Despite the hours of intense training they undertake, even professional athletes’ bodies suffer from fatigue. This applies aptly to English football clubs following a busy festive season of fixtures where not everyone gets a Christmas holiday, despite numerous calls for a winter break to be introduced to the Premier League.

Brunel University London’s life sciences department’s Dr Misia Gervis, who also works with Queens Park Rangers FC and Wickham Wanderers FC assessing mental fitness, and Dr Richard Godfrey, a physiologist who worked with the British Olympics team, spoke to Sky Sports’ Gillette Soccer Saturday programme about the issue.
Dr Gervis said: “The winter period comes at a crucial time in the season, so if you’re in the bottom three, you’re about to be relegated, your mood can become depressed. This lowers your immune system, and causes you to produce cortisol which has an impact on your physiological state.”
Queens Park Rangers endured a tough winter period, conceding a last minute goal against Swansea prior to a 3-0 defeat in the FA Cup that manager Harry Redknapp puts down to the heavy schedule.
“We looked like a team that had just had our fourth game in ten days,” he said after the loss to Sheffield United.
Dr Godfrey said that the average player’s body would be put through a lot of strain over the course of a match, leaving muscle carbohydrates in dire need of replacing, while they would need the time to replace the calories burned every time he pulls on his boots.
The psychological stress of a poor performance also stays with players, who need time to avoid carrying it into their next game, Dr Gervis said. She told Sky Sports that young players particularly were carefully monitored for stress and anxiety and their training regimes have to reflect their mental state.
The Sport Science research at Brunel had recently been placed at 5th best in the country, according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014.
Mehdi Punjwani