SHANGHAI, China — Wales manager Ryan Giggs has joined the growing calls for the Premier League to introduce a winter break to help British teams prepare for major championships just days before the start of the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.
Successive England managers have complained about the impact of fatigue on their players at major championships and, with more foreign players calling the Premier League home, the former Manchester United star thinks it is time for change.
“When other countries are resting, the Premier League is at its most ferocious around Christmas when it’s two or three days between games,” said Giggs, who was in Shanghai to participate in the Tencent Super Penguin celebrity match on Saturday evening. “But saying that, there are a lot of Premier League players who are playing for a lot of other countries.
“Personally, I would like to see a winter break – only for a week – to help the British teams in major championships because I think it does help generally.
“I think when it comes down to it, it shouldn’t matter if you’ve looked after yourself during the season. It’s only if you’ve picked up injuries and you’re trying to chase the fitness towards the end of the season where players run out of time.”
Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn last week confirmed that a winter break will soon be introduced, staggered across late January and early February.
Giggs took over the helm of the Wales team after Chris Coleman stood down having narrowly missed out on qualification for this summer’s tournament and the ex-winger is relishing his first foray into international management. But he admits he fears his phone ringing with bad news in the days leading up to each fixture.
“It can be frustrating because you don’t see the group of players for a long period of time and then when you are together it’s quite intense, but I’ve enjoyed it,” he said.
“It’s a good balance for me where I’m back into football but also it’s not the day-to-day that I was used to as a footballer, so I can enjoy different things like watching my son play football every weekend, things that I couldn’t do when I was playing or when I was coaching full time. So it’s different.
“You have to get your head round it and obviously you’re panicking that weekend before, hoping the physio and the doctor don’t call you saying you’ve got a few injuries. There are frustrations, but overall it’s enjoyable.”
Giggs, who was in Shanghai at the weekend participating alongside Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo, Carles Puyol, Andrea Pirlo and Marco Materazzi in the Tencent match, feels the work he is able to do as a coach is going some way towards filling the void left after he retired as a player.
“I’ve enjoyed getting back on the grass and working with the players because it’s the next best thing to playing, walking off a football pitch after putting on a good session or the lads have trained well,” he said.
“You can never replicate as a player that feeling you have coming off the training pitch, but the next best thing is the coaching and that’s the thing I’ve enjoyed the most, trying to make footballers better with your training, with the wisdom you can pass on and the experiences you’ve had as a footballer.”
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch