February 1, 2023



The Fiver | The most safe and practical of all the many unsafe and impractical options | Football

5 min read


Nobody knows anything, wrote William Goldman in Adventures of the Screen Trade. The Hollywood screenwriter was making the point that pretty much everybody who works in the motion picture industry is flying by the seat of their pants and almost entirely reliant on guesswork when it comes to green-lighting a movie. Occasionally they get lucky, but more often than not they don’t. The same could be said for those in charge of the Premier League, as they lurch from one video conference to another, steadfastly refusing to make any decisions beyond, it seems, agreeing on what ideas to leak to the press in a bid to gauge the public mood before setting a date to congregate for the next video conference.

At their most recent Zoom pow-wow, the idea of playing out the remaining 92 top-flight league games at a series of suitable neutral venues was suggested. It’s a wheeze which seems to be the most safe and practical of all the many unsafe and impractical options open to an organisation whose eagerness to get this season finished as soon as is humanly possible is becoming rather unseemly. To nobody’s huge surprise, the idea was immediately met with resistance from teams who are fighting against relegation, such as West Ham, who have actually performed better on their travels this season than at the soulless, rented enormo-dome they are unlucky enough to call home.

“The only common theme from all the Premier League clubs is that any compromises have to be fair and uphold the integrity of the game,” said their vice-chair, Karren Brady in a newspaper column. “Players and managers have to be key decision-makers on the protocols as there is a long way to go from where we are now to actually getting playing again. Phase three will include discussions on the possibility of playing at neutral grounds, which no one wants.”

With home games to come against Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City, it seems no coincidence that Brighton are also against the idea of playing in neutral venues, with their chief executive Paul Barber saying it “has, in our view, potential to have a material effect on the integrity of the competition”. We’re pretty sure he also meant playing away from Fortress Amex, where Brighton have won just four out of 14 league games this season, has, in his view, potential to have a material effect on the club’s ability to stay in the Premier League.

While such clubs blather on about their faux concern for the integrity of a competition fabled for its almost total lack of anything resembling the i-word, the prospect of the 20 member clubs coming to any kind of agreement that might result in football being played this summer seems remote. Knowing this, the strugglers have chanced their arms and suggested they might be tempted to get behind the idea if the prospective jeopardy of relegation is taken off the table and there’s no risk of them going down. It is an idea that will be discussed and hopefully laughed out the gate at the next Premier League conference call, when the other item on the agenda will be when to have the next meeting after that.


“Today I terminated my contract with Besiktas. It’s a shame it comes to an end like this but you should know that I have tried everything to solve this situation. I was very patient for months telling the board over and over again. Same things happened already last year. They haven’t tried to solve this problem and even refused my offer to help by taking a pay cut” – look out Liverpool fans, Loris Karius is coming home.

Loris Karius: swing and a miss.

Loris Karius: swing and a miss. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


Monday’s Football Weekly will be dropping like it’s hot, over here.


“The story about Christian Vieri discovering Robbie Keane’s fridge full of Tin at Inter [Friday’s Fiver] would be a sponsor’s dream … Tinter Milan, anybody?” – Gerry Rickard.

“Re: Thursday’s Fiver. According to Asda’s website, a new hire needs to “deliver great results” by being “naturally friendly”, “a role model” with “an enthusiastic approach and good people skills” … not sure José’s new CV is going to help much” – Chris Brown.

“At least Brighton elder Glenn Murray can save himself some elbow grease if face masks become de rigeur; players won’t have to cover their mouths when revealing state secrets to each other” – Justin Kavanagh.

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 … Chris Brown [not that one, we hope].


Salomon Kalou is going on the naughty list after filming himself breaking social distancing rules at Hertha Berlin. The former Chelsea forward was seen shaking hands with teammates in a video he posted on Social Media Disgrace Facebook.

Marcus Rojo can join him, perhaps linking up down the left flank in some sort of Covidiots XI, after being caught kicking back and playing cards with the boys in his native Argentina.

Marvin Sordell thinks players should be given the right to refuse to return to action even if Project Restart proceeds. “Football is not a matter of life and death,” said the former Watford striker.

The FA’s chief suit, Greg Clarke fears fans will not be returning to football stadiums “any time soon.” Meanwhile, the fact that club safety officers are currently furloughed or working from home could leave players and officials at risk.

Suits in Spain have agreed that the all-Basque Copa Del Rey final between Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao will be held back until fans are able to attend.

Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad fans get excited.

Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad fans get excited. Photograph: Javier Etxezarreta/EPA

Gary Neville has taken Premier League clubs to task over their handling of the Covid-19 crisis. “They are bottling this virus on comms,” Neville barked while gesticulating at a giant tablet.

And the Netherlands manager, Ronald Koeman, is recovering after undergoing a heart procedure in Amsterdam. Get well soon, Ronald!


The psychological hurdle may be the toughest for players after the Covid-19 shutdown, predicts Paul MacInnes.

Jonathan Wilson believes it’s time to cut the Premier League some slack.

Did it actually happen? Who led the feeding frenzy? And who was the real victim? Jonathan Liew digs deep into the Terry v Bridge saga.

Balotelli, Agüerooooooooo and a “feeling of utter euphoria that will never be bettered”, as Will Unwin picks his favourite game. And here’s Clay Johnson, who loved his Wembley day out as a Liverpool fan – even though Wimbledon won the Cup.

A judge’s decision to reject the US women’s team’s allegations of gender discrimination stunned just about everyone, but Caitlin Murray says they will win the war on equal pay.

Louise Taylor reckons that England women’s future should be Oranje.
From Ronaldo to Beckenbauer, how good are you at ageing the players? Test yourself right here!


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