‘Tis the season to be jolly. Well, for some.
While most of us are probably knee-deep in turkey with an ill-fitting Christmas cracker hat sprawled messily around our head, trying to deal with the sound of screaming kids and avoiding stepping on Lego for the eighth time today already, Christmas Day is a little different for professional footballers.
With Boxing Day football one of the marquee days in the footballing calendar, the day is largely no different from any day before matchday – nutrition has to remain steady, rest has to be taken, and focus switches to the big game, regardless of the day.
Speaking on the Sun Football podcast, football legend Ian Wright explained what is involved in a professional footballer’s Christmas Day routine.
He said: “When you’ve got to play on Boxing Day you normally travel somewhere.
“It’s always the wrench of leaving your family – you just get used to it after a while, particularly if you’ve got young kids.
“If you’re playing at home, you might get a couple more hours with your family, before you have to join up with the team at the team hotel.
“But you bring the Christmas forward to fit in with you – so you have the presents, the dinner, all a lot earlier so you don’t feel like you’re missing out on it.
“But it is quite a wrench of a time, or at least it was for me.”
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So footballers still get to enjoy a little bit of a ‘normal’ Christmas Day with their nearest and dearest, but there’s still a fair amount of work involved.
Wright continued: “You always have to make sure the family comes early.
“It’s weird [training over Christmas]. When you drive on Christmas morning there’s no-one there – it’s beautiful. Everyone’s really nice, people wave to you in the cars because it’s Christmas morning… even Spurs fans!
“But when you get to training it’s all the same – all the guys have just left their families and it’s just one of those things that you get used to as the years go by.”
Boxing Day football always has a slight feeling of a celebratory atmosphere, with the crowds often bigger due to families joining together to watch the footballing bonanza.
But Wright says that professionalism remains constant as the Christmas period can either make or break a club’s season.
He added: “You always know that over the Christmas period, if you can win those two or three games it can rocket you up the table and it’s a great chance to have a good run of wins.
“I always found Boxing Day strange. The sun was often out but it was chilly, it had that kind of vibe.
“I preferred it when we had a London derby on Boxing Day because you’re naturally ready for it – in the main I was just ready for it to be over.”
But this is the big question – do you get to indulge in the full Christmas dinner?
Wright says yes, but it’s difficult to moderate just how much you do eat.
He added: “You can eat anything you want really – Arsene Wenger was a little bit less keen on it, but he always wanted us to eat together.
“We’d have turkey when we got to the team hotel – but we just had to have bucketloads of broccoli!”
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