What a joke about too many fixtures

Jonathan Phillips made a welcome return to the ice
Jonathan Phillips made a welcome return to the ice

I don’t mean to be disrespectful to Sir Alex or even Gary Megson or Danny Wilson, who were both brilliant to the Steelers when we celebrated out 20th birthday in September, but when I hear Football managers harp on about fixture congestion and too many games I can’t help but laugh and shake my head.

And it’s the same when players say they’re tired and need a winter break because there are too many games.

Two weeks ago the Steelers played three games in 51 hours; last weekend two in 26 hours and this week they’ll play another three in 52 hours.

Will they moan? Of course they will, they are sportsman and after playing the game of their choice moaning is what sportsmen do best!

Modern day sportsmen need to wake up a little to the real world and realise that those who cheer them might work 20 days straight just so they can watch and support them.

This three-in-three for the Steelers will be a real test.

Tomorrow they start with the visit of table-topping Belfast to the Sheffield Arena (face off 7.30pm) and on Sunday the Braehead Clan arrive at the Arena (5pm) for the first time this season.

Sandwiched in between is the important Challenge Cup game at the SKY Dome Arena in Coventry (7pm)

The Belfast Giants lead the Steelers in the standings by eight points but Ryan Finnerty’s side have an incredible six games in hand and if they can beat them tomorrow they’ll surely become title favourites heading into the Christmas and New Year period.

With the huge fixture congestion ahead Steelers owner Tony Smith has allowed Finnerty to bring a spare import into the team in 28-year- old Francis Trudel who was signed on Monday and will make his first appearance on Friday.

The arrival of an 11th import (you can only play 10) means that Finnerty will have to sit one of his other imports out of the game.

It’s a tough call but Finnerty has always put the team first so I don’t see him losing any sleep over which player sits out on any given night.

Who sits tomorrow in this, the biggest and most important of games, will be interesting.

The Steelers need to have five D men for these three games so I believe it will be a forward - maybe a different one for each game.

It could even be Finnerty himself although I can’t see him missing the Belfast or Coventry games.

There’ll be a touch of towel power on for the Belfast game as the first 4000 people through the doors will get a special Orange Steelers towel - it’s a North American thing! - but looks great.

When the Steelers score the towels get waved and it looks incredible so don’t miss out.

The game in Coventry is just as important as the Challenge Cup is a trophy that has escaped the Steelers in recent years. Victory would set up a winner-takes-all game against Cardiff on December 23 in Wales hopefully followed by a semi-final against Belfast with the prospect of then playing either Nottingham or Braehead in the final. A Steelers-Panthers final - you would have to love that wouldn’t you?

Of course success on Saturday would mean even more games for the Steelers but surely they would rather play than practice.

Doing well for any sportsman is what it’s all about as winning is everything, it’s the only thing.

Only teachers tell you that ‘it’s the taking part that counts’ and surely even they don’t really believe that, do they?

With all those games comes pressure on the fans though.

How expensive must it be to follow the Steelers, United or Wednesday but ask any supporter and they will tell you that it’s worth it as long as your team is trying hard for you, trying to win, trying to entertain.

Managers and players have no right at all to moan - supporters, now they have a right because it’s costing them a small fortune in the middle of the worst economic crisis we have all witnessed.

Yet there will be Steelers fans this weekend putting in a 60-hour week if possible just so they can afford to see their team play.

Managers, coaches and players take note.

Whatever sport you play you live in a privileged world.

Be careful what you wish for because those in the real world will tell you it isn’t what it’s made up to be.

Whatever your sport enjoy it this weekend and if you’re a Steelers fan make sure you attend those two home games on Friday and Sunday - they could be season defining.