October 2, 2022



The Fiver | Football’s performative hoo-hah that isn’t really getting us anywhere | Football

5 min read


All across the footballing world, after a period of great uncertainty, Important People have started making Big Decisions that are not really decisions. This finally puts the sport in line with other industries such as politics and journalism, so you can immediately see the problem. It’s a performative hoo-hah that isn’t really getting us anywhere. Take the French authorities’ call to cancel the remainder of the season. A bold and decisive move, until you try to work out who’ll get the three Big Vase places up for grabs: Lille, Lyon, Montpellier, Reims, Nantes and Nice are all in with a shout, and we bet every club has an in-house lawyer too. Good luck with that. Chats dans un sac.

Then there’s Scotland, and this interminable vote to end the season. Pope’s Newc O’Rangers aren’t happy, we’ve known this since 1872, and have stalled the process with a list of grievances, but now SPFL chairman Murdoch MacLennan has come out fighting with a letter of his own. In the 3,500-word tract, he says … no, time’s too precious, even on lockdown. Meanwhile the powers-that-be in Spain are insisting they’ll be starting La Liga in June, sort of, while the brains behind the Premier League are vacillating to a degree that would make decision-making legends such as Dominic Raab and Dave from the Fast Show look like commanding officers of a Swat team.

It’s enough to make you long for the days of good old-fashioned dilemmas, like who to sign or sack. No biggies. So imagine our (relative) glee when word got out that Newcastle United boss Bernard Cribbins will be for the off should the mellow dudes behind ever-popular business collective Saudi Arabia take control. He’ll supposedly be replaced by Mauricio Pochettino, who’ll trouser £19m a year and be worth every penny too, on account of his peerless ability to finish third in two-horse races and fail to turn up for major finals. A perfect, heartbreaking fit for Newcastle, you’d think.

Or maybe manager and club will go on to finally slake their trophy thirst, in which case long-time suitors Manchester United may wonder whether the arrival of Bruno Fernandes and the accompanying Ole-rescuing upturn in form came at exactly the wrong time. Either way, it’s going to be fascinating seeing how this all pans out when things finally get going again. Decisions, please, someone, somewhere, anyone, anywhere! Because The Fiver can’t go on like this.


“When I took over, the team [had] got beat by Ajax six or seven and I did think: have I made the right decision here? But it was in my mind to go and work abroad and that was really what I wanted to do. I probably will end up in England and with a club who have got the opportunity to push for some kind of promotion or some kind of success” – Alan Pardew – fresh off eight games in charge of Den Haag, in which he won one, faced angry fans at the training ground protesting at his tactics, failed to get them out of the relegation zone and only earned a reprieve when the Eredivisie was voided – sets his sights on more success after his deal was ended by mutual consent.

Everything’s coming up Pardiola. Photograph: Hollandse Hoogte/REX/Shutterstock


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“Re: the 10-year-old Plymouth fan sending them his pocket money from the USA! USA!! USA!!! (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs). That really is quite beautiful. Mine used to go straight on Curly Wurlys but, then again, we did send the Pilgrims there in the first place, so it’s only appropriate they do something in return” – Antony Train.

“I once planned to send York City my pocket money, but went on a Panini stickers and spicy tomato Wheat Crunchies bender instead. Still, the thought was there” – Dave Mixon.

“Given all the hand-wringing about ending/voiding seasons, why don’t all leagues just agree they have until the end of 2020 to complete theirs? The next two seasons in Europe could run from January to November, which would mean the 2022 version finishes just in time for the Ethics World Cup in Qatar. I don’t know how they’d get back to normal after that, but my cunning plan gives everyone two and a half years to work that out” – Tim Woods.

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 … Antony Train.


Premier League clubs are concerned about fans gathering outside stadiums if the season resumes and fear being made scapegoats if there is a subsequent rise in coronavirus cases.

Manchester United will – in theory – trial 1,500 barrier seats that will allow fans to stand next season, after being given permission by Trafford council.

Watford have signed Le Havre midfielder Pape Gueye on a 1 July freebie. “An official pre-contract agreement has already been lodged with all relevant authorities,” blabbed a Watford suit.

A winding-up petition against Southend over tax-knack has been adjourned until 22 July.

And Standard Liège have asked Marouane Fellaini to follow Alex Witsel’s lead and dig deep to help his former club avoid being relegated into the wilderness of the Belgian amateur ranks. Witsel has already put €1.5m into the kitty, according to reports.


“The chairman has said he can’t afford to keep us – it’s a shock but I understand.” Frank Nouble, who has just been released by Colchester, on the fragile life of being a lower-league footballer right now.

Underrated Premier League players part one: from Arsenal to Liverpool. Get clicking.

Big Steve Finnan!

Big Steve Finnan! Composite: Reuters/Getty/PA

Ending Ligue Urrrrrrn early has left us with more questions than answers, so says French football aficionado Eric Devin.

Who is the shortest goalkeeper to have played in the English top flight? As always, The Knowledge is on hand to answer one of the biggest questions of our time.

The latest MLS perspective, from Graham Ruthven.

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


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