When managers play the âplayer welfareâ card, are they being thoughtful or cynical?
Hi, Iâm Chloe and this is the Playmaker.
One story, every day, to make sense of the world of football.Â
TodayâŠ What do we mean when we say player welfare?
If youâve seen any football news over the Christmas period, youâve undoubtedly heard the term.
Covid cases have been rising rapidly, and weâve seen fixtures postponed across the board in the UK.
And so, the English tradition of playing three games in a week between Boxing Day and New Yearâs Day, started to feel a bit different.Â
Hereâs Jurgen KloppâŠ
âBoxing Day is a wonderful game, nobody wants to erm, ermâŠ delete that or cancel that. Itâs just 26th and 28th. Itâs absolutely impossible and itâs a joke that they still do it, because itâs not a problem to play 26th and 29th. Whereâs the problem and the 28th is not a matchday then. Who cares?âÂFootball Daily
Klopp went on to say that it was âdangerousâ for the players, and he wasnât the only one to speak out.Â
Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel joined the Liverpool boss in voicing their concerns over the welfare of their players.
And Manchester United boss Ralf Rangnick, who has been managing in England for a matter of weeks, questioned the viability of the league cup.Â
âCurrently we are the only country who plays two cup competitionsâŠmaybe this is something we could once again speak about and discuss. I know the reason for that, I mean the former league cup which is now the Carabao, the Carabao cup, has been still kept for the third and fourth division teams especially to improve the financial situations of those clubs but I still think if we speak about a tight calendar and maybe having to play too many games, this could be something where we could speak and discuss.âFootball Daily
Depending on how cynical you are, these pleas could mean different things.Â
Could Covid be being used as a way to argue for an extra dayâs rest by managers at top flight clubs?Â
If you believe that, youâd think these managers are more worried about points than players.Â
Thatâs why Burnley boss Sean Dyche was seen by many as the voice of reason when he entered the debate.Â
âYou know but I keep hearing this tag player welfare, I think players, I can only speak for ours, are really well looked after. I think their health and wellbeing is top of the list and I think we do that well here. You add in the challenge then of Covid, but weâve given them all the information, weâre trying to stand by the rules and regulations as best we can, Iâm personally still struggling to wear a mask inside the building when Iâve been tested 400 times, including in the morning, Iâm not allowed in the building until I prove that Iâm clearâŠâThe Guardian
And at first glance it does seem like Sean Dyche is cutting through all the talk and the mind games of those above him in the table.Â
On the other hand, his comments also play into the hands of those who feel players should simply âget on with itâ because theyâre paid vast sums.Â
So the question here isâŠ isÂ the term player welfare being misused?
Dyche says that Burnley have informed their players as best they can about Covid.Â
But is handing out information about the pandemic itself enough?Â Â
Dyche, fully vaccinated and boosted himself, has left it to the players to decide whether or not they want to have the Covid vaccine. Itâs a much more hands-off style than Klopp, for example, who has campaigned vocally in favour of the jab.
And many are suffering from anxiety â the uncertainty is, after all, getting to all of us.
New Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard spoke about those fears.
âItâs changing every hour, itâs changing on a daily basis, as you know itâs very unpredictable. Weâre testing every dayâŠâÂ
âWe had a situation at the weekend where one of the players was reluctant to get out of his car because he had some symptoms and heâs got a young family and the timeâŠ erm and you can totally understand his view and the situation on itâŠthankfully he was tested and he didnât have a situation but that player wouldnât have been available for me on the day, and these are the little situations people donât see.âSky Sports
Itâs well known that high-profile bosses like Klopp and Guardiola often use the media to their advantage.Â
And fans of opposition clubs need no excuse to label their claims as simply moaning.
And the image Dyche portrays âÂ a straight-talking, no-nonsense manager â carries favour with Burnleyâs largely working-class fanbase. He takes up the âleader of the oppositionâ stance on a frequent basis.Â
We donât know how these managers behave in private. And we donât know what they say to their players behind closed doors.
Yet the increase in complaints over player welfare could fall on deaf ears if the public decide that Premier League bosses are trying to use the issue as a way of gaining a competitive advantage.Â
Does what a manager says in public matter as much to players as what is discussed in private?
It certainly doesnât seem like itâs a good thing to do.
Sean Dyche confidently declared that Burnley look after their players.Â
But when Premier League managers issue their complaints, do they have their playersâ welfare at heart every single time?Â Â
Todayâs episode was written by me, Chloe Beresford, and produced by Matt Russell.