Gale an expert on cold turkey

A WORKING CHRISTMAS II: Self-denial and even a portion of hard work are the watchwords for the professional
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The Independent Online
If the popular image of the modern-day English footballer is to be believed, every day is Christmas Day. The truth is that the festive season is more about abstinence than the kind of excesses indulged in by the wayward likes of Paul Merson, write s Clive White.

While it is a case of cold turkey for the convalescent Gunner, at least he is spending this Christmas at home with the family. For most professional footballers it is a time spent without the family. All the more so if, like Blackburn's Tony Gale, you have moved away from home to pursue your career.

Fortunately for Gale, his manager, Kenny Dalglish, is also a family man so at least the former West Ham defender, like all the Blackburn players, will be celebrating Christmas Day at home with their loved ones. "In the 10 years I was at Upton Park we always used to spend Christmas Day night at a hotel, yet funnily enough we never had a good result on the Boxing Day," Gale said. "Perhaps we should have spent it on the piss instead."

Gale will have to drive back up north on Christmas Day evening to prepare for the Boxing Day visit to Manchester City. It is the first of four games in the space of seven days for the Premiership leaders, so there will be precious little time for him to dwell on one of the drawbacks to his chosen profession. Not that he thinks it is. "If you're not playing games at this time of year you're either injured or out of favour, so you've got to be happy about it."

Apart from one Christmas when he was in plaster with an Achilles injury - "I ate and drank to my heart's content" - the merriment has been kept in check. "If you have one drink you might as well have a dozen, so I don't have any," Gale said. "Most managers take you at your word you won't go beserk. If you're a pro you're a pro. That's it."

Even so, a player will have a stinker at his peril on Boxing Day, as Gale, 35 last month, concurred: "Some people automatically assume you've been on the sauce and there's always one wag in the crowd to make that point."