Tim Dellor's Royals Watching: International break continues to cause problems
Fans of Championship clubs would be forgiven for thinking the international break is, well, a break. It is a fortnight for beleaguered managers to get their team back on track, to drill and reorganise leaking defences and bolster the waning confidence of formless strikers. Those fans would be wrong.
Take Reading FC this international “break”. Just when they need to sure up the defence and rethink the tactics, three of the first choice four in the backline are busy playing against the likes of Panama and Ethiopia. I’m sure it is delightful for Liam Moore of Jamaica and Andy Yiadom and Baba Rahman or Ghana to represent their countries, but it is the last thing their salary paying club needs.
Quite apart from the fact they are risking injury, at best will be tired when they get back, and there is the ever present danger of one of them bringing a Covid variant home with them, they need time on the training ground with their club mates. They are not playing well enough to warrant an overseas jaunt.
I have long advocated having an international month at the end of the European domestic season, when qualification for international tournaments can be sorted out – which judging by England V Hungary and Andorra are largely a waste of time anyway. At the moment international breaks make the domestic competitions more stop start than the M4 in rush hour.
It would also be a wonderful thing if a struggling international player one day says “I’m playing rubbish, my club, who pay me tens of thousands of pounds a week need me to be better, so I’m not flying half way round the world ahead of next week’s game against QPR”. Imagine the company you work for agreeing to let you go and work for a similar business for a fortnight five thousand miles away, when the chips are down. Football really is unlike any other business.
Moore and Yiadom, who have both been two of the most under-performing players so far this season, and newboy Baba Rahman, will be back in time to line up for Reading against QPR at the SCL Stadium this Saturday. Then they face Peterborough at home next Tuesday, and Fulham away the following Saturday. The fixture list is relentless, leaving no time for meaningful training between games. The Reading manager Veljko Paunovic must be pulling his hair out.
Here is an example of what the manager would like to do. Reading have an irritating habit of conceding goals from set plays. The team’s zonal marking is a shambles. This fortnight would be the ideal time to reorganise how you defend set plays, but without your right and left backs and one of your centre backs at the training ground until the day before the next game, and even then with eight hour flights worth of grogginess in their systems, any reorganising is impossible. As we all know, learning on zoom or over the phone is just not as effective.
International “breaks” may just break a few club managers.