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A footballer's Christmas

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Michael Gray | 18:31 UK time, Wednesday, 23 December 2009

It's been another frustrating week for me leading into Christmas. I couldn't train much last week because I had a slight hamstring strain and my family was sharing around a virus so I had to keep away from the training ground anyway.

I've still got a bit of a sore throat but I've been itching to get out there on the training ground this week and get a full week's work done in preparation for our big match on Boxing Day. On the whole I am feeling much better and I am raring to go again.

I watched the Swansea game from the stands. I thought we did OK - that will sound silly to some people because we lost 2-0 but during the first half we competed well apart from conceding the goals on the counter-attack.

In the second half those five and 10-yard passes weren't coming off and everything seems a little bit harder in the position we are in. We have to get over that quickly. It's about coming into training this week, having a smile on our faces and putting things right.

Around the training ground we certainly feel that things are starting to get better. The eagerness is back in the players and we need to make sure we start winning football matches.

The snow that has hit most of the country hasn't helped us and we stayed away from training on Monday because the conditions made it dangerous for many of our players to get into the club. Our usual training regime has been changed around as a result and, while we normally have Wednesdays off, we were planning to be in every day from Tuesday with plenty to work on ahead of the Newcastle match on Saturday at home to Newcastle. It was strange having the Monday off but it just makes the lads more determined to get stuck in during the rest of the week and get things right.

paulrobinson595getty.jpgBlackburn keeper Paul Robinson tries to ignore the snow in last Saturday's defeat by Tottenham

The weather always seems to be in the news in this country but it has snowed nearly every day in Sheffield over the past week. We would rather train outside on the grass pitches but when there is a blanket of snow and ice we have do most of our work indoors. We have a big dome which we train in during the coldest spells of winter so that is a massive help. Otherwise we would be a bit stuck in terms of going through team shape and other tactical stuff.

We have to stay positive as a group of players in spite of our league position. It was frustrating for me not being able to train during Sean McAuley's first week as caretaker manager but everything the other lads told me about training was positive. The lads worked their socks off but unfortunately did not manage to get the result we wanted against Swansea.

Christmas is certainly going to be a tough period for Sheffield Wednesday. It always is a key time in the season with plenty of games in a short period of time but on Boxing Day we host Newcastle, who are 10 points clear at the top of the Championship, and then 48 hours later play at Blackpool, who have one of the best home records in the division. After that it's Crystal Palace in the FA Cup at Hillsborough on January 2.

As everyone knows, Newcastle are flying. The game is live on TV and we have to get out there and put in a performance that our fans can be proud of. We owe our supporters a lot because they have stuck with us through this tough time and it's about time we started repaying them with some performances and results.

We have a relatively small squad so we can't make many changes to the team. That means it's vital we address all of the issues we are facing as a team, together. There are quite a few young lads in our team and they have got to grow up very quickly. Some of our young players have actually played more than 100 games already so they have a fair bit of experience and they have to draw on all their strength if and when they are called upon as we need to secure results. You have to get out there and give everything that you've got because we are playing for a great club and we have great fans.

As footballers our Christmas is obviously different to most people's. I've nearly always trained early on Christmas Day and then got off to spend the rest of the day with the family and that looks like what we will be doing again this year. Obviously, if you have a game on Boxing Day you have to be prepared for it so that you can give your all on what is one of the biggest dates in the fixture list.

I will get up and get over to Sheffield for training by about 11am. After training I will go back home and open all the presents with the kids, enjoy the rest of my day with the family and have a nice meal. I say a nice meal but most people will not be eating pasta or boiled potatoes on Christmas Day will they??

We will probably find time to have a Christmas Dinner of sorts but it won't be at Christmas, in the middle of all those fixtures, and it certainly won't fill as much of the plate as most people's. As players we can't complain about the lifestyle we have so I don't mind the fact that everyone else is indulging while we are looking after ourselves and getting ready for the important business of a match on Boxing Day. I certainly don't mind the sacrifice if we get a decent result the day after. Of course the only present I am bothered about unwrapping is a win over Newcastle!

Our Boxing Day is game is a 12.45pm kick-off so I will be getting up a little bit earlier than usual. When you have a lunchtime kick-off then it's a case of having your pre-match meal at breakfast time. It does feel a bit strange eating pasta at 9.00 in the morning but I am used to it by now after 17 or 18 years.

As a lad from Sunderland, the game against Newcastle obviously has a little extra significance to it. I love playing against them and I want to get the right result over them this time. There will be thousands of Geordie fans at Hillsborough, they will sing their hearts out and we expect the Wednesday fans will do the same and make it a great atmosphere. It's time for our players to start standing up for themselves and showing the fans what we are capable of.

Thanks for reading my blog in 2009 and I hope you have a great Christmas. We were hoping to dye Darren Potter's facial hair silvery white to give him that Father Christmas appearance but he has disappointed everyone by having a shave! I don't know if it's superstition but I am sure the 'tache will be back in the New Year so I will keep you posted.


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