Ian Hart: The winter break, a fair deal for all?
Given that the Premier League is the only major European League without a winter break, it was only going to be a matter of time before it came up for discussion.
News this week that a two-week window in February, 2020, is being suggested was greeted with a mixed reaction, with the finer details including that the fifth round of the FA Cup would eventually be played, but only in midweek and perhaps more significantly without the possibility of replays – with all matches being played to a finish on the night.
In the week that Rochdale earned a much-needed and significant cash injection as a result of their fifth round Wembley replay against Spurs, that option would disappear under the new proposals.
Not exactly fair to the club’s outside the elite, some of who are almost dependent on the occasional FA Cup run to bolster their limited income.
If as a result of the winter break the players, specifically our national side, benefit then brilliant.
But what will the Football authorities do if the big clubs use the break to pursue opportunities abroad for lucrative exhibition games?
As good as an idea it sounds, it’s going to need some serious fine tuning before it’s universally received by every club within our professional structure.
Moving on to the Albion and a great result in the ‘relegation six-pointer’ against Swansea at the Amex on Saturday.
While Chris Hughton clearly got it right tactically, I have to say Swansea’s dire performance in the second half gave me renewed optimism in the Albion’s fight to retain their Premier League status.
Ironically, although West Brom recorded their only league win this year against the Albion, they look doomed, so that’s one relegation place all but confirmed, so who will be the other two clubs to join them?
With a lot of points still to play for, it will go to the wire. I’ve always maintained the Albion will have enough to avoid the drop, and if I were to have a bet on it now, I think I’d punt for Stoke and Huddersfield to go down, although with their horrendous injury list showing no let up, don’t rule out Palace getting sucked into the bottom three.
As for this weekend, a club in apparent crisis, Arsenal, arrive at the Amex on Sunday.
There’s always going to be a danger that as fans we get ahead of ourselves. Yes, Arsenal are in crisis, and on the face of it are ripe for the Albion’s first top flight win against them since September, 1982.
However, any team on a bad run – but with obvious quality in their side – are due a backlash sooner or later. Yes, the Albion could win but all I’ve heard in certain quarters is that it’s a nailed-on three points for Brighton.
Optimism and confidence is all very well and shouldn’t be discouraged but we’ve all watched this beautiful game of ours long enough to know it has a habit of biting you on the backside when you least expect it.
I’d be happy with a point...