In this week’s column, Exeter City’s Graham Cummins gives us an insight into the reality of life at Christmas for a lower league player.
Ninety percent of footballers would be lying if they said they would rather be playing football than having a break in the league over Christmas. Many foreign leagues take a break over Christmas, something this writer would love to see introduced into the English leagues.
One thing I considered before moving to England to join Preston North End was playing over Christmas. Having played in the League of Ireland my entire career, I was used to enjoying my Christmas each year.
The one good element about spending Christmas in England is that I enjoy my Christmas dinner a lot more. I used to have some heavy nights on Christmas Eve back in Ireland which always meant that I was a bit fragile on Christmas Day.
Footballers are always watching what food they digest and people might wonder if it is the same on Christmas day. For me I will enjoy my Christmas dinner, depending on of course, if my Dad can produce nice stuffing this year. I don’t think Christmas dinner is the unhealthiest meal the day before a game, therefore I see no reason not to relax and enjoy it.
The most difficult factor about being away from home at Christmas is missing your family and friends. I’m extremely lucky that my parents venture over to me for the holidays. My fiancée goes home for Christmas but I manage to guilt trip her into coming back to England to spend my birthday and New Years with me.
Footballers are always going to complain about something and being a constructive moaner myself, Christmas time just adds more fuel to the fire. I can remember two years ago on New Year’s Eve and Rio Ferdinand put out a tweet about how people should feel sorry for him having to spend the night in a hotel preparing for a game. Ferdinand rightly received a backlash from fans.
As a League Two player myself, my argument for League Two players being allowed to complain about playing over Christmas, and Premier League players not, is the vast difference in their wages. Most League Two players are earning just over the average wage, while Premier League players earn such vast amounts of money that they will not have to worry about a career after football.
Players who earn thousands of pounds every week should not complain no matter what their circumstances, but then again that is human nature.
This year will actually be my first year training on Christmas Day. The prospect of working on Christmas Day is something that does not really daunt me. I think it is different for players who have children. The fact that they will have to miss much of the morning with their children who are no doubt hyper by what Santa has brought them, must be difficult.
Some clubs will have to spend Christmas night in a hotel away from their family, depending on whether their game the next day is too much of a journey to travel on the morning of the game. Luckily for me this is not an experience I have had to encounter.
One positive this year is that there are no New Year’s Day games in League Two. This does not mean that players can go out New Year’s Eve and do as they feel. Many clubs will be training New Year’s Day and with a game on the 3rd of January players need to prepare themselves right. It just means that rather than being stuck in home or in a hotel at midnight, players can go out and enjoy a meal with their family.
My first New Year’s Eve in England we played Hartlepool the following day so I spent the night in a hotel. At midnight I celebrated by watching an episode of Family Guy while my roommate was in the middle of a snoring session.
I have been on both sides of the fence when it comes to Christmas. From a fan’s perspective it is the best time of the year for football. During my time back home, there was nothing I enjoyed more than St. Stephen’s Day. I used to get up early in the morning and wander down to my local GAA club (Nemo Rangers). There we would play a football tournament and when it was over we set up camp in the clubhouse ready for an exciting day of watching football.
Looking back on my experiences as a fan, I would not be in favour of a Christmas break. However, in my current position as a footballer there is nothing I would love more.
Graham Cummins, Pundit Arena.