BLAND VALUES

With giggling incompetents in Downing Street and a real length of tube in the White House, The Fiver has got to the point where it no longer hopes and prays to hear of good news, merely to be informed of stuff that isn’t catastrophically bad and monumentally depressing. Bland news, please! Is that too much to ask? Thankfully some has just arrived with the welcome announcement that Southampton boss Conan O’Br … hold on, will you … that Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhüttl has signed a new four-year contract with the club, and will be staying put until 2024. It’s all we’ve got today, and it’s more than good enough. Ah, delicious vanilla pabulum.

Hasenhüttl’s story is a case study in standing by your man that makes Tammy Wynette sound like Doug Ellis. Saints were infamously thumped 9-0 at home by Leicester last October, a fiasco that left them in the Premier League drop zone, and most folk blithely assumed Hasenhüttl would be given the Jay Leno treatment quicksmart. But the club remained convinced of the 52-year-old Austrian, who had saved them from the Ailsa from Home and Away treatment the season before, and since the Leicester humiliation he’d turned things around, to the point that within a month Saints drew 2-2 at Arsenal, a match they should have won by six or seven goals if The Fiver’s memory serves, which it might do.

In an uncharacteristically zinger-free monologue, Hasenhüttl said agreeing the new deal was a “simple decision” as players, staff and supporters “value the same philosophies and I hope we can share in some very successful moments”. The first step of that journey will be guaranteeing safety, which while not a shoo-in should be achievable, given Saints are currently 14th, seven points clear of the relegation places. Mind you, they did lose five of their last seven Premier League games, a far cry from the seven-wins-in-11 sequence put together around the turn of the year. All of which suggests a season of wild fluctuation could have a few more stomach-churning swerves and lurches in it yet. So much for our nice comforting bland story, then. Oh Ralph! How could you! Bah.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“If you score a goal and take a knee, could everyone do that? Not just the black players. The white players too … everyone. Every player should do it” – Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari calls on Premier League footballers to join the ongoing protest against the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

RECOMMENDED LOOKING

It’s David Squires on England taking another hell of a beating at the hands of Norway. And you can buy it here.



Here you go. Illustration: David Squires/The Guardian

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

The latest Football Weekly podcast is right here.

FIVER LETTERS

“Fiver, cry me a river why don’t you. Stop it with the rank hypocrisy and go back to rank unfunny. Your mock concern for society is doing my head in. If you really believed that then you wouldn’t be a football hack, you’d be out there doing something vaguely important” – Geoff Jones.

“Re: yesterday’s Fiver. ‘Alehouse inanity at digital speed!’ Is that The Fiver’s new motto?” – Dan Davis.

“So, Les Ferdinand has/had a helicopter (yesterday’s Fiver). Who knew? He is probably not the first footballer to have one. Chopper Harris in his pomp, anyone?” – Allastair McGillivray [don’t encourage him – Fiver Ed].

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 … Geo Dan Davis.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Valencia say Atalanta “put the health of numerous people at risk” after Gian Piero Gasperini admitted having Covid-19 symptoms at their European tie in March.

The Portuguese top flight will be the latest European league to restart when leaders Porto head to Famalicao on Wednesday, but authorities are less than impressed after a group of visiting fans said they plan to gather outside the ground. “Social responsibility must prevail,” declared Portugal’s health director-general, Graça Freitas. “We are not going to risk everything that we have achieved so far.”

Porto players in training last month.



Porto players in training last month. Photograph: FC Porto/AFP via Getty Images

Manchester City’s Phil Foden is the latest player to flout physical-distancing guidelines after taking part in an impromptu kickabout with members of the public on Formby beach.

Everton are still hopeful of staging the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park when the season restarts after requesting a meeting of the local safety advisory group.

Championship basement-boys Barnsley have added their voice to critics of the Football League over the season’s impending resumption. “If the 2019-20 season is completed, it will be completed with a lack of sporting integrity,” they fumed. “Some clubs will have unbalanced squads compared to competitors due to ending contracts. Some will lose home-field advantage for matches behind closed doors in respect to the reverse fixture earlier this season. Those clubs unfairly and unlawfully relegated would face further uncertainty and potential failure of their enterprise.”

And after avoiding being shipped out in January and then recently agreeing a new contract, Olivier Giroud thinks his transfer fate is being controlled by a being higher than his Mr 15%. “I really think that God wanted me to stay at Chelsea,” he cheered.

STILL WANT MORE?

Women’s football must free itself from the FA to survive after the pandemic, writes Suzanne Wrack.

Gregg Bakowski recalls being smuggled in for the perfect view of a less well remembered Liverpool-Newcastle tussle from the 90s and making a Match of the Day cameo.

Nicky Bandini on the rise of Parma in the 90s.

Shakshuka-style eggs on sourdough toast with Mark Noble? Fresh fish delights with Gylfi Sigurdsson? Alex Hess on food science and footballers’ diets under lockdown.

Possible food chat, earlier.



Possible food chat, earlier. Photograph: Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United FC/Getty Images

Meet the footballer who signed his first Football League contract just as the lockdown kicked in. By Gavin Willacy.

Quiz time: Barcelona’s Big Cup final win over Arsenal in 2006.

And the soccer v football debate still lingers in the USA! USA!! USA!!!, explains Graham Ruthven.

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

MEETINGS ∞

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