Coughlin: ‘Bah humbug’ to festive football ties

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John Coughlin is calling on Scotland’s football authorities to stop acting like Scrooge and give players time off during the festive season.

The East Stirlingshire boss says the system of Christmas and New Year fixtures is old-fashioned and should be scrapped and replaced instead with a two week break from playing and training when players and coaches can relax like the rest of the population.

Coughlin takes his players to Queen’s Park on Christmas Eve and is far from happy with the prospect of doing so on a day considered to be the most important in the run up to Christmas Day itself.

“Anyone associated with the club who had something planned for Christmas Eve has now had to scrap that plan,” he said. “You also know the roads into Glasgow are going to be clogged with traffic and public transport will shut early.”

Shire and Queen’s Park agreed to move the game forward 48 hours from its originally-scheduled date of Boxing Day, which Coughlin says would be just as bad.

He claims it is time players and coaches were speaking out against using these dates to play matches.

“Playing games on Christmas Eve is bad and will mean inconvenience but even holding the game on Boxing Day does not necessarily make it any better. That is a day when people should be at home with their families, not out playing or watching football.

“I know some people will say they like it and they especially enjoy the New Year derby matches, but I think it is a tradition we can do without.

“Quite aside from the scheduling of matches, it means players have to come in during the holiday period for training sessions. We have a problem in that one of our training facilities does not open normally during the holidays so we are having to switch the time that we would normally train.

“That is bad enough for part-time clubs like ourselves but I will bet there are some full-time teams whose players will train on Christmas Day.”

Coughlin’s argument against football at Christmas and New Year dovetails his opposition to winter football. He says it is time Scotland followed the lead set by the League of Ireland and moved to a summer season.

“The people who run football seem far more pre-occupied with things like league re-construction and creating a pyramid system than they do about taking common sense steps to improve the game.

“Talking about these things is fine, but that is all it will ever be, because they will never manage to agree changes. They should be devoting some of that time to making changes that will make a difference to our game, like summer football.

“Can you imagine the impact if they did agree to having a playing season during the warmer months ? People could come and watch a game in comfort and players could turn up to training in a t-shirt instead of eight layers.

“Let’s face it, what incentive is there for fans to turn up to matches a week before Christmas in freezing cold weather ? And how are players going to develop and become better if their main objective is simply to keep warm ?”

Coughlin has been given one piece of good news ahead of the Queen’s Park game now that St. Mirren have agreed to extend the loan agreement for Bradley Coyne for a further three games.

However, the Shire boss is still trying to extend Cowdenbeath defender Craig Winter’s stay at the club. He is due to go back to Central Park after Shire’s Hampden trip, unless the Fife club agree to a further loan period.