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O'Neill backs winter break calls to boost England hopes

Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney was one player who appeared jaded in South Africa

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill has joined calls for the Premier League to implement a winter break.

After England's limp World Cup exit, manager Fabio Capello suggested a break was needed - as had former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson in 2003.

And O'Neill drew on his experience with Celtic, when he reached the Uefa Cup final after a mid-season interlude.

"There should be a break, it would be fantastic. I believe it would give everyone a lift in January," he said.

After a World Cup campaign in which England's sole victory came against Slovenia and ended with a 4-1 defeat by Germany, Capello said his coaches had been concerned by the squad's physical condition after an uninterrupted season that for some players included more than 50 club appearances.

"All the English players were really tired at this competition," he said before responding "yes" when asked if a break should be introduced.

Capello's concerns mirrored those voiced by Eriksson in 2003 when he suggested fatigue would prevent England performing to their potential in major tournaments, while a BBC survey in 2007 found that 13 of 15 players representatives at Premier League clubs also supported a break.

European governing body Uefa has also previously backed a break, suggesting that injury levels are four-times lower in April and May in leagues that impose a break, and for O'Neill the advantages are clear.

"We had it for a couple of years in the Scottish Premier League and we all got great benefit from it," he said referring in part to Celtic's run to the Uefa Cup final in 2003.


"I am a great believer in it and I think it is important. But I am not controlling affairs.

"People assume it causes a loss of impetus but that's absolutely not the case. You would still have Boxing Day and New Year games and then you have the break - for about three weeks.

"It gives the players a chance to get away with their families. They feel much better for it. It was so beneficial.

"One of the years when we had the break in Scotland, Celtic went on to reach the Uefa Cup final.

"I genuinely believe the winter break was of great benefit for us."

The issue of a winter break has long been on the agenda for the Premier League. Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson lent his support to the idea in 2006, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger predicted the implementation of a break was close in 2004 and that same year then-Football Association chairman Geoff Thompson said he could "understand calls for a break."

"I can see the advantages of it, but it's trying to fit it into the calendar. It would have to be a joint decision by the FA and the leagues," he said at the time.

In Scotland, former national team manager Craig Brown has also called for the reintroduction of the break, which was scrapped in 2003.

"We need a sensible playing season. We should alter the season and certainly have a winter break," the Motherwell manager said on Tuesday.

Highlights - Germany 4-1 England

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see also
Top players call for winter break
01 Nov 07 |  Football
Ferguson calls for winter break
04 Sep 06 |  Man Utd
FA chief backs winter break
10 Jan 04 |  Premier League
Eriksson criticises fixture list
10 May 03 |  Football
FA waits to make Capello decision
28 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Brown calls for SPL winter break
29 Jun 10 |  Motherwell

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