booked flights home and were looking forward to a great weekend.

    We had a good night out in Torquay on the friday and on the saturday woke up to find it raining, we ambled up to the ground at 2pm to be told that the game was off due to a "waterlogged pitch".

    My mother - in - law had travelled down to meet us on the supporters coach who got word of the abandonment 10 miles from the ground, so when she told them she still had to go to Torquay they dumped her at the bus stop to make her own way.

    I managed after a couple of pints of courage in the Torquay supporters bar to sneak onto the pitch and I must say that there was nothing at all wrong with the playing surface, no standing water or anything but Toquay did have a few key players out injured, quelle suprise they won the rearranged fixture on a tuesday night.

    We worked out that between us we had spend well over £1000 on the trip.

    I think a winter break for the lower leagues would be a fantastic idea myself.

    Keep up the good work and best of luck for the rest of the season.

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  • 93. At 10:52pm on 08 Jan 2009, mball36 wrote:

    Gavin, Thanks again for another gem of a blog.
    If the premiership have a winter break I would happily wager that at least 2/3 rds of the teams go abroad and play money spinning friendlies.
    My team in league 2 could comfortably add midweek fixtures (where you get a much better atmosphere) into the season. Providing the fixture were thought out ie not away at Carlisle midweek.this would work well. Finally I would hate to see the season extended as itI would like to see an end to the overlap of the Cricket season thus encouraging the talented sportsmen and women to spread there tallent across other sports.

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  • 94. At 11:45pm on 08 Jan 2009, cynicoffooty wrote:

    As a new member, but one who has been reading it since it started, Gavin, your blog... makes for great reading...

    A great career in journalism surely awaits.

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  • 95. At 00:14am on 09 Jan 2009, shaun78 wrote:

    I think a mid winter break would be good for all leagues, third round weekend been the last match for a fortnight, as long as it strictly enforced with no show matches in the far east it would refresh squads, and stop some of the colapses of new promoted sides in the premier league in particular. Our selves and derby may still have gone down but it could have been a closer run thing with key players prepped properly instead of just been thrown on into the mix half fit there fore helping the product of the leagues over all. It could go hand in hand with a reform of the bloated european competitions, to prevent a fixture jam later in the season and give the third round somthing of a boost.

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  • 96. At 03:04am on 09 Jan 2009, Wot Kuyt 'e did wrote:

    What is the cost of underground heating to one club over a season?
    And what does that equate to in terms of carbon footprint? (i.e., what does it cost BEYOND the expense to the club directly?)

    Oops, ;-) you can tell I've just got off some eco-blog...

    Good, balanced article.

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  • 97. At 07:54am on 09 Jan 2009, Kolgon wrote:

    The timing of a winter break would need to be flexible to match up to the year's onset of a cold spell in January, or February, or March ..... depending on the pattern of the year's weather.

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  • 98. At 08:59am on 09 Jan 2009, aries22 wrote:

    The problem with calling a winter break is when to call it. The British weather is so variable that hard frosts, cold snaps, snow, ice and freezing temperatures can occur at anytime from late November to March, and it would be just the football authorities' luck to call a break for, say, the first two weeks in January and the weather turns out mild. Ad hoc planning and short-notice calling of breaks would cause even more planning chaos.

    I think the thing to do is to inspect pitches on the day before the game is due to take place and stick with the decision. If it's called off when the pitch is frozen and then the sun comes out and temperatures rise so that by the next day the pitch is playable, then tough. If the pitch is deemed fit and then the next day it's covered in snow and ice then, again, tough - it's got to be called off.

    We live on an island in such a position on the north west corner of Europe, surrounded by sea and at the crossroads of winds of so many directions that it's very difficult to set a winter break period with any accuracy as to what the weather will be like. We choose to play football, we have to accept certain vagaries; the inconvenience caused by late postponements being one of them.

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  • 99. At 09:06am on 09 Jan 2009, aries22 wrote:

    And Gavin, if ever you're accused of wearing a dodgy hat, blame it on the bobble.

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  • 100. At 09:48am on 09 Jan 2009, larrymallonjnr wrote:

    Another great blog Gavin!

    Winter break over January and play until end of June instead of May.

    The ref who made you's play on half a frozen pitch should have had his head examined, no wonder you were tensing up as you were playing near or on that part of the pitch! A fall on it could have been much worse than the hamstring injury.

    Keep up the good work and All the best for 2009.

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  • 101. At 10:14am on 09 Jan 2009, Richard wrote:

    Cheers, Gavin, for (as per usual) a PROPER football blog for PROPER fans. As a Port Vale fan I'd support a break to the season for sure, starting right now & ending when we have a 1/2 decent team.

    See you in 2059. Blame it on the bobble!

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  • 102. At 10:15am on 09 Jan 2009, ThePaniniBandit wrote:

    It's probably been mentioned above - truth is a can't be ar**d to read through them all - but my question would be:

    WHEN would you have the mid-season break?

    January is always mentioned, but in recent years the REAL cold snap has come between March and Easter.

    What would happen then?

    You've missed 3 or 4 games through an enforced break that then have to be crammed in elsewhere (or the season is extended - incidentally I like that suggestion!), and then it gets properly cold and more games are postponed - resulting in even more of a fixture pile-up afterwards.

    This isn't to mention the 2 FA Cup rounds that are scheduled for January - surely a break for lower league teams would hinder them in the case that they get to the 3rd and 4th rounds?

    The solution?

    No mid-season breaks.

    You take what you're given.

    Don't you footballers spout the cliche "it'll all even itself out"?

    And, the fans can always go to another game (on a 3 and a half hour trip I'm SURE they'd have passed games that were on!).

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  • 103. At 10:20am on 09 Jan 2009, Ian wrote:

    There is only one problem with this idea: in England we never know for sure when or if the freeze-up will come. This winter we have had snow in November (most unusual).
    We can also have hard frost any time until the end of April. What do we gain from the break (presumably Dec, Jan, Feb) if those months turned out to be mild followed by severe weather in March? This has happened in the past and will certainly happen in some future years.

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  • 104. At 2:56pm on 09 Jan 2009, stuExeterCity wrote:

    I've just done a little research (through boredom) and it cost between £500 - £1500 a DAY to run the heating systems! Which means currently underpitch heating is beyond the reach of most clubs.

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  • 105. At 4:36pm on 09 Jan 2009, MightyStevieB wrote:

    I really like the idea of a winter's break for the lower leagues - especially as you say Gavin, it would potentially give lower league teams a chance to draw in a few bigger crowds once the prem season has finished.

    But I quite like the winter football thing - I'm not saying it's ok to put players at risk of injuring themselves if the pitch clearly isn't playable (as in your case) but I think that it's part of the magic of English and Scottish football to play on cold winters days on a pitch that has more than a trace of snow on it.

    being as we're losing a lot of the romance of the game with the finances that exist in the higher levels of the game, it's good to keep some of the things that make our game what it is...., you've got to have something to do on Boxing day!

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  • 106. At 6:21pm on 09 Jan 2009, Jay wrote:

    Shock horror another player calling for a winter break.....

    Players, managers and everyone conacted to a football club are very happy to take our hard earned cash but then go off bleating that they dont get time with their familys at christmas.
    I work in a restuarant and if I want customers then that means that I need to be open every night when everyone else is out enjoying themselves. Maybe the guests should just direct debit their cash into our till and I can make the food when it suits me.

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  • 107. At 8:20pm on 09 Jan 2009, Cleef68 wrote:

    I'm all for a winter break for the lower league teams for the reasons detailed in the blog but definitely not for the Premier League teams who are just full of overpaid cry babies who don't want to mess their hair up in the snow.

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  • 108. At 9:37pm on 09 Jan 2009, debjdawson wrote:

    As a Southampton supporter , I personally would be glad of a break to recover from the nervous tension they put me through

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  • 109. At 9:40pm on 09 Jan 2009, sweather wrote:

    hi gav,

    good to see you back on the pitch mate keep strong mate and tell the lads to get there heads up and just keep plugging away it will come good mate.

    with your comments regarding a winter break as you can see many people do like that time to watch there teams play which also includes myself to watch you guys play at meadow lane !!

    when it comes to winter and the lower league teams it should be decided the day before if the picth isnt ready buy 16:30 the day before then it wont be ready the day after and should be called off !! also it will reduce the chances of injury as not all the ground would be defrosted.

    good luck tomorrow mate keep up the good work
    all the best
    scott the true pies fan

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  • 110. At 11:52pm on 09 Jan 2009, CambsCherry wrote:

    It's not one bad journey that I've had, but two. And at the same ground, annoyingly.

    In March 2004, Bournemouth were playing away at Luton. We were all in the ground, and then at 7.46pm (it was an evening game) - before the kick-off - the game was postponed. Fast forward to October last year, and we're away at Luton. This time, the game went ahead - but was abandoned after about 8 minutes. Admittedly, I live a few miles north of Cambridge, so it wasn't that bad. But I still think of those supporters who live in Dorset who had two wasted journeys.

    And I've had a similar experience to them myself - I don't get to go to a lot of home games, but in January 2004, I was on my way down to Bournemouth v Wrexham, and discovered somewhere around Southampton that the game had been postponed (so a near six hour journey to go to J3 of the M3 - brilliant).

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  • 111. At 00:06am on 10 Jan 2009, CambsCherry wrote:

    That should be "the M27" - J3 of the M3 is nowhere near Southampton.

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  • 112. At 06:15am on 10 Jan 2009, mst1862 wrote:

    Extending the football season even further into the cricket season, no thanks. Enjoyed the blog again though.

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  • 113. At 12:29pm on 10 Jan 2009, buzzwack107 wrote:

    Taking a short break is ok but that would lead to fixture congestion, in principle the break is a good idea but i would prefer to see a restructuring of the lower league.

    We all know lower league club struggle financially so why have teams like Exeter traveling up to Carlisle and visa versa - this should be restricted to the cups. Surely the best bet for clubs is to put leagues 1 ,2 and the Blue Square prem on an equal footing then divide the teams into 3 area's, North, South and Middle. Exeter for example would always be in the Southern section whilst Carlisle in the Northern section, of course some clubs may from season to season be shifted from middle to North depending on their location and the teams involved.

    localization of the leagues would mean lower travelling costs for both clubs and fans, more local derbies meaning more fans travelling to away games which in turn means more income for the clubs. More income and lower outgoings would mean more money can potentially be put into the club for buying players. ensuring that acadamies continue to be funded, allow for better upkeep of stadiums etc - the list is endless but the benefits to all surely outweigh the negatives. What a difference it would make if clubs were getting 8000 fans instead of 4000 fans

    Then if games do get postponed late on fans will have not travelled huge distances and laid out lots of hard earned pounds and getting nothing back.

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  • 114. At 2:23pm on 10 Jan 2009, lionihatethisgame wrote:

    Why don't we put it this way. If it's cold and matches are postponed, then theres your winter break. If not, then it's easiet to just get on with it really.

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  • 115. At 5:21pm on 10 Jan 2009, NCFCpies wrote:

    Gavin, great blogs mate, im a notts fan so well done and cheers for the goal and the win today!
    As for your blog, I think its a good idea, but personally i like to watch a football match on boxing day, and during the xmas period when theres a short break...
    Keep writing mate

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  • 116. At 5:26pm on 10 Jan 2009, yannisx wrote:

    Great goal, and a great win, well done Gavin

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  • 117. At 5:50pm on 10 Jan 2009, FridayYodel wrote:

    Good blog Gavin, and congratulations on today's winner.

    The trouble with a winter break is there is no telling which winter weeks are most likely to have the worst weather so the plan could backfire with an even more congested fixture list.

    Having just spent the afternoon on a public park where the rain fell horizontally I think matches should be cancelled when the wind speed makes the game a bit silly. Today I saw a keeper take a goal kick and then catch the ball under the bar. The ref didn't know what to do so let him take it again - even though the ball had actually left the box but came back in again.

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  • 118. At 6:34pm on 10 Jan 2009, Grainy wrote:

    Congratulations on your winner, and first goal for the Mighty Magpies!

    Hope that hamstring injury isn't too bad, and would like to see you back in action soon.

    I think a winter break is a good idea especially for the lower leagues, when I can't get to Meadow Lane, I go and watch Sheffield FC, and with teams that low in the pyramid, match after match gets postponed, which means a hugely cluittered fixture list at the end of the season.

    I remember last season, Sheffield had to 13 games in April alone, and by the time of the play-off final our boys were knackered!

    Great blog anyway matey, get well soon!

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  • 119. At 9:04pm on 10 Jan 2009, Thanks A lot BBC7 wrote:

    We in Germany believe that having a winter break helps the leading players of our country to have successful World cup and EURO campaigns.

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  • 120. At 10:19pm on 10 Jan 2009, MAVERICKROB wrote:

    For years Football in this country has always been play during the Winter period. The four games from the Christmas period to the New Years Day fixture list which is then followed by the 3rd round of the FA Cup. Before this was never a problem, but with some much money in the game and the stakes are high, this winter break idea has now become an issue. I think a winter break should be implemented from mid December to mid January. The first games of the New Year should be the 3rd Round of the FA Cup and the Premiership resumes the following week.

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  • 121. At 10:07am on 11 Jan 2009, BoisterousCitizenTom wrote:

    No way should there be a break. Football keeps me sane over the Christmas holidays.

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  • 122. At 1:37pm on 11 Jan 2009, ElectricHeron wrote:

    No break. For god sake, leave it as it is. Postponents are just part of the game. Winters are no where near as bad as they were years ago and they just got on with it. You can't predict how bad the weathers going to be in a given month, sometimes you get terrible frost or rain in March or April for example or flooding in July. And extending the season's no good because by the end of the current season, many of the pitches are getting too hard to play and the weather is too hot to play high-tempo football, which is equally dangerous. Plus, the season is too long already and some people have lives away from football where they want to go on holiday/go to festivals and stuff. The more people have messed with football's structure, the worse it's got.

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  • 123. At 3:07pm on 11 Jan 2009, chimerasfc wrote:

    A couple of posts suggested combining and regionalising L1, L2 and BSP. Clearly this would save on expenses for the clubs and their travelling suporters (and reduce the pain of late cancellations) but it would introduce huge mismatches - Barrow v Leeds (for example) is exciting as a one-off cup tie when the "minnows" might raise their game but not something you'd want to see week after week.

    And for the many exiles like me (a Stanley fan living in Portsmouth) it would take away the occasional chance of watching your team reasonably locally.

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  • 124. At 5:20pm on 11 Jan 2009, RobOAFC wrote:

    If the prem has a xmas break den why dont lower league teams play in their stadiums while there off?
    You can have twenty games on a saturday and a sunday

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  • 125. At 7:32pm on 11 Jan 2009, realmagpie1862 wrote:

    Hi Gav,
    great goal yesterday and big shame about the injury!
    Sorry can`t agree about the mid winter break even as one of those who went to Aldershot.Couldn`t possibly sacrifice Boxing Day football for anything! Surely better use of the light nights at the start of the season and also the August Bank Holiday could help out the situation plus the eradication of "mickey mouse" cup games whose only benefit is for those who get to the latter stages and have no real history or interest even for committed fans like me!
    Best of luck for the rest of the season, u pies!

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  • 126. At 10:00am on 12 Jan 2009, fmcpie wrote:

    hi , gavin , notts fan here , smashing goal yesterday . did u receive the richard butcher dvd box set for christmas "how to ghost into the box unnoticed"? anyway , nice finish but shame the injury jinx has struck again , no wonder you have taken up writing! best wishes for a swift return

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  • 127. At 4:59pm on 12 Jan 2009, county_magpie wrote:

    hi gavin,well done on your goal sat it was fantastic,sorry to see you go off with your injury in the match tho,hope its not a long one,i think you are a big part of the team,you and matty hamshaw are the best players in my hope to see you running on the pitch as soon as.
    as for the weather thing it annoys me bad,i hate it when games get called off.

    thanks again for an enjoyable match goal.

    best wishes.

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