Footballers deserve some time off too, says Ward

COLCHESTER United manager John Ward has defended his decision to give his players a break this week following three consecutive League One defeats.

The U’s are now nearer the bottom four than they are the top six after last Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat against MK Dons.

And following a gruelling spell of nine games in 24 days, Ward gave his squad Tuesday and Wednesday off from training this week to ‘mentally and physically’ recharge.

During that free time the U’s players decided to go paintballing and ten-pin bowling together, before attending the postponed Christmas party alongside supporters.

The Essex club’s squad – which includes Ipswich Town defender Tommy Smith following his arrival on loan until the end-of-the-season yesterday – is travelling up to Merseyside today in preparation for tomorrow afternoon’s game at Tranmere.

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And Ward is hoping that his players have come back refreshed for the final 10-game run-in.

“I think it’s important that they relaxed a little bit this week,” said Ward, whose side will train at West Bromich Albion’s facilities this afternoon

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“A lot of people will criticise sportsmen being given time off. People will say ‘they should be okay, they should be able to do this and that’, but I think it’s a load of tosh.

“The (England) cricketers are kind of reluctant to say much at the minute when people ask how they feel, but I understand it when they say it’s a long tour. People only see sportsmen when they play, they don’t realise how hard they work inbetween too.”

He continued: “Sometimes you just need that change of scenery or a little break.

“A lot of people take a few days off in winter – we can’t do that. When we come back after the summer it’s 10 months right the way through.

“We don’t have the opportunity that many other people have of taking a few days off.

“I think most people reading this, if you asked them ‘have you worked constantly for the last 10 months?’ they’d probably realise that they’ve had a week off or a long weekend at some point.

“We have to find a time where we can relax them off, just to let them go away and have something else to think about. Football is often at the forefront of everybody’s minds and sometimes it’s nice just to not think about it for a bit.”

While the U’s players took it upon themselves to go on a team bonding exercise of paintballing and ten-pin bowling on Tuesday, 59-year-old Ward used his time to travel up to Stockport for the six-month health check recommended to all managers.

And after being given the all clear, the U’s boss is ready to take on the final 10 games with gusto.

“We know that, realistically, it’s going to be hard to push the top six now, but at the same time I will not let up on trying get this team as high as we can,” said Ward, whose side are now in the bottom half and 13 points off the play-off places.

“With 10 games left we’ll try and win as many as we can – we’re professional people.

“I won’t go to Tranmere or play Oldham next Tuesday and mess about with my team if I think we might lose. If I make a change or two it will be to try and improve the team.

“There will be people going up to Tranmere on Saturday supporting us and we can’t have them thinking it doesn’t matter to us because it does – and I’ll knock down anybody that suggests otherwise.”

– For full match preview of Tranmere v Colchester, see tomorrow’s EADT.

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