September 23, 2023



The Fiver | Swapping a sullen drill instructor for training with the marine corps | Football

5 min read


Having spent spent several months doing drills, running on command, dropping to do press-ups and participating in shooting practice under the watchful eye of a sullen, often angry and foul-mouthed drill instructor at Tottenham’s training ground, the prospect of going on military service should hold little fear for Son Heung-min. Despite being excused from an 18-month stint in the army as a reward for helping South Korea win the Asian Cup two years ago, the Tottenham forward has now swapped his comfortable, magenta Nike training duds for army fatigues as he begins a three-week course of basic training with his country’s marine corps. Semper fi, Sonny! Semper fi!

While his naughty Tottenham drill instructor was breaking social distancing rules to conduct some basic training of his own in a Barnet park a couple of weeks ago, Son was in South Korea putting himself through two weeks of self-isolation before heading off to the volcanic island of Jeju. There, in the cliched tradition of Full Metal Jacket and other war movies, we could imagine he will be shouted at on the parade ground by an angry man in a big hat, get given a cool nickname like “Cowboy”, “Joker” or “Eightball”, learn the Rifleman’s Creed, almost certainly be the best in his class on the assault course and possibly use his downtime to tempt fate by boring his fellow recruits to tears by showing them photos of his sweetheart back home.

Despite being as likely to see actual combat as The Fiver is to darken the doorstep of our local drinker this side of June, Son’s spell in the marines is no publicity stunt and, despite his celebrity status, he will have to do more than just a few keepie-uppies on the parade ground for the benefit of the TV cameras. Reports from South Korea state he will be trained in the use of firearms and forced to go on long hikes, two activities everyone he’s left back in London would love to have a go at if only to kill time and get some proper exercise during lockdown.

Almost certainly too nice to become a trained killing machine, Son will at least be able to maintain his fitness during national service, all the better to be ready for action if the Premier League starts up again at some point before his retirement. In the meantime, rumours remain unconfirmed that José Mourinho continues to inspect Tanguy Ndombele’s family tree in the hope of finding some South Korean heritage that might lead to the midfielder also being conscripted and whipped into some sort of shape.


“We want it to be known we’re doing something. We’re not just sitting at home, wanting people’s money and then letting others do the work. We’re going to do it ourselves” – Dexter Blackstock explains his journey from scoring goals for Forest to sorting out essential PPE.

Yes Dexter, with added Bradley Johnson on the left too.

Yes Dexter, with added Bradley Johnson on the left too. Photograph: Courtesy of Dexter Blackstock


Football Weekly will be in this general area.


“One of my least favourite games (Fiver letters passim), among many, being a Nasty Leeds fan. The 2008 League One play-off final against Doncaster. Just after the second half restarted, Donny scored what turned out to be the winner. A mate of mine had gone for half-time Tin with his mate, who had then gone to relieve himself and didn’t hear the roar for the goal. Full-time approached and my mate’s mate, under the influence, turned and said: ‘We will win in extra-time!” And he’s not lived it down yet” – John Lowe.

“I went to a flamin’ game my team didn’t even lose. They didn’t even lose a single qualifier. I’m talking about Australia’s second-leg qualifier v Iran at the MCG for a World Cup 1998 spot. Managed by Terry Venables, we were 2-0 up and France-bound with only 15 minutes to play in a ludicrously one-sided match (the first leg had ended 1-1). A publicly-known pest ran on the field, cut up one of the nets and disrupted the match for more than five minutes. Shortly after, Iran scored two goals in five minutes (including an offside goal – I’m not bitter) and we were knocked out on away goals. Tactics Tim eloquently summed up my feelings years later” – Dean H.

“First-time emailer, long-time reader. I have been amusing myself wandering the dusty corridors of YouTube, etc, for football-related crumbs, and the retro theme gave me an idea: which British and Irish clubs released 1970s and 1980s songs? I only ask because clearly my Reds are quite guilty as a team, but individually, even, they’ve delved into shameless warbling. Case in point: John Aldridge winning Celebrity You’re a Star” – Sam Metta Bexar.

Send your letters to t[email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … John Lowe.


Have a bang on this.


“The involvement of Saudi Arabian wealth in the takeover is not a concern right now and ultimately any new owners will be judged like all owners are judged – by how they treat the fans and how they run the football club” – Alex Hurst, chair of the Newcastle United Supporters’ Trust and editor of the True Faith fanzine, on the potential Tyneside takeover, among these vox pops from fans and former players.

A Fifpro survey has found the number of players reporting symptoms of depression has doubled since the sport shut down because of Covid-19.

Players, coaching staff and all-round good eggs at Roma have agreed to go without four months’ salary to help the club through the crisis.

Football League suits are considering a proposal to extend the summer transfer window until at least the end of January to ease financial pressures on its clubs.

At the drive-in: Midtjylland have installed giant screens in the parking lot of their MCH Arena to allow fans to watch matches from their cars when the Superliga resumes next month.

And Manchester United have decided there is not enough nicker in the pot to buy Harry Kane. For shame!


From Joel Robles to Luis Alberto, here’s Simon Burnton on the players who have thrived after playing in England.

Here you go.

Here you go. Composite: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images; Quality Sport Images/Getty Images; Getty Images

Mark Tallentire on his Favourite Game, the 1985 Cup Winners’ Cup final between Everton and Rapid Vienna. Features a kickabout with the police, Antonin Panenka and an early-wake up call outside Rotterdam train station.

Louise Taylor on what awaits in the inbox of any new owners of Newcastle United.

Listen to Nessun Dorma podcast? Listen to Nessun Dorma podcast! Mike Gibbons talks O’Rangers, Mexico ‘86 and Graham Taylor.

Paul Doyle on Jean-Pierre Papin and a special moment in 1992.

Grass is green, water is wet and groundstaff are in a bit of a pickle. Nick Ames explains.

Jonathan Wilson on how a meeting with former Brazil keeper Carlos forced our footballing-brain-in-a-box to change his mind.

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

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