By Nathan BeesChristmas is just one week away and that means just one thing: football every couple of days!
The trip to Dagenham & Redbridge tomorrow is followed by three games in a week from Boxing Day onwards, with AFC Wimbledon, Leyton Orient and Luton Town our opponents as we head into the new year. A couple of London away days and two of our biggest home fixtures of the season… it really is the most wonderful time of the year.
Many people seem to call for a winter break at this time of year, but I always shudder at the thought. I love the festive programme with so many games played in a short space of time — it is exciting, potentially season-defining and it breaks up the suffocating Christmas period. What’s not to like?
‘Experts’ and pundits will inevitably cite a player’s vulnerability to sustaining an injury as a reason to have a period of rest in December, but I wonder how many professionals would concur.
Okay, so it may allow them to spend some time at home and eat Christmas dinner with their family. I fully accept that must be something they would love to do but often have to sacrifice. However, even with a winter break they would still have to be very careful about what they eat and drink as they can’t afford to put any weight on before the season resumes again.
There would be little to no room for any indulgence — just like now without a winter break — so would it really make any difference to a player?
The other thing to remember is that football is all about us, the fans, and at this time of year many people are off work and can attend matches. That is good news for football clubs, especially those in the lower leagues, as more people through the turnstiles means more money.
If the fans and clubs are happy to have so many games played at Christmas and the benefits to a winter break are so limited for players, why do people suggest it every year?
It was pleasing to see that Lee Mansell isn’t having any of it. During his interview this week he mentioned just how much he loves playing at this time of year with the games coming thick and fast. I don’t know the personal stance of every Rovers player on the matter, but I wouldn’t imagine Manse is alone in liking things as they are.
It would be great news for us if the rest of the lads are in agreement with him, because if they are we have a great chance of picking up positive results in the difficult games that lie ahead of us.
Dagenham are first up and despite their poor home form this season it will be a really tough game. They will be on a high after their midweek FA Cup success against Whitehawk secured a third round tie against Everton at Goodison Park, and that is something we will have to be mindful of. In front of their own supporters they are going to want to provide some Christmas cheer and we need to ensure we stand up to that.
Last week’s late comeback over York City proved that we have what it takes to grind teams with 11 men behind the ball down. We may need to display similar qualities to overcome the Daggers tomorrow, though I hope we avoid leaving it so late in the day to win the game. If we show a bit more composure in front of goal hopefully it won’t be a problem.
This is my last blog of the year so I want to end by wishing you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year. Here’s to 2016 being as successful for Rovers as this year has been!
Up the Gas!