Fab Flournoy will not cancel Christmas for his Newcastle Eagles – but he has warned them London Lions will be ready to pounce on any festive slacking from his in-form team.
Eagles’ Yuletide programme consists of just one game on December 29, but it is a teak-tough trip to the capital to take on a Lions team that Flournoy believes is “resurgent”.
After that Newcastle have a 14-day break before they meet Leicester Riders in their eagerly anticipated BBL Cup final on January 12.
Flournoy is used to leading the Eagles in packed festive programmes, but with the reduced workload this year he is prepared to give them Christmas Day off – before demanding they are all back in for a light session on Boxing Day to work off the “gluttony” he thinks is inevitable.
“We will give them Christmas Day off and we’ll be back in on Boxing Day,” he said.
“I really want them in on Boxing Day just to re-focus them. It is always difficult around Christmas because you know the focus is elsewhere, but the good thing is that we won’t be alone in that, every team in the BBL will have the same thoughts.
“For me, it is always up to the schedule to dictate what we do at this time of year. There’s times when I have had the team in on Christmas Day and if the schedule was a little different this year I would have done it again. It is part and parcel of being a professional athlete and it is our job so the guys understand.
“Sometimes it brings you together coming in and working over Christmas because you are all in exactly the same boat at that point. To be honest, sometimes it brings them all together because they hate me for making them work over Christmas but at least it brings them together!”
It is a potentially treacherous trip for the Eagles because London have looked like a real threat to the BBL establishment this year.
The team that were formerly Milton Keynes Lions have profited from a move to the Copper Box, which was an Olympic handball venue but is now their home. They have played very well so far this season and have the potential to cause problems for an Eagles team that have won four in a row.
“Sometimes when you do not have the games over Christmas you have to go and create an artificial edge to get the players re-focused, but I hope that they will see the challenge ahead and that will do the job for me,” he said.
“It’s an important game for us because we have a long break after it and we want to go into the New Year playing well because it’s a big year for us. We always want to be winning as many games as possible.
“It’s also important because London Lions are a resurgent force in our league. They are a team that can give anyone in the league problems.”
The good news for the Eagles is the Boxing Day training session should see a full roster report for duty.
Drew Lasker missed Friday’s win over Birmingham Knights but could have played, while Flournoy himself is in contention to play in London.
“We should have a full bill of health and that is important for us – it is a good thing for us that on Boxing Day we will have everyone fit and healthy,” he said.
“I was only due to be out for seven to 10 days and Drew was fit for Friday but I decided not to risk him. It was an important win and the guys got the job done, which was good for us moving forward.”