Christmas temptations were never a problem during my playing days
11:28 26 December 2014
I used to love the games over the festive period – and I did quite well in them, scoring for Huddersfield, Leicester, Wolves and Norwich on Boxing Day.
People ask me whether I missed all the celebrations that come with Christmas. The simple answer to that question is ‘no’, as I hadn’t known anything different since I became an adult.
As a professional footballer I knew I had to sacrifice certain things in life to do what I loved doing, and it was never a problem for me not to over-indulge over Christmas.
To be honest – and as you all probably know – I only have to look at a bar of chocolate and I put weight on, so I was doubly careful of what I ate and drank on Christmas Day because if I got on the scales on Boxing Day morning and I was a couple of pound over my fighting weight, then mentally I would be all over the place and it would effect my performance.
I can honestly say that in over 20 years of playing, I’ve never touched a drop of alcohol on Christmas Day – but I do make up for that now I’m not playing!
Players know what’s expected of them over Christmas; they have their Christmas party as everyone does, but that is it as far as partying goes. That’s it for them. They know that depending on where they are the next day depends on when they train on Christmas Day.
In my seven years at Norwich I think we only played at Carrow Road once, which was a killer.
For those six years I got up early with the kids so they could open their presents then I would have Christmas dinner like everyone else. Then, at about 4pm, I would leave the kids and head up to Colney where I would meet up with the rest of the lads and do about an hour’s training before we were on the coach and travelling to our hotel where we would spend Christmas night.
It wasn’t great for the kids, but they understood what their dad did for a job and accepted the fact that I would be away from home quite a lot. While playing football I’ve missed birthdays, important school days for them and, of course, Christmas, but as I said it’s part and parcel of a footballer’s life and you get on with it.
Hope you all have a lovely Christmas and a fantastic New Year
The lads showed great character and spirit last Saturday against Derby to come from behind not just once, but twice, to earn a very well-deserved point.
I think maybe a few weeks ago Norwich would have lost the game, but the new-found confidence and spirit in the team shows that they are back on track and certainly have the bit between their teeth.
Neil will have been delighted with the way his players performed and I bet he can’t wait for the next two games that come over the busy Christmas period as the team now look like going out into every game and winning it. The good thing is that even though the team had that really poor run of results – just one win in 10 games – they are still only seven points behind Ipswich, who sit in second, and eight behind free-scoring Bournemouth, who lead the Championship.
Those two teams have both done incredibly well in the first half of the season, but can they maintain their excellent form over a 46-game season?
Neither of them has the biggest of squads and if they suffer injuries or suspensions from now until the end of the season it could really hurt their promotion ambitions.
Millwall are the visitors to Carrow Road today in a game in which I really can only see one winner – especially now that Norwich seem to have turned the corner and are once again firing on all cylinders.
The visitors, on the other hand, have won only once in their last eight games and sit fourth from bottom in the Championship. I know that in recent years Boxing Day hasn’t been the most successful day for the Canaries as far as winning is concerned – Norwich have won just once in their last six Boxing Day outings, which doesn’t make good reading.
However, what does make good reading is that that victory came against Millwall at Carrow Road back in 2009, when Norwich went on to win promotion back into the Championship.
The game is the halfway point in the season so there’s plenty of games to go, but with another win for Norwich I’m sure those clubs above them will be looking over their shoulders at the Canaries.
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish Clarke Carlisle and his family my best wishes and hope he makes a full recovery after a terrible accident in the week.
I have played against Clarke on many occasion, one of them a Boxing Day game at Loftus Road when he was playing for QPR. We both scored that day, but fortunately I scored twice and we won the game 3-2.
I got to know Clarke well last season as we both worked on the Swansea games while they were in the Europa League. He’s a great lad who’s had his problems since he retired from playing, but let’s all hope we hear his voice very soon summarising on football matches.