January 31, 2023



Life on a razor’s edge | The Fiver | Football

6 min read

Tottenham Hotspur don’t line up in a Christmas tree formation, but if they did The Fiver’s of the opinion Serge Aurier might not be its brightest bulb. While we have long been in awe of the well remunerated 27-year-old Ivory Coast international’s inability to perform even the simplest task of taking a throw-in properly, it is in the current lockdown that he has truly come into his own.

Though you wouldn’t think it to look at him defending, the full-back has recently demonstrated a quite alarming inability to stay two metres away from the nearest human. And with two well-documented social distancing strikes to his name already, he has chalked up a third after posing alongside a barber who appears to be responsible for having set about his head with clippers, scissors and that soft little brush they dip in talc that feels cool and ticklish on your neck.

“We are investigating the circumstances and will deal with the incident appropriately,” sighed a Spurs suit in yet another statement, with photos of Aurier arriving at training suggesting their idea of doing so began at advising their hapless employee to wear a hat. Evidence from other training grounds and social media disgraces suggests Aurier might not have been the only Premier League player to have got up close and personal with a barber during lockdown but he has been the only one dumb enough not to pretend he cut his own hair.

While your increasingly hirsute Fiver gazed enviously at his freshly coiffured barnet, it emerged that we might soon become privy to the grooming routines of even more top-flight stars. In the latest details to emerge from Monday’s Premier League meeting it has been revealed that in a bid to get more bang for their buck from Project No Cashback, broadcasters want to show footage – limited pictures only with no sound – from behind the curtain, inside the sanctuary of dressing-rooms.

Mindful that the sight of watching Scott McTominay and other high-profile players struggle to unknot their sock ties is an untapped and potentially endless stream of revenue to which Sky and BT Sport are not entitled, several clubs have raised objections. However, with the news that broadcasters could demand refunds of up to £36m from Premier League members for every week after 12 July the season finishes, The Fiver suspects some sock-tie compromise may be reached.

With so many venal, grubby, self-serving, greedy, money-grasping interests pulling in opposite directions despite it being patently obvious they all desperately need each other, it seems that nobody involved is interested in emerging from the current crisis looking good. Nobody, that is, except Serge Aurier, who has found himself on the razor’s edge once again.


“We apologise deeply to all those concerned about the unfortunate situation that occurred. We will review our internal procedures to ensure this does not happen again” – FC Seoul express yet more contrition after hearing they could face a stadium expulsion for filling seats with $ex dolls in a behind-closed doors K-League game.

Any need for the social distancing?

Any need for the social distancing? Photograph: AFP via Getty Images


Here’s the latest Football Weekly podcast and the second episode of our new Forgotten Stories of Football audio read too: Manchester United v Galatasaray, 1993.

Forgotten Stories of Football

Forgotten stories of football


“Listening to [the above podcast] reminded me how disappointed I was that in the following years Tigers fans never went with a banner saying ‘Welcome to Hull’, especially given how much football fans (and the Fiver’s 1,057 pedants in particular) like a good pun. Similarly, I never understood why Eagles fans never used to sing “A Town Called Palace” although that could be the aforementioned pedants’ awareness that Crystal Palace is merely a triangular intersection across five local authorities and not actually a town” – Noble Francis.

“I see that Manchester United have urged supporters to stay away from behind-closed-doors games if the season restarts. If they’re that serious about fans’ safety, they could always reappoint Mourinho. Or Van Gaal, to really flatten their curve” – Justin Kavanagh.

“In BC (Canada), a town is using the span of an eagle on signs to give people an idea of what the safe distance of 2m (6ft 7in approx) is for social distancing. In the UK, you should maybe use a depiction of Peter Crouch” – James Boyle.

“My nomination for football on TV (Fiver letters passim) is ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’. When George Lazenby as Bond arrives in Switzerland the agent trailing him is reading the Express. The back page headline is Why Brown Had To Go, and refers to the sacking of Allan Brown as Luton Town manager and his replacement by Alec Stock. Am I the only one who noticed?” – Nigel Davies.

“Surely using a free app like WhatsApp some technical genius could organise a link to the club’s sound systems. Watch on TV and shout your head off down the line. You could get a great practically immediate crowd noise. Of course, it would need policing but technology should help” – Ian Findley.

Send your letters to [email protected] And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Justin Kavanagh.


Hull have broken ranks to become the first Championship club to ask for the season so far to be voided, citing fears of legal action if players become infected with Covid-19.

Adrian Mariappa has confirmed that he was the Watford player who tested positive for Covid-19. The defender said he is asymptomatic but that it was a big surprise because “I haven’t really left the house”. Two Watford staff members have also tested positive.

Meanwhile, the general secretary of Fifpro says it would be “inhumane” for players such as Watford’s forward Troy Deeney to face disciplinary action if they refuse to return to action. “If players are being pressured or being brought into the context of disciplinary action for that, we feel it is very much unacceptable,” he said.

The FA has written to WSL and Women’s Championship clubs informing them that the season is to be cut short.

And Roberto Carlos has risked the wrath of CR7 and Lionel Messi groupies by choosing his former teammate Real Ronaldo as his GOAT. “Ronaldo is unique. He’s the best,” he cheered. “I think in our generation it was harder to score goals. It was more physical.”

The Real Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos engaged in some training bantz back in the day.

The Real Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos engaged in some training [email protected] back in the day. Photograph: Antonio Scorza/AFP/Getty Images


Uefa chief suit Aleksander Ceferin gets his chat on with Sebastiàn Fest about fans returning to stadiums, financial fair play and more.

Mike Baker relives a heady day for Swindon, the breathless 4-3 win over Leicester in the 1993 play-off final that propelled them to the Premier League.

Harrogate have a case for a place in the EFL, as the second-placed team in the National League, their manager, Simon Weaver, tells Andy Hunter.

David Hytner on how Premier League clubs could exploit Football League clubs’ financial desperation.

This week’s Knowledge looks at clubs going bust soon after being champions, long gaps between players winning the same trophy and much, much more.

Quiz! Quiz! Quiz! Which keepers were in goal for these famous strikes?


Here’s a top, top composite image.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!


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