The mythical winter break, the ‘go-to’ excuse for English lethargy and inadequacy at international tournaments. The long line of managers who have campaigned for an English winter break is brought forward like a register after every World Cup and European Championship, but is there any evidence to suggest that the winter break makes an iota of difference on an international stage?
Premier League heavyweights Arsene Wenger and Jurgen Klopp are among the list of foreign managers plying their trade in the English top flight, who staunchly believe that England’s international side is at a disadvantage for a lack of a winter break.
England boss Roy Hodgson has previously advocated the scrapping of FA Cup quarter-final replays, hoping the move could be the first step towards a Premier League winter break:
“I think it’s all designed eventually to maybe providing that elusive winter break,
“There’s been no doubt that one of the stumbling blocks has often been ‘hold on, you have all of these replays and you’re asking us to cut our season down’.
“I think it’s only positive that this sort of move has been made.”
Indeed former national team bosses Fabio Capello and Sven Goran Eriksson both cited the Premier League workload as their excuse for not delivering international success – the Swede even went as far as to say that England will struggle to win a tournament until one is introduced.
But in reality, Hodgson’s squad are not as disadvantaged by the Premier League’s lack of winter break as England’s former managers would have you believe:
As testament to the calibre of domestic competition hosted in England, the Premier League and Championship combined are supplying just shy of a quarter of the players set to feature at Euro 2016. Before the first ball is kicked, the England squad are on a level playing field with the other 111 players from their league system, who similarly have not taken a break this season.
When dissecting the breaks taken by rival leagues across Europe, the time-off taken by La Liga’s stars was cut to just 10 days this season – this works out to roughly the amount of time a Premier League team might get to put their feet up if they fail to reach the fourth or fifth rounds of the FA Cup.
Across Europe, a typical winter break last for around three weeks, which coincidently, is at the very least, the amount of time nine of the England squad have spent resting on the sidelines this season through injury (some considerably more), according to physioroom.com.
With all breaks considered, scheduled or otherwise, then only 14 of the England squad have gone without a prolonged period of rest over the course of the season – not a particularly substantial amount more than the nine French players in the very same situation. France are favourites to win Euro 2016.
Chris Smalling, the player who has tallied up the largest amount of playing time in England’s squad, has already expressed that he isn’t feeling any sense of fatigue ahead of his first European Championship:
“When you get on a roll of games, you just want to keep going and I want to contribute to a successful summer,
“When you’ve looked forward to something all season, you can’t be tired when you’ve got such a massive carrot at the end of it. Now it’s getting to the stage where the excitement will drive you through any tiredness.”
All of the statistical evidence suggests that England have no more reason to be fatigued at a major tournament than any of their European rivals; contrary to popular belief, English stars are no more overworked than the top players within Europe’s elite domestic competitions.
But if the mythical winter break is nothing more than a flimsy scapegoat, why do England only have one international accolade to their name? It couldn’t be that we’re just inferior footballers…