The Fiver has been struggling with too much perspective, man. A glance at the TV Times reveals that a heady weekend of Premier League action awaits, including the prospect of Ed Woodward’s Barmy Army getting beaten at Brighton, a reet good Yorkshire derby between Sheffield United and Leeds, all culminating in a Monday Night Football of Liverpool v Arsenal. The memories. “And Smith must score” at Wembley 1983 before Steve Foster’s headband in the replay. Brian Gayle setting himself up for one of the all-time great own goals to hand Leeds the old First Division title in 1992. As for Monday’s showpiece there’s Charlie George lying down on the Wembley turf, L’il Mickey Owen flying in Cardiff and Jamie Carragher chucking a £1 coin back into the Highbury crowd. That’s three nuggets before we even thought of Michael Thomas celebrating in the style of a salmon caught in a fisherman’s net.
And yet The Fiver cannot help but feel that elite football – plus Fulham v Aston Villa in that odd new Monday afternoon Neighbours and Home and Away slot – is forging ahead when the rest of the world is on the brink. As politicians shamefacedly mumble about a rapidly rising R-rate amid local lockdowns that have put millions of British people under restrictions and the student population of Scotland under house arrest, there is something jarring about the game’s ruling class carrying on regardless with its team news, transfer talk and Lionel Messi continuing to moan on and on about his lot at Barcelona.
Not least because much of the rest of football is in deep trouble. The National League on Thursday announced it will only go ahead next week if it is successful in securing a “critical financial support package” from the government. This week’s Milk Cup exposed a new dimension – something way beyond Liverpool’s kids winning 7-2 at Lincoln – in the difference between haves and have-nots; that of lower-division clubs not being able to afford to test their players for coronavirus.
Worrying times but perhaps the big boys are now smelling the Mellow Birds. “There has to be a concern about what’s going off at the moment,” said Chris Wilder. “I think people in a better position should help people in a less good position, 100%,” gurgled Jürgen Klopp. “We need clubs locally,” warned Ole Gunnar Solskjær. All that in happy contrast to earlier this week and Sean Dyche’s Gordon Gekko-inspired wibblings about successful hedge-fund managers not filtering down to “the hedge-fund managers who are not so successful”. Could the Premier League’s money men be about to open up the coffers and offer alms to their less fortunate brethren? Maybe they’re not quite so bad after all. Soccer!
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It will be strange to see you with another shirt and much more to face you. You deserved the goodbye for what you are: one of the most important players in the club’s history, achieving important things both as a group and individually. And not to get kicked out like they did. But the truth is that at this point nothing surprises me” – the aforementioned Messi funk-ometer at Barcelona still appears close to combustion if this farewell to Luis Suárez on social media disgrace Instachat is anything to go by.
“Talk of actors buying football clubs (yesterday’s Fiver) gets me hoping that former time lord and avid Blackeye Rovers fan Matt Smith could buy my club, put it in the tardis, and take us back in time either to the 1880s or early-1990s. On second thoughts, just back to February 2020 would be great” – John Myles.
“Re: the proposition that Scott Baio might rescue Rochdale (yesterday’s Fiver). Given some of Mr Baio’s most recent utterances, one suspects any investments he might make would be spent entirely on right wingers” – Derek McGee.
“It’s a tough challenge for a modest club from a small town to host a cosmopolitan behemoth in a continental cup competition. However, what I learned from Tottenham’s visit to North Macedonia is that such experiences are beneficial, in that they motivate clubs to set bigger goals for themselves” – Peter Oh.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Willem II fans have come under fire in the Netherlands for throwing a 1,000-strong party – with no regard for social distancing rules – to celebrate their team’s return to Big Vase qualifying, even if it was a 4-0 defeat to the Pope’s Newc O’Rangers. “It is very unfortunate to see that happening so close to where staff are treating patients who have the virus,” sighed the local hospital in Tilburg.
Alan Irvine will remain in the West Ham dugout against Wolves after David Moyes returned a second positive Covid-19 test.
An assist from Covid-19 has helped Spurs get a bye in the Rumbelows Cup.
Rock ’n’ roll businessman Thomas Sandgaard is stoked to finally get his hands on Charlton. “Today is the day! We did the impossible,” he noodled. “Four months ago, a friend asked: ‘Have you thought about owning an English football club?’ And I thought, wow, that could be one of the most positive things I could ever be a part of.”
Alex Telles wants Porto to reduce their asking price of £18.3m so he can scoot off to Manchester United.
In what appears to be the go-to day for Argentinian outbursts, Ángel Di María reckons Lionel Scaloni’s decision to snub him for next month’s World Cup qualifiers amounts to ageism. “I’m old at 32?” he yelped. “If we start to think about replacements, we should do it with everyone … Messi, Agüero and Otamendi shouldn’t go. Many say that I’m old but I still run the same way and I can be at the same level as Kylian Mbappé and Neymar.”
And Eredivisie outfit FC Emmen will be allowed to display the logo of a bongo-toy company on their shirts, after the Dutch FA performed a U-turn in the face of widespread criticism for previously blocking plans.
STILL WANT MORE?
Ten things to look forward to in the Premier League this weekend, including perfect records on the line and memories of a ding-dong Yorkshire derby in 1992.
It is possible that the trauma of Covid-19 could change football – and wider sport – for the better. Barney Ronay looks for light in these gloomy times.
Is Alex Morgan really bigger than her club? Suzanne Wrack profiles the Spurs player before their FA Cup north London derby.
“Watch out, because Ligue 1 is coming. It is incredibly attractive to a lot of players. They can enjoy the French way of life in fantastic areas, rather than in the middle of the UK. The life in the Midlands versus the life on the French Riviera or in Brittany … can be very different.” Lorient president Loïc Féry on big things in France.
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