England boss Gareth Southgate may count the cost of Premier League tokenism at Euro 2020 | Football | Sport

The plan, which sees one round of matches split so that half are played on the weekend of February 8 next year and half on February 15, allows for top-flight football to continue seamlessly.

In Scotland the SPL will lock its gates completely from December 30 to January 17.

That is the norm across Europe. The Italians have 16 days off mid-season, Spain 18, France 24. In Germany the Bundesliga’s ‘winterpause’ extended from December 21 to January 18 last season.

The daddy of all winter breaks comes in the Russian League which shuts down for three months mid-December to mid-March.

While there is no meteorological need for anything comparable in England, a proper break would be useful for Gareth Southgate in a season which culminates with Euro 2020.

Instead, with only lip service paid to player fatigue by the Premier League, his squad will – like those of his predecessors as England manager – be running uphill come tournament time.

The upturn in the national side’s fortunes under Southgate has been welcome but in both the tournaments in which England have progressed in the past 12 months they have run out of road in semifinal extra-time – first to Croatia at the World Cup and then to Holland in the Nations League.

There were technical reasons at play in both games but it did not help Southgate’s cause in having to extract the last drops out of players who had been playing competitive football continuously for the previous ten months.

Euro 2020, assuming England make it out of a group containing the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Kosovo, represents a wonderful opportunity.

Wembley is hosting seven matches of the pan-European tournament including the semifinals and final.

The FA have scrapped replays from the fifth round of the FA Cup onwards but open a rest window but the Premier League’s efforts smack of tokenism.

Players will have a weekend free of league matches in February but most clubs will use that time for warm weather training camps. The physical – and just as important – mental break the England internationals would benefit from will be non-existent.

The financial imperatives of keeping the Premier League juggernaut rolling have taken priority.

The fear is that it could be England, at Wembley, with the clock in overtime who end up paying the price again.

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