One of the sacrifices made by professional footballers is the unwritten agreement that Christmas Day is either a write-off or an after-thought in and amongst their preparations for Boxing Day.
Michael Gray, the former Leeds United full-back, once wrote about his festivities, stating: “I’ve nearly always trained on Christmas Day and then enjoyed the rest of the day with the family and a nice meal. I say a nice meal. Most people won’t be eating pasta or boiled potatoes.”
The squad at Leeds avoided training on Christmas Day last year but spent the night in an empty hotel in Derby prior to their game against Derby County.
The menu was soup and sandwiches. Good preparation or not, they were beaten 1-0 the following afternoon.
This year will be something of a novelty as United’s squad benefit from one of Neil Warnock’s quirks – his traditional preference of giving his players the day off on December 25.
As several of his chairmen have told him, the policy is unconventional.
“I’ve had some say that they can’t believe it,” said Warnock. “They say ‘you gave them Christmas Day off and we got battered on Boxing Day.’
“I open myself up to that criticism but I’ve always done it. I think it’s the right thing to do.”
The statistics back him up.
Since taking charge of Sheffield United in 1999, Warnock’s Boxing Day record in the Championship reads played 11, won 10, lost one; 30 points taken from a possible 33.
Perhaps there is something in this.