Grigor Pasha writes: Jan 2021. It’s the winter break here in Bulgaria. I know the pros and cons of winter breaks are something journalists love to start a debate on, when they’re too lazy to do any real reporting.

In Bulgaria, the break is the obvious pragmatic choice. Though winters here in Burgas, on the Black Sea coast, are typically mild, elsewhere — inland, especially in the mountains — they’re often harsh.

But even if they weren’t, I’d advocate for a mid-season break. I think a break is good news for several stakeholders — especially the players, staff, and spectators. Here’s why I think that.

  1. Players have time to recover from injuries and shrug off niggles. That’s good news for the players themselves, obviously, but also good news for followers of the game, who want to see players at their best as often as possible.
  2. As a manager, the break provides a wonderful opportunity for my favourite kind of learning, reflective learning. There is time to ask, how did that go? What worked well? What needs attention? Where might we need to make some interventions. At this time of year I have time to mull things — and to ask other people’s opinions. Problem-solving at its best.
  3. You can make tactical changes.  Obviously you can do so at any time — in the middle of a game, if necessary. But tactical change works best when you have time to prepare — to train the team, and individuals, appropriately and to use friendlies to learn and revise. Again, spectators gain, as by the time the competitive matches recommence, the tactics should be well presented.
  4. Ditto set pieces.

As I’ve explained before, in Bulgaria the scope for transfers at this time of year is limited. The only players you bring in who could play in league matches are (a) U21s or (b) free transfers.

This, in effect, makes the break a sustained oulipo exercise. Creative options are largely constrained — but may also be stimulated — by existing resources in the form of players.

Some managers find the break frustrating: they can’t wait for the action. They will have their reward when the league begins again, because the first three weeks after the break require clubs to play six matches.

Personally, though I relish the break. I find the opportunities for learning, problem-solving, and development get me out of bed in the morning, no problem.

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