SPOT THE DIFFERENCE
Day six. With our three emergency ideas long since used up and the world’s favourite football email’s “lodger”, Freeloader Mate Who Claimed It’ll Only Be For A Few Days Nine Years Ago Fiver, reclining on the sofa in his tracky-bees, unironically working his way through that five-year back catalogue of Tenants From Hell he’s recorded, The Fiver finds itself in need of leadership and guidance as we attempt to work from home.
In one corner, the Tory blue one: Boris Johnson, the prime minister with his hair meticulously tousled as he struggles to suppress a smirk, possibly while remembering that “last gasp” gag about ventilators he is purported to have cracked on a recent conference call. “I have absolutely no doubt that we will turn the tide of this disease and beat it together. Now I don’t think our two distinguished experts need to add anything to that, so why don’t we … why don’t we … why don’t we … I … I … I … why don’t we just go straight to questions … I don’t propose to spend a very long time … at this particular one since we’ve had … we’ve had about four or five of these already in the last few days and I don’t want to … I don’t want to weary you with these occasions. Do you feel they, well yes … yes, that’s positive … umm …” Thanks for that, prime minister. Very Churchillian.
And in the opposite corner: Gareth Southgate, former Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough defender turned mild-mannered manager of a national football team. “For everyone in our country, the primary focus of the present – and the coming months – is undoubtedly to look after our families, support our communities and work together to come through what is clearly the most extreme test we’ve faced collectively in decades,” he said. “In the way you’ve all come together to support our team, we must now work together to combat a virus that is causing physical and emotional issues to so many. So, please continue to follow the guidelines for hygiene and also the sensible precautions put in place to control the spread of the virus in order to protect those most vulnerable to its impact. That responsibility lies with us all.
“We are also conscious of the economic uncertainty affecting so many businesses and, consequently, virtually every family. Coupled with the unique challenges of self-isolation, the loss of routine to normal working and social life, we face real challenges to our mental wellbeing. Our children may feel anxious with uncertainty. It’s not normal for any of us and it’s going to challenge us all. The heroes will be the men and women who continue working tirelessly in our hospitals and medical centres to look after our friends and families. They won’t receive the individual acclaim but we all know their importance is beyond anything we do on the pitch.”
Jesus wept. The Fiver would suggest a job swap but we have to bear in mind that football won’t be stopped forever. Please.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I just have to be honest and be brutal with what I’m saying. It just shows that they don’t really care about human life. They don’t care about what is going on in the world. All they care about is how to win the league. The reason why I signed for Trabzonspor last summer was to win the league. I gave 100% in every game. But in this situation, where the world is facing such a difficult time, I didn’t feel that football should continue” – Mikel John Obi tells David Hytner why he had to walk out on his club before Turkish football’s belated shutdown.
Football Weekly Extra is right here for you.
“The A-League may still be on, but worthy of note for football-starved fans is this weekend’s W-League final between Sydney FC and Melbourne City. Definitely worthy of more mention than the men’s game in this country and potentially a good remedy for anyone looking to view a match where the result is not already known. Pass it on. Saturday, 2.30pm AEDT” – Sue Deakin.
“I find it impossible to believe that the same email that, for a week or two (seemed more like a year), produced numerous letters reminiscing on odd theme songs from various parks couldn’t come up with a wealth of similarly fascinating subjects on which to riff. Perhaps bizarrely-shaped clods of dirt kicked up at the local park on Sunday or fondly remembered kit colours, to suggest a couple. For that matter, I could certainly share some tales of weaponry brought to matches in Van Cortland Park in the Bronx during my years in the NY Latin American league. Happy to help, if called upon. Brings new meaning to the current wave of ‘Stay Safe’, to which I am bombarded daily” – Dave Wilbur.
“Re: television and radio demands (Fiver letters passim). You can’t say I’m afraid to give Fiver readers what they really want: tonight’s UK TV highlights include the film ‘Sausage Party’ at 9pm on Dave, the ‘REM: Road Movie’ is at 7pm on Sky Arts. Football fans, however, might do well to avoid ‘The English Game’, Julian Fellowes’ account of 1870s football on Netflix. Top radio offering is ‘The Verb’, BBC R3 at 10pm” – Tony Crawford [we’re still thinking about it, not next week, maybe the week after – Fiver Ed].
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Manchester United have joined Brighton, Crystal Palace and Wolves in pledging to keep paying their casual staff even if the season’s remaining Premier League games are cancelled or played in empty stadiums because of the coronavirus pandemic. “We understand that these are unprecedented circumstances and want to give them security whatever may happen regarding our remaining fixtures,” said Ed Woodward.
Bahia, Athletico Paranaense and São Paulo are among the Brazilian clubs who have offered stadiums and training grounds to authorities in a bid to fight the outbreak.
FC Sion have dismissed nine players, including Alex Song and Johan Djourou, after the Swiss league was halted indefinitely.
England men’s team doctor Rob Chakraverty has stood down from his role, less than a month after his previous role at UK Athletics came under scrutiny over a controversial infusion given to Mo Farah in 2014.
Charlton chief suit Matt Southall has been removed from the board of club owners East Street Investments after a meeting in which fresh and funky views were exchanged. “Protocol has not been followed and resolutions have been passed which are invalid and unlawful,” fumed Southall.
And in a bid to boost the nation’s morale by sparing us all having Mrs Brown’s Boys beamed into our households again in these fraught times, Match of the Day will return on Saturday.
STILL WANT MORE?
“You felt for the goalkeeper sometimes because even if the keeper guessed the right way, if he was hitting the target, more often than not it was going in.” Russell Slade leads the tributes to the late Peter Whittingham.
Proper Journalism’s David Conn on how football’s leaders put squabbles aside to strike a heartening tone.
Sid Lowe has the latest news from Spain.
In which Max Rushden channels his inner Joni Mitchell.
Simon Burnton’s favourite game includes “a series of extraordinary toilets”. What are you waiting for?
Today’s trip to the archive: panto villains.
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!