Phil Babb was trusting his Hayes & Yeading players to look after themselves during the festive period - but the festivities caught up with United today as they were beaten 2-0 at Sutton today.
The United boys were tucking into their turkey yesterday before tearing themselves away from their families for a Boxing Day run out at Gander Green Lane, with second-half goals from Damian Scannell and substitute Marvin Williams doing the damage.
Babb does not begrudge his boys a Christmas drink and a mince pie or two but reminded them of their responsibilities during what is a vital time of the season, with a chance for redemption at Maidenhead in two days’ time.
He said this week: “The recuperation is the most important thing for the players. The pitches are starting to turn and fatigue will start to set in as we approach the halfway period of the season. My remit to the boys is ‘you need to look after yourselves’.
“It’s difficult when you’re semi-pro because you are working as well and it’s easy to get roped into a company do at Christmas.
“We’re trying to instil professionalism into the boys and some of them want to get into the Football League, push themselves to a higher standard, and part of that is professionalism.
“As a manager, I’m trying to instil that into them. I just have to manage the squad to prevent injuries and perhaps consider rotation as well. It’s all about training correctly to get through this period, making sure that the workload is right so that they don’t get too tired.”
Having enjoyed a successful career at Liverpool, Babb is no stranger to some of the sacrifices footballers have to make it this time of year.
He added: “It’s habitual. If you do it for 17 years on the bounce you get used to not having a Christmas and a New Year’s Eve. It’s water off a duck’s back. Some managers have players in on Christmas Day and some managers will give you Christmas Day off.
“At this level, because the players aren’t here full-time, it can be difficult to monitor what they are doing away from the club. You’ve got to trust that your players won’t turn up on Boxing Day or New Year’s Day with hangovers.”
The reverse fixture with Sutton is at Kingfield on New Year’s Day.
Babb said: “It gives us the chance to judge where we are, what we need to do and if we need to get anyone in or work on specific things.
“For me there’s two important periods. This one coming up and then from March 1 onwards. That will separate the men from the boys.
“If you’re chasing for the play-offs come March, you really want to be turning the screw around then. Those are the two key periods for me.”
Meanwhile, Hayes & Yeading were dealt a blow this week following the departure of star striker Jake Reid to Skrill South rivals Bromley. Matty Harriott has also gone after he was recalled from his loan spell by Northampton.
In response, Babb has brought in striker Dan Thompson from Hampton & Richmond Borough and left sided player Steven Smith. The duo made their debuts at Sutton today.