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Scottish Winter Break – was it all worth it? by Donald C Stewart

Date: 16th March 2019

Scottish Winter Break – was it all worth it?

I tutor a young lad in Higher English. He is an international under 17s player for Northern Ireland who left Rangers in the summer and has signed for Kilmarnock. I was unable to have my weekly session with him recently as he had been teed up to go play reserves at, of all places, Ross County. Without a Tardis, there was no way he was getting back for Higher English…

A 16 year old going up to Dingwall to play a reserve game, developing his skill base because the first team are away warm weather training as part of their extension of the winter break. There may not be a massive fan presence on a Monday afternoon for a reserve game in Dingwall from Ayrshire but the development of the young players has been much in the minds of pundits and the fans over the last few years.

Innovation has been highly sought after in the Scottish game and there have been a couple of initiatives that have seen a return to the past. The return of reserve team football has been one. Opportunities are there for him to fill a shirt, take on a berth, get game time and earn a few more clichés along the way.

For the premier league fan the break has been… well what has it been? I support Ayr, we have no winter break. Given our current run in to the end of the season, we feel we could have done with one but for the fan at the higher echelons of the game, the pause has left one thing…

An inability to truly assess the point of it all…

It can be said that Leicester City know how to take advantage of any break…

In years gone past the postponements caused congestion and the fog that descended upon Rugby Park just the other night might now be a rare event given we get to avoid pitch inspections quite as much as in the past, but there are more than few fans who feel the winter break does nothing to enhance the product.

We know that we can plan a little better and not have to shell out quite as much when there are two or three games a week but what else does it do?

It certainly enhances the tan as players get some home time and then get jetted off into the sunshine for a “well earned” break. For some of them it might be more like extra training and an ice cream down Saltcoats shore front than a few days in Algarve trying to perfect the golf swing but for fans it will still be the same cash at the turnstiles, the same brief out the season book or the same freezing cold night under the floodlights hoping the momentum before the pause has an opportunity of resurfacing after the break.

Of course, for some the break cannot come quick enough. You won’t find many freezing Buddies in Paisley sitting contemplating the opportunity to regroup with anything less than thorough enthusiasm. They will not have the jets on standby at their local airport read to take them to villas in the sun but will be more likely to look at a treatment table and the bargain basement transfer targets and wonder if they can stretch the budget but not credulity for their campaign from February onwards. Money will not be wasted, but is time?

The idea that a break in the winter in a country where we have winter, pretty much round every corner, in every month seems a bit of a misnomer. It seems that simply having the opportunity to stop – albeit only in the higher league – whilst all around are continuing on is an indulgence. There is little doubt that that some see it as a great idea. There will be suits and blazers nodding in satisfaction and with glee that another “innovation” is working and working well. If avoiding the snaw and the glaur is so important but, can ye no just shut down from say, November to March inclusive instead? Now that truly would be an innovation – But them pesky girls have already stolen that idea…

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