Steve Bruce: Newcastle manager wants ‘international friendlies or a cup competition’ scrapped

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Joelinton was the latest Newcastle player to get injured during the FA Cup replay against Oxford

Newcastle boss Steve Bruce believes international friendlies or a cup competition should be scrapped to help protect players.

Newcastle's winter break was shortened from 15 days to 12 after having to play an FA Cup replay against Oxford on Tuesday.

They have played 15 games between 5 December and 4 February.

“You can't keep asking the top players to play Saturday and Tuesday for evermore,” Bruce said.

He added: “We keep asking players to play tired. Here, we have had people question the training methods – it's nonsense, it's playing tired players.”

Bruce said he supports the idea of a winter break, but cutting it short “wasn't quite right” and asking players to play 15 games in two months is “ridiculous”.

Chelsea and Manchester United have had the longest winter breaks with 16 days between their two games, while Southampton only had 10 days between their matches.

The former Manchester United defender called for a longer break for players, particularly those involved in international football, in order to fully recharge their batteries.

“All of Europe, they have a break – even Scotland has three weeks,” Bruce said.

“It has to be a good thing. If you don't have a break, you lengthen the season somehow.”

Country Length of winter break in 2019/20 season
Germany 26
Scotland 24
France 20
Italy 14
Spain 12

Bruce also believes the number of games players are involved in is part of the reason England have failed to win a major international tournament since 1966.

“We wonder why, when we get to a tournament, England can't perform to the level,” the 59-year-old said.

“For the international footballer of today, it's a huge problem, it's absolutely ridiculous. They don't get a break any more. They are machines and they break down.

“Someone like Harry Kane, an injury like he has had comes from playing too often, playing Saturday, Tuesday for evermore. As fit as he is, to pull a tendon like he has, it's fixture congestion.

“We have to scrap international friendlies or sacrifice one of the cups.”

Premier League, Euro 2020, Copa America, Olympics…

The Premier League season ends on Sunday, 27 May before the European Championships and Copa America get under way 26 days later on 12 June.

The 2020-21 season will then start on 8 August, just 27 days after the two finals on 12 July.

Some players may also be involved in the Tokyo Olympics, with the men's competition starting on 23 July and ending on 8 August.

Next season the African Cup of Nations will also take place mid-season, from 9 January to 6 February, leaving clubs without their African players.

Bruce is not the only manager to criticise the schedule this season with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp complaining after his side were forced to play twice in two days, in two different countries in December.

The Premier League leaders were forced to field a youthful side in the Carabao Cup quarter-final against Aston Villa with the senior team in Qatar for the Club World Cup, forcing Klopp to say “we cannot carry on like this”.

The German also missed the FA Cup replay against Shrewsbury with his first-team squad “respecting” the inaugural Premier League break.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has also been highly critical of the fixture congestion saying “a year of 400 days” was needed to fulfil all the games.

The Spaniard has suggested removing FA Cup replays or scrapping the Carabao Cup entirely.

Wolves' goalless draw against Leicester City on Friday night was their 42nd game of the season and they will play at least 56 matches and a maximum of 63 depending on their progress in the Europa League.

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