As featured on NewsNow: Football news

Kane at Bayern Munich; Bellingham with Real Madrid: Why fatigue no longer England Euros excuse

COMMENT: Much has been made of England's past fortunes - and abject failures - at international tournaments, with many putting plenty of blame on the Premier League's lack of a winter break.

Even though a rather large number of the world's top stars ply their trade in England's top flight and have still gone on to win the shiny things on the international stage, England managers of the past have often weaponised season-long weariness as a reason for lacklustre and less-than-competitive outings at World Cups and European Championships.

Former England boss Fabio Capello said back in 2013: "They (England) are the least fresh of the competing national sides because their league doesn't have a break.

"It's like when you are driving a car: If you stop halfway to put fuel in the tank, then you will definitely get to where you want to go.

"But if you don't, then there's always the chance you will be running on empty before you reach your goal.

"In my opinion, the football played in the first half of the English season is much better than the second half - and because of that, if you want to be a competitive team in the Premier League, you need a really big squad - which is a luxury you don't get with the national team."

These comments came three years after Capello opted for Rob Green as England's first-choice goalkeeper at the 2010 World Cup, just FYI.

Even Roy Hodgson, in his own wholesome and grandfather-ish manner, spoke of his desire for a winter break in 2012: "It would be lovely to think that one day we could all get together and say 'England is important'," shortly after succumbing to another tournament miserable exit to Italy.

Sam Allardyce would have no doubt said the same over a pint of wine.

Current boss Gareth Southgate can have no such complaints come June, however, when the Three Lions roll into Germany as pre-tournament favourites at Euro 2024.

Not only does his current squad feature an enviable conveyor belt of depth never seen before on these shores, but the FA and Premier League have sort of semi-tried to enforce a bit of a kind of winter break without sacrificing too much in the way of TV rights profits, which naturally take priority over any sort of historic glory or sporting merit.

The Premier League has introduced winter "breaks" in some seasons where international tournaments have followed - including this year and that weird winter World Cup in Qatar - but the staggering of matches only allows for a few days off here and there, not much more than a week for some, and barely anything at all for sides facing League Cup semi-finals or FA Cup third round replays.

The bulk of these breaks are still generally consumed by training camps, effectively amounting to a high-end and very expensive warm-weather camp rather than an actual holiday.

Things are shaping up a bit differently now though, namely because more of England's top players are playing abroad.

And not just any top players but arguably their best in captain Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham, who are at Bayern Munich and Real Madrid respectively (if you didn't know that already).

England's all-time leading scorer Kane has enjoyed his first-ever Christmas holiday in the past few weeks, breaking from December 20th to his club's return against Hoffenheim (in which he obviously netted) on January 12th.

During that time he enjoyed a quiet hot holiday with family to rest up and preserve those poor ankles every England fan is relying on ahead of the summer.

"We're going somewhere hot, so we'll spend 10 days and just enjoy that time," Kane said in December.

"I'm going to text all my mates in England a picture of me on the beach somewhere."

No doubt there'll be thumbs covering the corners of those 'hotdogs or legs' snaps, given the difficulty in envisaging H's eye as a photographer.

The centre-forward is notably the all-time top scorer in Premier League Boxing Day matches but this time he's been able to recharge his batteries, which should leave the hard-working (aka doesn't stop bloody running) number nine with a bit of gas in the tank ahead of England's opener against Serbia on June 16th.

Likewise, Jude Bellingham has enjoyed a nice little break, although for him it's nothing out of the ordinary since leaving Birmingham for Dortmund and now Madrid.

He seemingly spent a bit of his holiday time in beautiful... Sunderland... watching his brother Jobe slog away in the cold despair of the Championship, but the point still stands: he's England's next generational talent and a vital part of Southgate's plans for European domination this summer. Let the boy rest. Protect him at all costs.

While it's not always the only excuse (think club rivalry divisions, broken metatarsals, WAG distractions, dentist chairs, overpaid, overhyped, secretly Scottish, to name but a few examples), there's no more room for the good old "they look surprisingly knackered because they've played over 50 games" reasoning.

Sure, the stars still lingering in the Premier League might be huffing and puffing a bit at that time of year, but most of them are playing at the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham - clubs with squads the size of a definitely not overcompensating Wembley arch on a warm day. Even the now very competitive Aston Villa have plenty to rotate with.

So while we still have plenty of domestic fodder to get through until June, it's worth saying now: if England fail to reach the Euro 2024 final at the very least, it cannot be put down to players being in desperate need of a proper winter break, and anyone who suggests so shouldn't be allowed to talk about football anymore.

And let's face it, any crushing disappointment will probably be because of a slow-motion VAR howler anyway.

Video of the day:

Have your say

Subscribe and go ad-free

For only $10 a year

  1. Go Ad-Free
  2. Faster site experience
  3. Support great writing
  4. Subscribe now
Launch Offer: 2 months free

Subscribe and go ad-free

For only $10 a year

Subscribe now
Launch Offer: 2 months free