Harrogate Town's Jack Muldoon on what it's like to be a professional footballer at Christmas
Tis the season to be jolly. For many, Christmas is a chance to indulge.
Copious amounts of turkey, piles of pigs in blankets, trays of mince pies and pints of mulled wine will be consumed in countless households across the country today.
It’s just what (the majority of) people do at this time of year.
That is, unless you’re a professional footballer.
In which case, you’re gearing up for the most demanding and intense two weeks of your entire season.
Having only just returned from a long trip to Eastleigh on Saturday, Harrogate Town now face the prospect of three more matches in the space of just seven days between now and the New Year.
Thus, over-eating and boozing their way through the dying embers of December will not be an option for Jack Muldoon or any of his team-mates at Wetherby Road.
“When I played proper non-league football I used to have two Christmas dinners on Christmas Day,” the National League high-flyers’ leading-scorer revealed.
“I’d go to my missus’ mum’s in the afternoon and eat loads, then do the same again at my own mum’s house at tea-time.
“Obviously, I can’t get away with that now. I’ll eat sensibly and won’t touch alcohol. I’ll maybe have a beer after the game on Boxing Day, but it will be minimal.
“Boxing Day morning will just be standard procedure, porridge for breakfast and then beans on toast.
“There will be plenty of left-overs knocking about in the house, but I can’t be getting stuck into any of that with the rest of the family.”
Although he admits that there is always a temptation to join in with the festivities, Muldoon stresses that doing so would almost certainly impact on performance levels.
“At this level of football it’s all about the tiny percentages,” he added.
“They can be the difference in a game, that extra one or two per cent can give you the edge, so you have to look after yourself at this time of year and not over-indulge.
“It’s sometimes just the little things you have to think about, like not having too much bacon and sausage and other foods that are full of salt.
“Things like that with high salt content can seriously de-hydrate you, which is not what you want the day before a game.
“There have been so many Christmas nights where I’ve been sat there with a bottle of water in my hand while everyone else is getting steaming, and it can be frustrating, but I need to wake up on Boxing Day bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
“This league in particular is relentless, so we all need to be on our game if we want to pick up points over the next few weeks.
“The manager [Simon Weaver] trusts us to look after ourselves. He doesn’t say what you can and can’t eat, but you have to act responsibly.”
While he concedes that many players in his position will be in awe of friends and family members who don’t have to watch what they eat and drink over Christmas, Muldoon is quick to stress that he for one could certainly be in a less enviable position.
“There will be plenty of moaning and groaning over the next few weeks, but you have to remember that we get paid to play football,” he continued.
“It’s not like we’re doing nights working on the steel or stacking shelves.
“You play the game because you love it and I feel quite lucky to be able to do that.”
Next up for Harrogate Town is a home clash with Yorkshire rivals Halifax Town, 3pm kick-off on Boxing Day.
For live updates and post-match reaction, follow @HarrogateSport on Twitter.