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Wine, turkey and training on a footballer’s Christmas menu



They are paid millions and adored by fans across the world, but the life of a professional footballer has a major drawback at Christmas.

Faced by a punishing schedule that forces them to train on Christmas Day ahead of a round of matches on Boxing Day, players have little time for partying.

But Steve Sidwell, who retired from playing last summer and now works as a pundit on Sky Sports, says he will miss playing during what is his first proper Christmas off in 15 years.

“It’s tough and unforgiving,” he said, “but you learn it from an early age. You quickly become accustomed to it… you get paid well to do a fantastic job.

“I’m looking forward to Christmas with the family, but I will miss playing.”

Steve Sidwell says he will miss playing football over Christmas
Steve Sidwell says he will miss playing football this Christmas

Sidwell’s former club, Brighton and Hove Albion, have a typically arduous schedule over the holiday period, as they face four Premier League games and an FA Cup tie in the space of two weeks.

During his career, so many matches meant the monk-like existence of a professional athlete became even more strict.

Sidwell, who is not a big drinker anyway, said he would “have a glass of wine with dinner and that’s it. I didn’t really miss it.”

As for the Christmas feast, he said he partook but didn’t overdo it.

“I’m not one who has a bowl of pasta while the family has Christmas dinner. I would have a little turkey and stuffing and all the rest but I wouldn’t over-indulge.”

“I like a glass of wine, but I wouldn’t overdo it. Very few players do at Christmas as it does affect physical performance and health, especially at the elite level,” he admitted.

Steve Sidwell batlles with Cristiano Ronaldo in an FA Cup tie
Steve Sidwell battles with Cristiano Ronaldo in an FA Cup tie

But players are given some control over what happens, he said, as “these days, managers are very forgiving. After the Christmas programme, they’ll give you a break into January.”

“And on Xmas day, the manager will give players the option of training in the morning or afternoon.”

And he said the atmosphere at training over the Christmas period was good as the training is light.

For those who will play most or all of the games over the holiday period, “it’s mostly about recovery between games. Most clubs hire a cryo-chamber to speed up recovery.”

There are 12 Premier League matches live on Sky Sports between 23 December and 3 January as well as games from the EFL other leagues across the world.

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