Ben Burgess column: Football fans’ festive treats

Ben Burgess

Ben Burgess

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I hope you all enjoyed a merry Christmas and have a wonderful New Year.

It was good to see Blackpool back to winning ways at Hartlepool United on Boxing Day.

Conditions up at Hartlepool are challenging at the best of times, so to win in the middle of winter was even tougher.

’ve played at their Victoria Park ground a few times and to say I’ve had little success would be an understatement.

I got taken off at half-time by Paul Ince there and he was sacked a week later; I was whipped off after 55 minutes there by Martin Allen and he was sacked about an hour later!

As a fan I’ve enjoyed watching the football over Christmas.

I think the English leagues are special and unique in the way that families can enjoy going to games over the festive period, especially when they have a bit of time off from work.

Just look at the fabulous attendance for AFC Fylde’s top-of-the-table clash with Chorley – 3,858 people for a game in the seventh tier of English football just shows what a fantastic job everyone associated with Fylde is doing.

In fact, I can think of one local team who would like that sort of attendance.

Sadly, not everyone shares my opinion about the joy of Christmas games.

There were – and still are – certain players that will always be injured or suspended for this busy time of year.

In fact, some of the bookings people ‘earn’ themselves in December should be made into a DVD for Christmas, they’re that comical.

It also seems that many managers and ‘experts’ believe that having a winter break would magically transform our underperforming national side.

I understand that a break midway through the season would freshen up the players but then they would be forced into a week’s fitness training to get back to the required fitness levels.

Then there is the major issue of when those five or six missed games would be played.

Already there is huge fixture congestion for teams trying to fit all their games in, so that would be compounded by the need to fit the extra (Christmas fixtures) games in.

How that would leave the players feeling fresher for an international tournament in the summer I will never know.

Blackpool aren’t playing on New Year’s Day this year which is probably a relief to the players and management because there’s always the problem of where to stay on New Year’s Eve.

With Blackpool we tried staying in a hotel the night before we played Chesterfield on New Year’s Day, in our League One days, so we would all be fresh and well rested for the game.

Predictably, there was a party going on in the hotel until three in the morning and we all just lay in bed listening to thumping bass and drunken laughter in the corridor.

It can be almost as bad when you sleep at home; I’ve lived in apartments where there are inevitable parties next door on New Year’s Eve.

This time of year also brings plenty of transfer speculation with it.

With the transfer window opening in just a few days, clubs will be fearful of losing their star players.

Blackpool should manage to keep their best performing players but, when we used to rely on the loan market, I recall us losing about 11 players when their loan deals expired in January.

On the flip side it’s also a chance for a manager whose side isn’t performing to the required standard to sign a few of his own players.

Generally, this transfer window is often seen by the top Premier League clubs as a bit of a panic buy time.

Most of the sides making big signings will be the ones languishing at the foot of the Premier League table.

They will have the romantic notion that a star signing will transform their season.

Sadly, what usually happens is that their desperation is evident to the selling club and they bump the price up.

The player gets a lucrative five-year contract and both club and player are stuck in the Championship next season.