By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
Harrogate Railway manager Billy Miller (pictured right) has an alternative solution to extending the Evo Stik Northern League season for future years – introduce a winter break.
Former Liversedge boss Miller, who took over at Station View last summer, had five years in Germany and experienced a winter break over there and believes that it works.
His main argument is that pitches should be allowed to recover from the winter weather and claims it will keep the standard of football at a high level.
“I think the league themselves have got such a difficult job, but I think having played in Germany where they have a mid-winter break, I am a big fan of that,” he said.
“I think what it does is gives the pitches time to recover so it means that come March, April, May time, you are playing on really good playing surfaces instead of trying to slog it out on surfaces that are not perhaps the best.
“I think it has a knock effect for the top teams. We look back on playing Skem and Trafford, two phenomenal footballing sides, earlier in the season and what you’re asking them to do now is slog it out.
“But I do feel for the people that organise leagues because I wouldn’t want to do it. I wouldn’t like to sort the fixture mess out. So if they deem that there needs to be an extension then there needs to be.
“I feel they had to do something because of the mess we are in. We’re not too bad because we’re probably not going to have to play Saturday-Tuesday-Thursday and we’re in a good position where we’re relatively safe. It’s a case for us of keeping momentum and trying to get to the 50 point barrier. For the teams who are still in it (at the top and bottom), you have to feel sorry for them.”
In this week’s Non League Paper, play-offs chasing Curzon Ashton manager John Flanagan claimed the extension was unfair on clubs that had worked hard to get their games played over the winter months.
But Miller said: “I sympathise with him and the clubs where 100 volunteers have come to clear the pitch, but not everyone has got that resource,” he said.
“The saving grace for us is the slope, we haven’t had too many games called off. We have had too games called off because the snow has been on it. If we had cleared it, we would have had nowhere to put the snow. You have to look at the big picture and maybe they will sit down and review it at the end of the year.”
Two arguments for next season include starting the season earlier or playing more mid-week games. Miller is more concerned with January and February.
“It’s not so much about when you start, it is about the January-February window,” he said.
“I’ve been on the other end of it doing us a massive favour when I took over at Liversedge, two or three years ago when they were bottom of the league. We went into the Christmas period with some really difficult games and I didn’t quite have the squad in place. We had nine weeks called off and I was able to build a squad and I got them out of trouble.
“I have been on the flipside where it has worked really well when I have had games called off. But other sides when they have had momentum going into that period have then become inconsistent.”
Miller also questioned the number of matches that took place on Boxing Day and in the first two months of the year. He added: “For me January and February are the problems that need dealing with, not so much when the season starts or when it finishes.
“Realistically it will be interesting to know out of how many games that were due to take place in January and February actually did.
“It is alright saying it is tradition to play at that time of year, but that’s great if you have got millions of pounds of under-soil heating. I think this season’s Boxing Day game was the first time in five years that a team I have been involved in have played on Boxing Day.
“We played at Goole and if we had been at our place on Boxing Day, it wouldn’t have been on.”