MISTER RODGERS’ NEW NEIGHBORHOOD
The way some folk go on, you’d think managing the Queen’s Celtic was as simple as turning up, clocking in, tootling a verse or two of The Fields of Athenry on a tin whistle, throwing your boots up and lighting a cigar, then waiting for the silverware to answer the call and roll into the trophy room, three at a time. But tell that to John Barnes. Or Tony Mowbray. Or Jo Venglos, Lou Macari or Liam Brady. It’s not quite as easy as Brendan Rodgers has been making it look. He’s won all seven domestic trophies on offer since taking over at Parkhead in 2016, becoming the first man in history to win two consecutive trebles. He’s well on the way to an almost inconceivable third, which makes his decision to immediately naff off back down south the very minute the first Premier League club came calling – the chair in his office still spinning, sheets of paper gently gliding back down on to the desk – seem rather surprising. Shocking, even. Oh Brenny! How could you! And you “living the dream” and all!
Yet maybe there’s method in the apparent madness. The club Rodgers is set to take over, Leicester City, aren’t in the sort of mess new managers usually find upon their arrival. They got shot of the previous bloke simply because nobody much liked him. They’re in no danger of going down, merely underachieving big-time. The team is packed with plenty of young talent, the sort Rodgers likes to work with. They’re capable of big results, having already beaten Manchester City and Chelsea this season. And they won’t be playing in Europe next year, which will come as blessed relief to a man who presided over the biggest continental defeat in Queen’s Celtic history (a 7-0 shellacking at Barcelona), the biggest continental home defeat in Queen’s Celtic history (a 5-0 skelping by PSG) and the most preposterous continental defeat in Queen’s Celtic history (a 1-0 humiliation by the famous Lincoln Red Imps of Winston Churchill Avenue, Gibraltar). Oh Brenny! Probably for the best that you’ll have a bit of time and space to work this side of things out.
Where this leaves the Queen’s Celtic is open to interpretation. Former boss Neil Lennon is set to take over until the end of the season, interim bosses being all the rage these days, shades o’Ole. Whether he’ll keep the job afterwards is less clear. Never mind closing out the treble Treble: first let’s see if he can emerge bother-free from this week’s trips to Tynecastle (where, on his last visit, a back-and-forth with the crowd concluded with a coin pinging off the top of his noggin) and Easter Road (the venue he’s just been cashiered from without ceremony). By contrast, Brendan’s first week down south is unlikely to be as combustible … unless he makes like the last manager Leicester poached from the Old Firm, that is. In 1978, Jock Wallace arrived from Ibrox and set about constructing some large artificial sand dunes, up which he’d send his distressed players at great speed and with great relish. The Fiver would pay real cash money to see Leicester’s current squad react to a fitness regime like that. “Come back Claude,” Harry, Jamie and Wes would cry. “We hardly knew ye!”
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“In our last two away matches, we have now had two perfectly good goals ruled offside which have proven to be the wrong decision. Following a review of [Tom] Pope’s disallowed goal against Cambridge for offside, it has been proven that Pope was in fact onside. This has added to the long list of big decisions that have gone against the Vale this campaign. So far this season, Port Vale have had confirmed from Moas (the Match Official Administration System) that several key decisions have gone against the club during matches. This has ranged from penalties awarded against us and penalties wrongfully not awarded in favour of us” – League Two Port Vale submit a strong entry for this season’s Father Ted And Now We Move On To The Liars Award For Toys Going Spectacularly Out The Pram in a rant at the officiating in their games this season.
David Squires on another Sarri state of affairs at Chelsea.
Football Weekly be here now.
FIVER LETTERS: NOBLE FRANCIS SPECIAL
“Is Noble Francis a real reader or, as I suspect, a Fiver stooge? Despite sending in stuff that’s often quite funny and/or witty, why does he never win letter o’ the day? Could he secretly be a member of The Fiver team or even a not-so-distant relative of one of the extended family of Fivers? I think we should be told” – Shaune Moore.
“Fair dues to Noble Francis and his seemingly constant inclusion in the Fiver letter section. Just what does he have on you? Anyway, I am now of the opinion that it is surely time to have two letter sections? Why not add a Noble Francis letter section where his daily missive can be awarded the prizeless Noble Francis letter o’the day?” – Stuart Robertson-Reed.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’the day is … Stuart Robertson-Reed, who wins Home and Away, by Dave Roberts. Plenty more prizes to come.
BITS AND BOBS
Martin O’Neill’s first east Midlands derby as Nottingham Forest manager ended in a 1-0 win over Frank Lampard’s Derby County at the City Ground. “It’s all to play for,” whooped O’Neill, casting lascivious eyes in the direction of the play-offs.
Kepa Arrizabalaga has been fined one week’s wages – around £190,000 – for his antics during Sunday’s Coca-Cola Cup final and has apologised for his “big mistake” but Maurizio Sarri has refused to say whether the goalkeeper will start against Tottenham.
With Manchester United in the grip of a knack crisis, Ole Gunnar Solskjær wants Alexis Sánchez and Romelu Lukaku to step up. “It’s a chance for them to play to their potential!” he cheered unconvincingly.
Mauricio Pochettino has accepted his FA charge for getting all up in Mike Dean’s grille after Spurs’ defeat at Burnley. “I cannot behave in that way,” he sobbed.
Roberto Firmino could be fit for Sunday’s Merseyside derby.
And the Gothenburg derby between IFK and Gais, which was abandoned on Monday after fans set off hundreds of fireworks at the Gamla Ullevi, will not now be played behind closed doors on Tuesday after Gais refused to turn up. “Gais believes that there are no sporting conditions for the match to be carried out fairly and therefore chooses not to come into play,” said the club.
STILL WANT MORE?
Spain’s record scorer Vero Boquete gets her chat on with Suzanne Wrack about the stadium named after her, revolutionising football in her home city, and why it’s high time female players were included on computer games.
Reserve teams in the lower leagues? Pah! That doesn’t even work in Spain, scoffs Gavin Willacy.
Nobody manages the details like Pep, which is why Manchester City might just snatch every bit of silverware like a greedy sky blue magpie, chirps Barney Ronay.
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