Oxford United boss Karl Robinson is back with a series of football columns for Celebrate:MK in 2019. He kicks off by explaining how Christmas parties can bond a team and he recounts a particularly ‘messy’ party at MK Dons that helped his team to earn promotion…
This year my Oxford players cancelled their Christmas party due to our congested fixture list, which made me half-happy as I’ve had some where players have been arrested, kicked out of nightclubs and done other silly things.
As a manager you are sat at home hoping there’s no trouble because when you have 26 fellas going out dressed up as Mr Blobby, Teletubbies or whatever else, you’re always thinking there’s going to be some sort of controversial reaction somewhere along the line.
But when I sit down and think about the impact that Christmas parties have had on my teams, 99% of them have really helped the team spirit and bonding. I’ve had players that have gone to Spain, Dublin, Glasgow and Newcastle.
My only rule, especially when I was MK Dons manager, was that they had to go outside of Milton Keynes. If you lose on the Saturday it can be seen as disrespectful to the fans that you’ve got over it – you haven’t, it’s just that the party has been planned for a long time and has been pre-paid.
What people don’t understand is that Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are all taken up for us by games, so footballers should be given that very small window of opportunity – usually in mid December – to have some fun.
For example, we play Plymouth on New Year’s Day so on New Year’s Eve I’ll be away in a hotel somewhere with all the players, who will be in bed by 10pm.
I know a lot of MK Dons fans see going to Cheltenham races as an issue after a problem we had one year. But what a lot of them don’t know is that we went to Cheltenham a year before the widely publicised trip there, on a Tuesday, and it was messy.
But we played Walsall on the Saturday and drew 1-1, and then we won our next nine games on our way to promotion to the Championship.
All the players and staff went on the coach together and we all came home together – it really brought us together for the last 10 games of the season.