I have always been an advocate of a Premier League winter break – mainly because of my experience at tournaments with England.
Research shows that in the final six months of a season you are four times more likely to get injured in the Premier League than anywhere else in Europe.
If you play every three days the risk of injury goes up a huge amount. We tried everything to prepare players for international tournaments. The one thing we have never tried properly is a winter break.
I think it’s crucial – physically and mentally – on the condition that clubs are not allowed to play friendlies. And that’s easily controlled as you need the FA’s permission to play abroad.
For me, one game off isn’t enough. We argued for two weekends — so it was a three-week break. That’s 10 days off and 10 days training. That’s what they favour on the continent.
It was understood that you’re never going to do that over the Christmas period so January is the time to do it. With Sven [Goran Eriksson] in 2006, we were really close to getting it but there was no agreement because of the money.
To me, a break should happen between the FA Cup third and fourth rounds but you’d need to lose replays for that. What they’ve done now doesn’t go far enough. It’s like being knocked out of the FA Cup and taking an extended break.
Back in the 1980s, training kept players ticking over between games. Because you only had 18 in a squad, training was basically playing – for the first team or reserves. It wasn’t a programme.
Players weren’t athletes like now. I hear ex-players saying: ‘We played twice a week and it didn’t do me any harm.’ But research showed that between 2006 and 2012 the number of high-intensity sprints – and distance covered – both went up 30 per cent. Since 2012, I think it’s increased again. It is completely different today.