FOUR MEN WALK INTO AN ONLINE CHAT

A mere 42 days after the successful conclusion of The Fiver’s STOP FOOTBALL campaign and football remains resolutely stopped. They said it couldn’t be done, but now each Thursday night, The Fiver basks in the warm, heartfelt applause of strangers who emerge from their front doors to applaud and bang saucepans in thanks for being spared the tedium of having to watch Burnley getting gubbed by Liverpool at Anfield this weekend.

With no football to discuss and hours of airtime to fill, Sky Sports have got their best people on the case, busily discussing no football at great length with the urbane Dave Jones – one-time Company Magazine north-east bachelor of the year (subject to a still-to-be-processed objection from a certain Big Paper pyramid-inverter) – asking the hard questions. Warming up by telling Roy Keane, Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville it could be 182 days before the nation’s hairdressers and barbers next throw open their doors, his query regarding the Irishman’s beard was greeted with stony silence, dying like a Trump supporter who’s just mainlined a litre bottle of Harpic on the advice of their president.

But while the subject of haircuts was strictly off limits, Keano had plenty to say about footballers and salary chops. “This idea that players should take a pay cut, I think that is nonsense,” he roared. “It’s up to the individual. I know there is pressure on players, but it is nobody’s business what you do with your wages. You take your wages and if you want to be generous, go ahead and do it. I don’t think players should feel pressured by clubs, particularly the bigger clubs, to take pay cuts.”

Next up to the plate was Carragher, who said that in the continued absence of football, Premier League placings should be decided on some sort of unspecified sporting merit, which The Fiver suspects might entail handing the title to the team who is 25 points clear at the summit. “I actually think what Uefa came out with about [Big Cup] places and European qualification being decided on sporting merit, I’d actually love the Premier League to come out and say that,” he cheered, from his well-appointed isolation hub. “I do feel there are a few teams, certainly down the bottom, who are not shy in coming out at times and saying why the season shouldn’t continue and it should be null and void and should be curtailed.”

And while The Fiver can’t help but feel there might be one particular team, certainly up the top, who have every reason to hope the season will continue, we haven’t time to go into that now because we’re running out of space and still need to cover Neville’s contribution. “I’ve gone from anger to despair to almost now pleading with somebody at the Premier League just to do the right thing for the game,” he sighed, having urged top-flight bosses to take out a massive loan to help financially imperilled clubs in the Football League. While The Fiver applauds his optimism, we can’t help but feel he’d get a more positive response if he asked Keane for permission to lovingly massage a bottle of oil into his whiskers.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“It was like stepping into a danger zone. I certainly hope this marathon is not going to be anywhere near as painful as those challenges because I went to some really dark places” – Franny Benali gets his chat on with Ben Fisher as he looks back at previous charidee fundraising before getting back on the treadmill to raise more money.



Benali will tackle a full 26.2-mile run on Sunday, the original date of the London Marathon. Photograph: Courtesy of Francis Benali/Southampton FC

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

It’s Football Weekly Extra: the pyramid-inverter special.

Football Weekly

Inverting Jonathan Wilson, plus Toon takeover tussle

FIVER LETTERS

“I saw Norman Hunter play a couple of times and was at Wembley when he scored one of his two England goals. A couple of years later I was at The Den for Millwall v Barnsley, for whom Hunter was playing in the twilight of his career. Millwall had some young shaver in direct opposition to Norman, and he kept hurling himself at the old warhorse as if to prove his worth against one of the greats. Inevitably, there came a point when Norman decided enough was enough and dealt with this matter decisively. In one smooth, seamless movement he chopped down the over-eager tyro, beckoned on the Millwall trainer and gave his name to the ref. The ref was absolutely delighted to be able to get Norman’s name in his book and, in fact, seemed to be giggling nervously at this sudden familiarity between them. Neither looked at the victim, still groaning on the ground. Instead, Norman seemed to be beaming at the Millwall subs on the bench, as if to say, “There you are, that’s how it’s done” – Paul Sanderson.

“Shall we try and come up with good names for the sponsorship of Barcelona’s ground? From Scotland we could have Irn-Bru the Camp Nou” – Peter Hehir.

“It’s all very well volunteering, but what previous experience qualifies David Moyes (yesterday’s Quote of the Day) to be in charge of moving a bunch of vegetables around so they might be of more use to people? Sorry, I’ve just answered my own question, haven’t I?” – Simon Mazier.

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 … Simon Mazier.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Big Phil will see out his contract as England Women’s manager but there are doubts over whether he will be giving it the big licks at rearranged Big Sports Day as Team GB boss. “Once football returns, [Big] Phil will continue his work with the Lionesses on the further development of his squad,” blabbed the FA’s director of women’s football, Sue Campbell.

Oh Big Phi.



Oh Big Phi. Photograph: Richard Sellers/PA

In other red-hot admin news, investment banker Gary Hoffman has been named as the Premier League’s new chairman. “At a vital moment in our history, Gary’s knowledge and skills are sure to help us through this very difficult period,” cheered Chelsea chief suit Bruce Buck.

Luton Town have “come to a mutual agreement” to end manager Graeme Jones’s contract. Well, they haven’t won since March.

The government has been urged not to “sit on the bench” and allow a Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle to waltz through without at least a second glance. “The beoutQ piracy issue should be an immediate priority for regulatory scrutiny surrounding the takeover,” tooted MP Clive Betts.

And five former directors of Osasuna and two former Betis players have been handed prison sentences, after being found guilty on a series of corruption charges relating to match-fixing at the end of the 2013-14 La Liga season.

STILL WANT MORE?

So what’s Max Rushden’s favourite game then? It’s when Cambridge drew at home to eight-man Cardiff, obviously.

To Cambridge!



To Cambridge! Photograph: Steve Paston/PA

Suzanne Wrack on England’s costly Big Phil mistake.

Manchester United’s setup is shining as seniors help locked-down youngsters, reports Tanya Aldred.

The War Cup, a London-centric league and multiple title-winners in a split season: Richard Foster explains how English football got inventive during the second world war.

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

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