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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 December 2006, 16:42 GMT
Kevin Nolan column
Kevin Nolan

By Kevin Nolan
Bolton captain

Ever since I was a kid I have loved Christmas and I cannot wait for it again this year.

But for the last few years I have got used to the fact that I have got a game the following day.

It is hard because you want to really let yourself go but all you can think of is preparing yourself for Boxing Day. But it is one of those things footballers have to deal with.

If you watch games over Christmas you can see there is quite a drop in terms of players' fitness. It is inevitable when you are asking a player to play four games in eight days.

I know a lot of people complain that we get paid a lot but playing in the Premiership is so hard and takes so much out of you that it takes a couple of days to recover normally.

23/12 - Man City (A)
26/12 - Newcastle (H)
30/12 - Portsmouth (H)
1/1 - Liverpool (A)
It is physically exhausting. Mentally you might tell yourself you are OK but your legs cannot take you to where your head wants you to go.

You have just got to get through it because after New Year's Day the gaffer - Sam Allardyce - gives us some time off to relax.

This is the time when you have to be more professional than any other period in the season.

If you pick up three or four wins it really does your confidence wonders and gets you moving up that table.

You play so many games over the festive period it is easy to pick up slight knocks or injuries. So it is important you look after yourself as it gives you that edge during games.

We have often done well over Christmas and new year and hopefully it will be a good one for us again.

The best Christmas present we could ask for is four wins out of four.

There have been suggestions of stopping the Premiership for a winter break but I do not know if that would work.

They have talked about having a month off at Christmas and then a month off in the summer.

But if you split it into two halves you would have two pre-seasons and if you ask any footballer what is the worst part of the season they would say pre-season. The last thing we would want is two a year.

I think they could lower the fixture load so we play on Christmas Eve, have Christmas Day and Boxing Day off to enjoy it and then not play until New Year's Day.

I do not know if it would work or not - I guess none of the fellas would be able to go to the game on Christmas Eve because that is when they all do their shopping!

Kevin Nolan tackles Scott Parker
Newcastle are the visitors to The Reebok on Boxing Day
We had our players' Christmas party in London after the Reading game earlier this month.

The result was disappointing but the lads really enjoyed the party. Twenty-five of us went out for a meal and a good time was had by all.

We also had a family Christmas get-together, which I do not think a lot of clubs do.

All the wives and children meet up and we have a grotto set up for the kids to see Santa and the players can have a couple of beers with the gaffer and the families.

The manager is fantastic but it also gives him a chance to have a word with the wives, to say 'look after your fella and do not expect too much from him over Christmas'.

He also promised the girls that after new year we will definitely have a few days off - which my missus will be holding him to.

My Christmas shopping is just about all done apart from my fiancee Hayley.

As baby Jasmine has just been born she has already got everything a four-week old could have. But I know the family are going to spoil her again as the house is already full of presents for her.

Normally we got to my uncle's pub for Christmas Day and take over the restaurant but this year everyone is coming to our place.

As well as our parents we have aunties and uncles coming and there will be between 30 to 40 people in total.

There is no way I am cooking for everyone so we have got caterers in to do the turkey and serve it, so it should be good.

It means my mum and dad can just relax and have a good drink and not worry about burning anything.

We will see how it goes before we decide whether to do it next year.

I'd just like to wish all the readers out there a really Happy Christmas.


Are you told what you can and can't eat at Christmas?
Mark, London

We are not on a strict diet but I just try and be careful. I will have the turkey stuff and a little pudding but I just make sure I don't eat too much and treat it like a normal Friday before a game. I'm sure the manager wouldn't mind the players having a glass of wine with their meal but I'm not really one for having just a few drinks. The manager said to us it is a shame we cannot have a drink and enjoy it like he can but he has been through it. It is a short career so in 10 years time we can have the best Christmas we want.

Hey Kevin. I was just interested to know when do players find out if they are playing or not? Is it just before the game, or even days before? Cheers.
Rohan Livingstone, Australia

I know a lot of clubs only name their team an hour before kick-off but we tend to know on Friday and sometimes even Thursday, if the manager wants to do some team-shaping, get the team in his head and then do some work on it. Occasionally he will leave it to Saturday but normally we find out on Friday.

Hello. I enjoy reading your column every week. Here is my question: Which player enjoys the biggest support from the female portion of the Bolton fan base? Thank you.
Ayumu Tahara, Chicago, IL, USA

It has got be me hasn't it? I don't know to be honest and I wouldn't want to get any of the lads in trouble! A lot of the lads do get a lot of mail from women and girls - it is mainly girls, I think. I wouldn't call myself good-looking so I don't get much.

Hi Kev. How much notice do Premiership players take of Leagues One and Two? Do any of the Bolton lads have an affection for any of these clubs?
Trevor Knell, Sussex,

We have a few players who support different clubs but none that follow lower league clubs that I can think of. Davo (Kevin Davies) is from Sheffield so he has always looked out for Sheffield United results, Gary Speed looks out for Leeds because he was there for so long and Everton because he is an Evertonian. It kills him because his kids are Liverpool supporters! Henrik Pederson is a registered Manchester City supporter even though he is from Denmark. Ricardo Gardner and Ricardo Vaz Te just support whoever is top of the league.

Who are your tip to come up from the Championship this season? And which players do you think could make the step up in January?
SandyD, UK

I try to watch the goals every week from all the divisions. It is easy to say now but Birmingham are a strong side and it is always really difficult to go there and get a result. They took a couple of Bolton lads in Bruno N'Gotty and Radhi Jaidi, who are two fantastic signings and great lads. I was quite surprised the gaffer let them go but they are doing really well and hopefully they can get a Championship medal. As for players I could go on all day - probably every team has a player capable, but I think the main ones are Gary McSheffrey from Birmingham and David Nugent from Preston.

Do you think it's because the Premiership is the best/most competitive league in the world, that English players find it hard to raise their game to 'another level' for international duty?
Andrew Carne, England

We have so many great players it's frightening when you think we can't win something. I don't know what it is but we can never find the right balance. I don't think the press help because they put even more pressure on the players. I think our players are under more pressure than any other country and it's tough when there is so much expectation. Everyone says this is the best crop but it is still tough for them to go on a pitch and adapt. I don't think they can't get to another level - if you look at our players they could get in any other team. But they do get nervous even though they are great players - I certainly think I would.

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