Scottish Premiership winter shutdown: Who is in favour?

Celtic players Tom Rogic and James Forrest
Celtic players Tom Rogic and James Forrest arrived back from the club's Dubai training camp on Saturday

The winter shutdown offers those who follow - or feature - for Scottish Premiership clubs the chance to put their metaphorical feet up for three weeks and recharge the batteries.

Well, that might not be strictly true. Players combine some welcome down time following the hectic festive schedule with some training to keep themselves ticking over.

But what about those who don't kick a ball in anger all year round? We asked them, and a player, for their views...

The chairman - Roy MacGregor, Ross County

Ross County chairman Roy MacGregor
"Supporters have a big say in whether they want summer football or the winter break"

On the merits of the shutdown

"It's too early to say from a Ross County perspective. Commercially, probably for a football club to shut for three weeks isn't a good thing. I'm also aware that some of our players had very little time off in the summer. At this stage of the season, you wonder whether burnout becomes a factor.

"It will probably take until the end of the season to evaluate whether it's a worthwhile exercise or not."

Does the winter break affect your work as a chairman?

"At a football club, during the breaks where there's no football there's always more work to do, particularly in the summer as you prepare for a new season. Even at this stage of the season - because the season goes through to the middle of April - there's the split and you've got to prepare for the last five games and sell hospitality and that sort of thing. There's a lot of preparation behind the scenes and it's a time for recharging batteries for commercial and hospitality people.

"I'm talking to the manager every week of the year about how he improves the team; it doesn't really change dramatically during this period. I don't think the winter transfer window is one where there's a huge amount of activity.

"Planning more for the summer is more important. "

Is the winter shutdown long enough?

"I'm not quite sure because again it goes back to the question of summer football and whether you extend the season back into June, and how does that affect Scotland and school holidays and other things people have been doing for a good number of years in the summer.

"It goes back to the summer argument; I don't have a particular view either way. I think the experiment with the League Cup and taking it back into the middle of July - that's been good. It'll be interesting to see how people have viewed that at the end of the season and whether they want to take the season back even earlier. I have an open mind on it."

Are you happy for the shutdown to happen every season?

"I've got an open view as this has been a funny season. With World Cup qualifiers, we've had four Saturdays where we haven't played football. So, we've had more midweek games. We find it difficult to get people [fans] in for a midweek game compared to Saturdays. I would like to hear the argument both ways. But I do think that our players who play 48, 49 or 50 weeks of the year are probably playing too much.

"We need to look at how we get the best out of players so that they can perform for, say, 40 weeks a year. That's more important. How that's divvied up? I've got an open mind and I'd like to hear the debate, from experience and also a supporter's point of view.

"Supporters play a bit part in this as well. Ultimately, without people coming to the football we don't have football. Supporters have a big say in whether they want summer football or the winter break. In Scotland, football has traditionally been played during the Christmas and New Year period. In Spain and other countries they don't do it."

The supporter - Steven Kilgouer, general secretary of the Federation of the Hearts Supporters' Clubs

"I kind of enjoy the winter break just after a busy and an expensive time for everybody. It gives the fans' pockets a break at an expensive time of year. Scottish football is very expensive - you're talking £20-25 for a ticket, £10 travel depending on where we are going and then all the other stuff that goes with it - so if you've got games Wednesday-Saturday it helps the supporters in that sense.

"On this occasion it might just actually suit Hearts to do that. It means that [new head coach] Ian Cathro and [assistant] Austin McPhee can spend some time with the players getting their ideas over. It's maybe harder putting them into practice in a game situation but it gives them time to work with the players and get to know them a bit better, and maybe get their type of player in as well to fit the system they want us to play."

Hearts supporters
Hearts supporters are split 50-50 on the winter break, says Kilgouer

Thoughts of other Hearts fans?

"It's 50-50. Some diehard fans will want the football every week. Others are a wee bit similar to myself, they feel the break comes at a good time. The slight issue is when we have it driven by the weather, there's no guarantees in Scotland that the weather will be bad in January and good in February. It's hard for anyone to call that one.

"These days I'm more inclined to go towards summer football which was something I was always dead against until recent times, but I think it would help make our football better. Players playing in better conditions."

Is there a fly in the ointment?

"My concern about it is - the Premiership teams are coming back to join the Scottish Cup. It's their first game back. A few years back I seem to remember a few top-flight clubs were falling at the first hurdle in the Scottish Cup because we were coming back and playing teams from what's now the Championship who were all fully match fit."

The player - Keith Lasley, Motherwell

"I'm 100% a fan [of the shutdown]. At this time of year, the chance for us to have a little bit of time to unwind and recharge, I think from a players' point of view there'd be few complaining, to be honest."

Should the winter break be longer?

"I suppose time will tell. If you turn up on that first game back and there's a blizzard and games are called off, I'm sure there'll be some grumblings but to me three weeks seems sensible at this point. We got a week off away and I think that was probably about right.

Motherwell midfielder Keith Lasley
"Hopefully you'll get a set of recharged players ready to go"

"Now we have a couple of weeks to get back into training and ready for games. Hopefully you'll get a set of recharged players ready to go and have a good second half of the season."

If clubs are on a good run of form, some say the break ruins their momentum…

"I can understand it from that point of view. We'd had a couple of good results away from home up at Inverness and then a last-minute draw against Hamilton with 10 men, which felt like a victory, so maybe you want to kick on, but I think when you look at the bigger picture most people would look on [the break] favourably. The positives outweigh the negatives and I hope it's here to stay.

"You might think the fans will say they miss the football but maybe that's part of the point. Hopefully it'll recharge their enthusiasm for it."

The first game back is in the Scottish Cup - that means some clubs are facing opposition who've not had a break…

"That argument can work both ways. We'll be going into the Rangers game [in the Scottish Cup] with a fully fit squad, which is very rare at this time of year. So I think you'd certainly be grateful for that."

The manager - Paul Hartley, Dundee

"Mentally and physically, I think it's good for the players to get a little break. It's been a tough season so far, a lot of tough games and they sometimes need that little break, then get them back working again, and get the freshness.

"I do think the break is maybe not long enough - maybe another week or two would help us a little bit more. But I think it'll help us in the second half of the season."

Why weren't Dundee able to get away during the break?

Dundee boss Paul Hartley
"I'd like it to stay - maybe add on an extra week and have that whole month off"

"Our budget doesn't let us go away for a break abroad, so we've had to find one or two games here, and it's not easy trying to get teams at this stage in the season. Most of the other teams are playing - Championship, League One, League Two - so we've had to look at our training schedule and tried to fit a couple of games in.

"We've managed to fit one in; we hoped we'd have another but we've not managed.

"I would have liked to have taken the players away into a different environment, different training facilities. We're always finding it a little bit difficult - especially this time in the season with the weather - to find decent training facilities.

"We've had to go indoors this week on a six-a-side pitch which is not ideal in terms of our preparation. I would have liked to have taken the players away but the budget just doesn't let me do that."

Could it disrupt momentum?

"We won two out of our three games over that [festive] period so we would have liked to have continued to play. But the players have been nice and fresh this week, it was nice for them to get out of this environment, spend time with their families, go away if they wanted to, and then recharge the batteries a little bit, because it's going to be a tough second part of the season for us."

Should the winter shutdown return?

"I would want it next year - but maybe just a bit longer and not be thrown into a Scottish Cup game when you come back. We play St Mirren, who've been playing every week, so they'll be up to speed.

"I'd like it to stay - maybe add on an extra week and have that whole month off."

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