Swansea lost 3-0 to Middlesbrough on Saturday and manager Bob Bradley has cancelled their Christmas party. The Swans are only avoiding being bottom of the table on goal difference. But cancelling the party is the wrong decision. The most important thing at a club is the team, and that group of players need to bond. They need that strength and togetherness now more than ever before.
That doesn’t mean you go out every night. Nor does it mean you go out and get absolutely smashed. But absolutely have a Christmas party and let your hair down.
As a manager Bradley has to trust his players. They’re grown men. When I was a manager I made sure to have a committee around me. This would include the captain, vice-captain and a couple of key individuals who could control the changing room. We would have a meeting every couple of weeks to discuss any issues, and when it came to the Christmas party you simply tell the committee that it’s their night and everyone has to go. That’s the important message – every member of that squad should be there.
It’s not about eight or nine players going out on the tear – particularly if the club is struggling. The team is stronger together. The Christmas party can really boost morale. Is a blow-out at the start of December going to cost you the win on Boxing Day? A few sections of the media might say it will, but of course it doesn’t. The team that’s won has probably had a Christmas party as well – you can’t have it both ways.
Players look forward to these events – I had some brilliant ones as a player. But you just have to ensure there are no repercussions. As a manager if the phone didn’t ring at 5am the night of a Christmas party I was happy. It meant nobody had been nicked, or caught in a scuffle! If it got to 9.30am and there were no phone calls I was delighted!
Have your Christmas party, do it the right way and the team will benefit. It’s not about getting smashed, it’s about bonding. These guys know that they are out representing a football club, representing the fans, and they’ll behave appropriately.
The worst thing for a player or for a team is cancelling the event. As a footballer there are other players in the dressing room who you don’t hang around with, there are a few different cliques and like any working environment you wouldn’t necessarily be mates with everyone outside of the training ground. But the Christmas party gives you a chance to get to know these lads better and that’s how you strengthen friendships in a squad.
The run of games in a short space of time at Christmas is important, so you can understand the decision to cancel. But you don’t necessarily have to have a party at Christmas time. Have it in January when there are less fixtures, or hold it at the start of December. When you’re bottom of the league the worst thing you can do as a manger is damage the player’s mood even more, no matter what kind of form they’re in.