The idea of an international break is something that Premier League and Championship fans are very familiarly with, but rarely is it something that troubles non-league teams.
Last week, Hemel Hempstead Town, in the 6th tier of English football, were granted permission to postpone two of their games because of three international call-ups. Ricardo German and Tyrone Sterling were both selected by Grenada. Winger Craig Braham-Barrett was called up by Montserrat.
Whilst we all understand the process of a professional player travelling and playing for nations like England, France or Germany, it's a lot more interesting when it involves a part-time player going halfway round the world.
For starters, job flexibility is essential to make it work. Most employers of a non-league footballer have to exercise some flexibility for Tuesday night away games or hastily rearranged fixtures, but the idea of your employee disappearing to the other side of the world for a week at short notice poses quite a challenge. It also means the player himself losing out on a few days' pay as well.
Thankfully in the vast majority of cases, the expenses of travel and accommodation are covered by the national team. I spoke to Craig Braham-Barrett on the Non-League Show, he said the only thing he had to do to travel to Montserrat was pick which seat he wanted on the flight. Everything else was sorted out and arranged for him, including accommodation in some top hotels!
Braham-Barrett captained Montserrat in his most recent game for the nation, something he describes as the highlight of his sporting life. An even more impressive achievement considering it was only a year ago, at the age of 30, he accepted his first ever call-up. He has some regrets over leaving it so late to make his international debut. The former Cheltenham winger was also eligible for Jamaica and turned down Montserrat earlier in his career hoping for a Jamaican call-up. Ultimately though, he says representing a smaller nation has meant so much more to him and to the community in Montserrat, which has a population of little over 5,000.
Despite its small population, there's a number of good quality players that represent the nation. Charlton's Lyle Taylor, brothers Brandon and James Comley, who play for Colchester and Maidenhead, as well as Bromley's Adrian Clifton. On the show Craig said that whilst other Caribbean nations try and play passing technical football, they've brought a little bit of an English non-league style to their nation - playing long and direct football which has seen them lose just one of their last seven games. A great improvement for the nation that was once ranked lowest in the world.
Hemel's trio of internationals are of course not the only ones playing in our lower leagues. Boreham Wood's Ricky Shakes has appeared 11 times for Guyana with teammate Kieran Murtagh having played eight games for Antigua and Barbuda. Up the road Jamaican international Lloyd Doyle is at Kings Langley, Hertford Town's Chikosi Basden plays for Bermuda and Beaconsfield’s Dean Morgan has represented Montserrat.
Whilst it might be a bit frustrating for a non-league club to be without a player or two whilst they're away representing their nation, you certainly can't begrudge them the experience. The knowledge they gain from a different football culture might also give them a little extra boost back on the pitches of England.