Date: Wed 06 Dec 2023

By Andy Poole


We get the festive thoughts of Bromsgrove Sporting physio, Gavin Blackwell

The month of December is certainly a busy time in the football calendar with the games coming thick and fast to lead into the halfway point of the season.

For players and staff at all of our Member Clubs it is a time when focus and a level of discipline is required amidst the festivities going on all around.

We get the thoughts of Bromsgrove Sporting physiotherapist, Gavin Blackwell, whose involvement in the game stretches back over many years.

“Christmas for most of us is our busiest time of the year - bumper crowds at matches and the games come thick and fast,” he said. “That doesn't stop your family asking where you are when they're getting tiddly and watching re-runs of Only Fools and Horses!

“I always find that when the fixtures come out, there are three key dates to look for; the first, the last and Boxing Day games. Depending when Christmas falls you may get lucky and have a Gaffer who gives an extra day off, although it has been known for teams I have been involved with to train on both Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

“So, what is life like for the physio at Christmas? The festive fixture programme is busy period for all concerned, although this season it’s slightly different with just two games compared to the usual four in seven days, but still there’s the need to deal with the various injuries that crop up at this time of year and ensure that the Gaffer has as many players fit and available for the run of games.

“You tend to get more injuries with losing teams, but football is an emotive business. The role of the physio is as much a psychological prop as anything else. The present fixture list is congested enough but had today's professionals played 50 years ago then December 25th would have been match day!

“Long term injuries are not affected by the concentration of games over this period. It is the running repairs, the knocks and strains which are not helped over the holiday period. Those are the sort of injuries which become problems with a fixture congestion.

“It is the trivial injuries which get all our attention. If a player has a broken leg, he has his surgery and then it's a case of go to the gym and ‘I'll see you later’.

“The problems for a physio are heightened at intense periods like Christmas. The Easter period is almost worse because by then the minor injuries have accumulated and worsened. A keenness to carry on with slight injuries can often backfire. If the physio does not put their foot down players will carry on with a slight strain, feel sore after the game then reappear three days later. Several weeks of that and then... snap!

“The desire, particularly for clubs with smaller squads, to make sure players are fit for the quick turnover of games can cause friction between a manager and his physio. It's a real problem trying to squeeze more games out of smaller and smaller squads. We have to stay neutral. Our work helps the manager but we do not work for them, instead you work with him.

“We must do what is best for the club. If that means not allowing a player to play because it is too risky, then so be it. But at the same time doing everything we can so he has as many fit players as possible for each game.

“Gary Lewin, the Arsenal physio for 22 years who eventually became the England physio once said; ‘I didn’t have a Christmas Day off for 25 years’.

“Whilst essential services keep watch, nurses and doctors are on duty and the world ticks over like an idle car engine. Sport, however, asks for maximum commitment and full throttle effort. The fans love Boxing Day, it’s the traditional time for matches now, with another set of fixtures on New Year's Day, so there's nothing we can do about it.

“There is a much more pleasant atmosphere at festive games. However, this year is slightly different with Christmas Day falling on a Monday, it means we have our normal Saturday fixture followed by a game on Boxing Day.

“The following Saturday is a free weekend followed by game on New Year’s Day. Unlike our professional counterparts, keeping players away from temptations of too much revelry, particularly at New Year, is a major concern.

“The idea of a Christmas break is a hot topic of discussion, as the belief is that we play too much football in this country. The job of a physio would probably be made easier by a winter break but the practicalities of it are difficult.

“It is a lucrative period for clubs; attendances often increase at a time when many are in a mood for leisure and recreation. The powers that be would be unwilling to lose that revenue.

“As a colleague of mine once said; ‘Christmas comes at the end of May!’ and that is something which working in football, we have to accept.”

The Rouslers face a trip to Stamford on December 23rd, followed by a Boxing Day home game against Stourbridge and New Year’s Day trip to AFC Telford United.

Bromsgrove Sporting Web Site

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