When looking at England’s drastic underachievement in South Africa this summer, many culprits have been identified and blamed for their fall short of success. The Head Coach, the players, the Press and even the WAGs have had the finger of culpability pointed in their direction for their detrimental effect on the overall experience of the Three Lions fans this summer. The team became one of the highest profile sides to be scalped during the second phase of the tournament, along with Portugal.
That said, both sets of players’ summer holidays starting earlier than expected is not the only thing these two nations have in common. Another shared characteristic is the fact that neither country’s domestic leagues have a winter break – indeed, they are the only two nations in Europe who do not implement such practices across the colder months. Nations who do use the break, such as Italy and Germany, have tended to see more success on the international stage (as evidenced by Italy’s four World Cup wins as well as the Germans’ three). Compare that to England’s single World Cup triumph in 1966 and Portugal finishing as runners-up to Greece in Euro 2004, and you see two nations who, on paper at least, have the manpower to be lifting major cups every second summer – but who have yet to conclusively prove themselves in the spotlight.
Everton captain Phil Neville recently spoke out in support of time off for the festivities, joining forces with his former boss Sir Alex Ferguson who recently attacked the FA for their failure to implement the policy. Talking to BBC Sport, Neville suggested that such a break could be beneficial to the England team, stating: “The intensity of our football is five or six times greater than that of any other country – no-one would question that – it is constantly 90 miles per hour.” The Everton captain then added: “Maybe we need to bring in a mid-winter break where for two or three weeks there is a complete shutdown to allow the players to recharge.”
One factor to consider should the mid-winter break be implemented, however, is that it would take another few weeks out of an already fixture-packed football calendar which has created more than one controversy of its own – in some cases managers even claiming such congestion helps to decide title races and European qualifications at the end of the campaign. Would football fans give up the traditional Boxing Day fixture in exchange for more success on the international stage for Fabio Capello’s side? Or do the half-time pies truly taste better with the added Christmas spice?