Scottish sports comment: There are those who steadfastly maintain that the Scottish Premier League’s winter break, which will run until the middle of this month, is a poor idea.
Let me be frank — they are burying their heads in the snow.
First of all, this is not a football deep freeze lasting for months as in Norway and Russia where the season stretches from March until December.
It is a brief hiatus no longer than the typical international break.
A fortnight without top-flight football does allow a gap — a breather — for all parties after what is always a hectic run-up to the Christmas and the New Year period, when much is asked of players and fans alike.
Some SPL sides found themselves playing four games in just 10 days and so the tired, strained and bruised bodies will welcome the opportunity of a proper rest — something no sane manager would ignore.
One thinks of the fury of the then Rangers boss Alex McLeish bemoaning the scrapping of the original winter break back in 2002/03 as something which was taking Scottish football “back to the dark ages.”
He was right, for there is a mental as well as physical fatigue which is generated from the week-to-week grind of the professional game.
I accept the point that a decade ago most clubs had the wherewithal to send their squads away for a spot of sun closer to the equator, while only Celtic can do so this time.
Still, overall, there is little scope for denying that footballers from all clubs — whether they are at home or abroad at the moment — will return to action raring to go for part two of the season.
They will do so on pitches which have been given some much-needed respite.
While there have been no great blizzards to plough through, the deluges many parts have seen of late have taken their toll, giving groundsmen the unenviable task of preventing their precious turf churning into
Critics also question whether or not the Scottish game can afford to be without SPL fixtures for a weekend or two.
One feels duty bound to counter that point with the harsh reality that for many paying customers this post-festive period is a pretty fallow time for their wallets.
In fact the league itself has said it has listened to fans having “often been told that they favour a winter break.”
The inescapable truth is that for this country on Europe’s northern tip, harsh winters and postponed matches tend to be the norm.
That much is predictable but those running the game should be given credit for taking the opportunity, without a major football tournament this summer, of choosing their own date to end the season and incorporating what can only be seen as a sensible shutdown.
So Scotland's most-capped scrum-half — Mike Blair — bids farewell to international rugby.
It seems like only yesterday he was breaking into the first XV, though that was over a decade ago.
Blair’s retirement comes at a bad juncture for the Scots, who have suffered three recent defeats and go into the Six Nations with an interim head coach.
The former Edinburgh man will be badly missed, not only for his ability but experience — 85 caps, with 14 of those coming as skipper.
The player and his family are loving life in south-west France where he now plays his club rugby with Brive.
Blair admits locating abroad is a factor in his decision to step down from the Murrayfield scene, but also the 31-year-old is honest enough to conclude the 2015 World Cup is personally “not realistic.”
One wonders if the Scottish Rugby Union would be foolish enough to let a bright able man who has given so much walk away entirely.
Surely a coaching role of some kind could be found for 2015, for the Scots will need all the help they can get.
Before his wonderful victory in New York last September, it was often said that the first major title would be the toughest for Andy Murray to attain.
Taking his second will be almost as hard, for it would prove he is no one-hit wonder at the top of tennis.
The opportunity to do so begins next week at the start of the Australian Open.
The Scot is seeded number three, but in my estimation starts as second favourite behind Novak Djokovic whom he beat to win the US Open but lost to in the Australian semis a year ago.
Roger Federer, the second seed, has not played since November and though he still has the talent to upset the odds down under, Murray will not fear the great Swiss.
Having retained his Brisbane International title at the weekend the 25-year-old from Dunblane has every reason to conclude he is in fine shape to power into 2013 and ever greater success.
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