The Fiver | The Premier League, pay cuts and the plight of wild mushrooms | Football


There was consternation among Premier League clubs on Wednesday after they were accused by a major public figure of completely running out of wild mushrooms. Furious MP Julian Knight, chief suit of the House of Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee, lambasted the nation’s top 20 teams for operating in a “morel vacuum”, perhaps believing that the industry had not been giving enough attention to edible fungi since the departure of Fifa’s mushroom-loving if sadly fictional former head honcho, Cep Blatter. “It sticks in the throat,” Knight said of the top flight’s trompette-neglecting ways. “This exposes the crazy economics in English football and the morel vacuum at its centre.”

Knight’s hackles had been raised by news that as the coronavirus crisis bites some clubs were continuing to pay their players in full while simultaneously making swingeing cuts to other areas of their budget, furloughing staff on normal-person wages and showing complete disregard for chanterelles. News of “significant, voluntary pay cuts” reportedly accepted by Eddie Howe and other members of the leadership team at Bournemouth, whose approach might have been influenced by their proximity to the foraging hotbed that is the New Forest, has done little to assuage critics.

One of the issues Premier League clubs have traditionally faced is a lack of either the funds or the inclination to even consider the plight of wild mushrooms, when they could spend £270,000 a week on Mesut Özil instead. However lucrative your global TV rights deal, when Max Meyer is taking home £130,000 a week there’s not a lot left for forest-friendly fungus.

“Fundamentally mushrooms are a bit of a luxury in our business,” said one high-placed source The Fiver made up. “Obviously it’s nice to have some, and there are times in life when they’re almost indispensable, but our business is about success on the pitch and anything that doesn’t help achieve it is irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. We all stopped thinking about mushrooms back when Chelsea started paying Winston Bogarde £40,000 a week and nothing’s changed since.”

***UPDATE: Due to an administrative error at Fiver Towers, Julian Knight’s comments were misreported. He in fact accused the Premier League of operating in a “moral vacuum”. Fortunately if you exchange mentions of mushrooms for morals the report remains fairly accurate, or as accurate as anything you’re going to get from the Fiver. Apologies for any confusion***


“To actually be in a little stadium playing against a team I didn’t know, that was the real ‘Sh!t, I’m back, I’ve made it’ kind of thing. I think the last time I felt that good was when I was 15” – Angus MacDonald gets his chat on with Ben Fisher about how happy he was to play again after having bowel cancer.

Angus MacDonald is ready for action when football un-stops.

Angus MacDonald is ready for action when football un-stops. Photograph: David Greaves/News Images/Shutterstock


The latest Football Weekly podcast is right here.


“If Karim Benzema thinks Olivier Giroud is a ‘go-kart’, I’d love to hear his assessment of Stéphane Guivarc’h. Who, incidentally, also has one more World Cup winners’ medal than Benzema” – Tim Woods (and plenty of others).

“The whole issue between Benzema and Giroud comes down to this, with Giroud you get 75% of Didier Drogba, with Benzema you get 25% of Gary Lineker. You choose” – Chas Tuchel.

“Ed Bailey’s and Steve Doorey’s suggestions (Tuesday’s Fiver) to complete the season via a five-a-side tournament or penalty shootouts are well-intentioned but unnecessarily complicated and involve far too much football. Why not determine the remaining matches of the season, at all levels, through a series of coin tosses? Companies with broadcasting and advertising rights could retain their privileges in the staging of events and the betting companies would be back in business. There would, of course, be some loss of gate revenue and income from the sale of cheese and other dairy products – but these losses could be offset by intercalating another entire season, based solely on coin tosses, between the end of this one and August. I reckon it could be the best chance we’d have of José Mourinho leading Spurs to silverware” – Tony Crooks.

“I enjoyed Patrick Wilkinson’s recollection of his favourite game (Tuesday’s letters) but surely, in the the spirit of The Fiver, readers should be encouraged to send in their recollections of their worst games. You know, the ones that involved them knacking themselves on the way back from a 0-0 draw at Firewall FC or something. It would be just the kind of schadenfreude Fiver readers need in these troubling times” – George Jones.

“Given that the accepted social distance measurement is two metres, then it is going to be hard to tackle, man-mark, or press should football ever go ahead again during this time of criss. Having said that, as a lifelong Coventry City fan, this won’t be anything new for me to watch” – Gerry Rickard.

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 … Tim Woods.


The former Marseille president Pape Diouf has died in Senegal after contracting coronavirus.

Aston Villa goalkeeper Pepe Reina endured “endless minutes of fear” after contracting coronavirus symptoms. “The most difficult moment was when I could no longer breathe, the 25 minutes I ran out of oxygen,” said Reina. “It was the worst moment of my life.”

There’s going to be a Euro 2022! Meanwhile, Big Cup and Big Vase could be completed in August.

Bayer Leverkusen players have joined Barcelona and Bayern Munich in accepting a pay cut to secure the jobs of non-playing staff. “We again got a very concrete idea in the empty BayArena stadium today about how important the various colleagues are in breathing life into the club and how important each and every one of them is in providing us with ideal conditions to do our job,” said Leverkusen captain Lars Bender.

Clubs need to avoid running players into the ground when football starts again, according to a senior Fifpro suit. “We need to have a very thorough planning of how we fix the next years and we need some very strong safeguards so that players do still find their rest,” said general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann.

Scary Northampton boss Keith Curle showed he’s a big softy at heart after delighting a 73-year-old Cobblers fan with a cheery call to check in on her. “I’m so pleased you rung me,” said Muriel, who sits in the East Stand at Sixfields. “I heard the other day you were ringing people and I thought: ‘He’s forgotten me.’”

And two weeks twiddling his thumbs at home is all it took for Kevin De Bruyne to decide he wants to extend his playing career for a good while longer than he intended to. “I told my wife I’m going to play a little longer. After this lockdown, I cannot stay at home. I told her I’m going to take two years more,” yelped the Belgian.

Kevin De Bruyne

Cabin fever’s Kevin De Bruyne. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images via Reuters


Nicaraguan football is ploughing on through pandemic panic, to the delight of strongman president Daniel Ortega and chagrin of Liga Primera side Diriangén: “Our players are very afraid,” general manager Sergio Salazar tells Nick Ames.

Former wonderkid Sonny Pike parps merrily to Mr Ames about his journey from fast-riser to deep-faller, and finding happiness through working with tomorrow’s wannabes.

Which goalscoring great has endured the longest goal drought? This plus late-dated title wins in this week’s Knowledge.

And Quiz! Quiz! Quiz! corner: Premier League managers back in their playing days.

Red-hot composite action, right here.

Red-hot composite action, right here. Composite: Getty Images, Shutterstock, Action Images

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