Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

David Healy slams Irish League's festive fixture 'madness'

By Adrian Rutherford

Linfield boss David Healy has hit out at the "mad" festive fixture list, claiming that players will be "pummelled" by the heavy schedule.

The Blues - along with every other Danske Bank Premiership club - face having to play four times in little over a week across the Christmas period.

Healy, who watched his side defeat Dungannon Swifts 1-0 at Windsor Park on Saturday, says the "ridiculous" programme will place an unfair demand on part-time footballers and could risk injuries.

Healy states: "These guys get a week or two weeks off for Christmas and new year and they're being pummelled to play football four times in nine days - madness."

Saturday's narrow defeat of Dungannon kept Linfield within nine points of Premiership leaders Coleraine, but Healy is concerned about the impact of the hectic Yuletide schedule.

Eight teams, including the Blues, play on December 23 before a full round of matches on Boxing Day. A third set of games takes place on December 30 ahead of a fourth batch on January 1 and 2.

Linfield, who are among the six sides playing on New Year's Day, face Cliftonville, Glentoran, Crusaders and Coleraine between December 23 and January 1.

Healy added: "These guys are part-time footballers - I find it ridiculous to be honest.

"We're being asked to do it, the boys will be certainly committed to doing it, but I think there has got to be a wee bit more understanding."

In October, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp hit out at the Premier League's chaotic Christmas programme. He branded the prospect of playing four times in nine days "possibly the worst you can get" - but Healy believes the demands are even greater in the Danske Bank Premiership.

"They are full-time players, they have the best recovery solutions, the best strength and conditioning people to get them prepared," he explained.

"We're part-time players and I think it's a wee bit much to ask, not just my players, but the Irish League players in general to go to four.

"And they are all big games, in and around the Christmas period, for ourselves and all the other clubs. It is derby matches, more or less, they're big games on the 30th. It's strange.

"But it is what it is, I'm certainly not complaining because it's the same for everybody, but you have to look after these players.

"You want the best players playing on Boxing Day, you want the best players playing on the 30th. With the suspensions and probably more so the injuries, it's difficult."

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