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SPORTS – AHEAD OF THE GAME

31

theSun ON MONDAY

| JULY 26, 2010

Ferguson demands winter break

England’s players are burnt out, we are told, but that doesn’t stop most Premier League teams from gallivanting halfway around the world for pre- season friendlies – now Harry Redknapp has finally admitted that it’s all about the money

WHEN Sir Alex Ferguson argued about the need for a winter break in England, he was more than 3,000 miles – and an eight-hour flight – away from home. But his Manchester United squad had not travelled to Philadelphia directly, they had already played Celtic in Toronto. The irony will not be lost on those at the Premier League

and Football Association. Ferguson is not alone in raising concerns about the England team being “handicapped” by such a long, hard slog of a season, nor is he the only manager to take his team on a long-haul flight to play pre- season friendlies. Blackburn Rovers and Everton undertook the longest journeys, to Australia, while Birmingham City played in China, and United, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur have crossed the Atlantic Ocean. “These trips now are so different to what we used to make,” says the

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp. “You go to China, America or Australia. Don’t tell me that is the way to prepare for a pre-season. It’s not. You’d rather go to Scotland and have a couple of games up there, but it’s all about finance now.” Luckily for

Redknapp and Ferguson, their players travelling first-class means aches and strains are unlikely. But there is the simple equation of more matches leading to a greater possibility of injury. Simon Moyes, orthopaedic surgeon at a sports medicine practice at London’s Wellington Hospital, says:

“Everyone agrees footballers

CLOCKING UP THE AIR MILES

Pre-season distances travelled (1mile = 1.609km) Blackburn Rovers 23,475 Everton 22,898 Birmingham City 16,561 Tottenham Hotspur 13,733 Manchester City 12,897 Manchester United 12,318 Bolton Wanderers 8,492 Arsenal 3,553 Sunderland 3,428 Aston Villa 3,070 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2,930 Liverpool 2,551 Fulham 1,691 West Ham United 1,650 Chelsea 1,169 Stoke City 1,063 West Bromwich Albion 1,054 Wigan Athletic 925 Blackpool 899 Newcastle United 730

‘Fergie to boss at 75’

R YAN GIGGS last night declared

is set to go on and on as the

that Sir Alex Ferguson (caricature)

Emperor of Old Trafford and may well be leaping from the dug-out at the grand

old age of 75. The Welsh wizard can see no end to the Fergie era but told youngsters on their way through the club they will have it a whole lot easier than his generation. Giggs looks to be booked for a possible exit to the MLS in the twilight years of his playing days but believes United’s Scottish managerial genius will remain at the top for as long as he wants. Currently taking his coaching badges in

preparation for a career in management, Giggs said: “The manager is as good as ever and will go on for a long time. To be honest, I can see him as a manager of United in five years time, easily, even at

75. “As long as he is healthy, he’ll have the desire to carry on. He has a great team around him and he has his passions away from the game, like horse racing, so when he comes back to football he is always refreshed.” Giggs told the News of the World that he’s noticed a calm descend over the Premiers League’s very special Special One as the years have passed. Although Sir Alex retains a fear factor Giggs feels youngsters have less reason to fear him than when he was growing up at the club. He added: “Things have changed – he has mellowed, he isn’t anywhere near as frightening as he was 20 years ago.” Like the wine Fergie loves to tipple after games, Giggs’ own relationship with the boss has improved with age. He said: “I have known him since I was 12 years old. “So it has changed from me just being

a kid looking up to him, to being an

experienced player he talks to – and from whom he actually asks advice about certain players and situations. “It’s always been a good relationship, but it has never been better than it is at this moment. “Mind you I am a better player now than I was in my early 20s, I have lost that explosive pace where I could knock the ball past a defender and knew I would beat him. “I have to think about my game more and use the ball a lot better now. “In my head I still think I am about 25

– I don’t feel like the old guy in the dressing room. “I can relate to the young players - we’re footballers who share a lot of the same interests. “As far as my own playing days are concerned it’s a case of seeing how I feel at the end of each season and whether I am still enjoying it and motivated each day.” “I’m in the middle of doing my coaching badges. I want to be prepared for when my playing days are over, but at the moment I have no plans.” – Agencies

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are having to do far more than they used to, with less time to recover. “Playing more matches means more chance of an impact injury or over-use.” That “over-use” could be interpreted as burn-out, tiredness or the wear and tear that leads to spells in the treatment room or not playing at full tilt. Success is possible following a pre-season tour, as Chelsea showed after touring the US a year ago. This time around, with players at the World Cup allowed extra time to recover, the Premier League champions limited their travel to within Europe. “Last season we played four games in America. Now we decided to stay in Europe because we did not have a lot of players,” said Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti.

Chelsea’s schedule – they play in Holland and Germany – is closer to the pre-seasons of the 1960s and 1970s when Ron “Chopper” Harris was playing. The Stamford Bridge favourite said: “Under Tommy Docherty and Dave Sexton we went away, but not halfway around the

and Dave Sexton we went away, but not halfway around the world to America – only

world to America – only for a training camp in Sweden or Germany. “If we did go further, to Australia or the Caribbean, then it was after the season and that was more of a holiday. The big difference is that the players now have a couple of weeks off but we had six

or eight weeks. By the end of it you really wanted to start training. You might go for a jog a few days before pre-season but without your teammates you’d just stop if you were tired.” It could be argued that playing MLS teams offers a chance to play against teams midway through their season; a valuable tool to raise fitness levels. – The Independent

Giggs: ‘Liverpool still a threat’

RYAN GIGGS says it is “danger- ous” to rule Liverpool out of making a challenge for the Pre-

mier League title this season. The Anfield club are going through

a period of transition with Roy

Hodgson replacing Rafael Beni- tez after they finished seventh in

the table last time around. Giggs believes their rivals deserve respect. “Liverpool have

a new manager and it is difficult to say what they are going to do,” said Manchester United’s record appearance holder. “Two

years ago they were close to winning the Premiership and you can never write them off. It just depends on how it goes. They have won the same amount of

leagues as us. You cannot just dismiss that. They are a huge club and a massive team.” United are aiming to wrest the crown back from Chelsea and Giggs feels six or seven clubs

will be in the mix. Those include Manchester City, who ended last season just outside a Champions League place in fifth position.