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  Friday, 9 August, 2002, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Winter wonderland

The call for a winter break is gathering pace.

Michael Owen is the latest big name pleading for time off to unwrap his Christmas presents and it looks as though his wish will be granted.

The official line is that players will be fresher for the big international tournaments - despite the fact they could be playing crucial championship deciders five minutes before Euro 2004 kicks off.

But you suspect the real reason has more to do with pampered prima donnas whimpering at the thought of getting their kit on in the bleak mid-winter.

So how will players respond to a couple of weeks of free time during the height of the party season?

Michael Owen
You mean I can stay up till 11?

Coaches will no doubt be telling their superstars to maintain fitness levels and take it easy, but we're talking professional footballers here - can you really see them nursing half a light and bitter on New Year's Eve?

Some will, no doubt, use the break to spend time with their kids and enjoy a proper family Christmas.

The foreign contingent will jet back home and allow themselves a glass of red wine with their turkey pasta.

And Owen will be putting out his mince pies and sherry, knowing that he won't be able to get to sleep until at least 11 O'Clock for all the excitement.

Piste

But what about the rest? Lee Bowyer and Jody Morris building a school in Burkina Faso? Kieron Dyer spending two weeks in a monastery? Don't think so.

You're more likely to encounter England's finest having it large it in La Manga, getting frisky in Faliraki or losing the plot in Bangkok.

Then there's the winter sports option - on the piste if you prefer.

Players are expressly forbidden to go skiing or snowboarding, but footballers are like children - the more you tell them not to do something, the more determined they are to do it.

Let's face it, they're more likely to shatter a limb in an après ski showdown than they are on the slippery slopes.

The Royle Family
Remote control, my a***!

And football statistics show that you're more likely to come to grief when you come into contact with salad cream (Dave Beasant), cologne (Santiago Canizares), a Playstation (David James) or a TV remote control (Rio Ferdinand).

Players who choose to stay at home kicking their heels instead of a ball will doubtless fill their time by playing snooker, cards and ice golf - or simply practising their goal celebrations .

Failing that, there's always good old gambling - although with no sporting action, they'll probably be forced down the white Christmas road.

Whatever happens, you can guarantee a winter break will mean big business for the tabloids, with David Beckham, for once, pushed off the front pages.

And how will the England captain be spending his time?

Shopping - whether he likes it or not.

 VOTE RESULTS
Is the winter break a good idea?

Yes
 75.74% 

No
 24.26% 

8537 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
See also:

09 Aug 02 | Liverpool
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