The GoatyGav Column

Whether the extra break benefits West Ham players or not remains to be seen. The overwhelming weight of opinion tends towards the ‘rest is always best’ for Premier League footballers, with many campaigning for a Winter break for some time, but I hold the opposite view. Full match practice gets players fit and firing and, while it takes a lot out of them physically, they keep an ‘edge’ which, I believe, is needed to compete. Don’t believe that? Well the evidence suggests otherwise.

When you consider how English teams have performed against their mainland European counterparts over the years there is definitely a clear pattern that’s to be observed. For some teams, before a ball has been kicked in the Premier League, Europa and Champion’s League qualifiers have been played. Some would consider those teams unfortunate however the undoubted trend is that those teams tend to get off to flyers in the league. Full, competitive, match practice provides the advantage over those having had a pre-season of ‘friendlies’. Further to this there are European (I guess I can now say this without the ‘mainland’ stipulation) sides who are well in to their season when playing in the European qualifying rounds who have proven stern tests for our, supposedly superior, Premier league teams because they are more up to competitive match speed.

The other evidence to back up my point above is what generally happens in European competition after other countries have taken their Winter break. British teams who haven’t taken any time out perform far better than those who’ve been rested. Again I put this down to the ‘Match Speed’ element with French, Italian, German and Spanish teams often struggling to overcome the Brits during February and March.

It’s not all to British teams’ advantage however. The benefits of the Winter break become more apparent towards the end of seasons. These advantages can, I believe, also be evidenced by the performance of the English national team at major tournaments. I strongly believe that both injuries and stamina affect the Three Lions far more than other nations when it comes to World Cups, Euros and, in the case of the most recent example, the UEFA Nation’s League.

Back to West Ham I fear that, apart from the ridiculous level of inconvenience that our fans were handed by the Manchester officials who called off the game on Sunday, our first team will also suffer. Next up is an incredibly tough match which won’t be played until the 24th Feb. Considering our last match beforehand will have been played on the 1st Feb, and our opponents will have played the week before, it looks like the trip to Liverpool will prove an even bigger mountain to climb than it may have otherwise done. Five days afterwards we are at home to a, hugely improved, Southampton team who will have faced Aston Villa and Burnley at home the previous two weeks, and who may well find themselves going in to the game with us, not only far more match sharp but also full of confidence.

My normally optimistic tone has certainly been affected this season by the tough breaks that don’t seem to be showing any sign of letting up. I sincerely hope that David Moyes, and his newly assembled coaching team, can utilise the break to the best of their advantage but I fear for the forthcoming games bearing in mind the lack of match sharpness compared to our opponents.

Not only did our men’s first team have their game postponed but the Women’s game against Manchester City was also a casualty of the bad weather. A tough trip away to Reading awaits tomorrow night so I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing the Ironesses all the best for that.

The U23s have slightly less time to wait to play than the men’s first team with a home fixture against fourth placed Stoke City next Monday. With Mesaque Dju and Xande Silva returning to the squad after injury the team has a much needed boost following the recent loan departures. It will be a very exciting run in to see if Dan Halajko’s boys can keep their top spot. Fingers crossed they do the business against the Stokies on the 17th.

Have a good week all.