BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
Peter Houston saw Hearts caught cold after a warm-weather winter break in 2003 and insists he has no desire for the SPFL to re-introduce a mid-season shutdown.
With reconstruction firmly on the agenda because of the revamp of the League Cup, Houston this week expressed his backing for a more radical overhaul of Scottish football.
The Falkirk manager is eager to move to a summer season, which – like the League of Ireland and Sweden’s Allsvenskan – would kick-off in Spring and end around November.
However, whilst that would appear to have some backing elsewhere in the Scottish game, it is a two-week lay-off that has been agreed ahead of next season.
Houston believes that would be a ‘waste of time’ and has revealed he is not a fan of a longer break either after his experiences 12 years ago.
On that occasion, as assistant to Craig Levein, Houston went to Portugal with Hearts and conducted what amounted to a second pre-season to get the Jambos back up to speed following a three-week break in the fixture list.
But on their return in January 2003 they were thumped 4-0 by Falkirk in the Scottish Cup, with the Bairns surging into a three-goal lead after just 16 minutes and Collin Samuel completing his hat-trick after just half an hour’s play.
Houston commented: “I’m not a great lover of winter breaks.
“I’ll tell you what would happen, you’d give the players a few days off and then you would need to ‘batter’ them to get their fitness levels topped up again.
“I remember having one of these winter breaks when Craig Levein was manager at Hearts and I was assistant and we went to Barringtons (resort) in Portugal and we trained so hard that week.
“When we came back, a few days later we played Falkirk in the Scottish Cup at Brockville and Falkirk beat us 4-0.
“After that we got accused of having a soiree and of swanning about in Portugal.
“But we trained mornings and afternoons and put a lot of work into those training sessions. There was no alcohol and it was total work.
“Craig Levein put a lot of work into it and put a lot of pressure on us as coaches to put on good sessions for the players.
“We played a game against Twente Enschede and had a right good seven or eight days over there.
“And then we came back and got pumped!”
The SPFL have proposed that the two-week break will take place in January, but Houston reckons the Scottish weather makes the success of such a stoppage a lottery.
He added: “You could have a two-week break and the weather’s really good, and as soon as you start back the weather could be like last week.
“You just can’t put the kettle on for when the weather’s going to be bad.
“It’s a difficult situation. The seasons are getting longer and we’re getting shorter breaks.
“But two weeks, for me, is a waste of time, because who knows if you’re picking the right two weeks or not? That’s where we are with Scottish weather.”