Should the Premier League delay the start of the season with the scheduling of international friendlies three days before the opening fixtures?
International friendly matches are often inconvenient and frustrating for club managers in the top leagues around the world as they see many of their star players leave to play in a largely meaningless fixture. The fear of seeing a player pick up an injury during friendly internationals has forced many managers to do their best to keep many of their key individuals away from these games or to at least make sure they don’t have to play the full match so they aren’t over exerted before returning to their clubs. Mid-season friendlies have always caused Premier League managers to grumble and moan but with 2 months still to go before the start of the new season, there is already a debate on the topic after the announcement of a number of friendly games scheduled for Wednesday 10th August, three days before the new Premier League season kicks off.
Included on the Wednesday 10th August friendly schedule are games such as England v Netherlands, Republic of Ireland v Croatia, Scotland v Denmark, Germany v Brazil, France v Chile and Italy v Spain to name a few of many with a host of other European teams and Asian sides such as Japan and South Korea also in action. Also on the slate of games that day is a European Championship qualifier for Northern Ireland as they host the Faroe Islands. The organisation of these fixtures in conjunction with the start of the new season seems rather poor to say the least as the players involved will have been working through pre-season to improve their fitness levels for the start of the new campaign whilst others will be just settling into new clubs before travelling to their various international fixtures on the Wednesday evening and then returning to their respective clubs again in time to prepare for the Saturday league games.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish voiced his concerns with the timing of the friendly matches stating “I would ask why the season is starting on a Saturday when there are friendlies the midweek before” whilst also suggesting that it would be more sensible to have scheduled the opening Premier League games for Sunday 14th August.
This was also an issue in the run up to last season when a number of friendlies including England’s 2-1 win over Hungary, were scheduled on August 11th, again three days before the start of the season. It was Harry Redknapp who voiced his opinion on the timing of the games asking “Can someone tell me why you have an international game the same week the season is starting?”
It is easy to see how these friendlies may disrupt team’s preparations for the opening weekend of the Premier League season, as well as those Championship and possibly League 1 and 2 teams who may lose one or two players to the international fixtures after having them around for just one game. It could be argued that the players should have little problem in participating in the friendlies before turning out for their clubs over the weekend a few days later as they will be well rested from the summer break and should have worked themselves up to match fitness through pre-season by the second week of August. It would seem sensible enough to simply open the Premier League season on Sunday 14th to allow players an extra day to return to their teams and it is safe to say that there will be a number of other managers who share Dalglish’s quandaries on the decision to start the Premier League season three days after the international fixtures.