January 31, 2023



The Fiver: Treating Premier League footballers like sheep to get them to market | Football

5 min read


Our Land Rover-driving, Barbour jacket-wearing, fox hunting-supporting cousin, Get Orf My Land Fiver, knows a thing or two about how to keep their product clean so people will part with their hard-earned for it. Many years ago, Granny Fiver gave us a clip round the ear and bundled us on to a bus up to his despair-filled farm on a “Discipline Day”. It was sheep-dip season, a time when wide-eyed lambs were shoved into a bath of disinfectant that no human would dare touch in order to maintain their market value. Despite their protestations, Get Orf My Land Fiver joyfully booted his recently sheared and scared witless stock into the murky brew, cackling like a gammon-faced loon as he pictured all the cash he’d be able to shove into the pockets of his mustard corduroys when his sanitised product was considered saleable.

It’s a scene we were reminded of as we read reports of the protocols the Premier League will put in place in order to get the first phase of team training under way next Monday. The English top flight’s flock of players will be chased down from the hills to their club’s sterile training bases, where they will be hoofed by a bleached boot on to disinfected pitches to play football using hosed-down balls, cones, goalposts and corner flags while wearing masks. Physical distancing will be “strictly observed” at all times, no tackling will be allowed and players will be unable to engage in dressing-room [email protected] or shower afterwards, instead being corralled towards their cars and told to go home immediately. Sounds wild.

In addition, they will be expected to undergo twice-weekly testing and a daily questionnaire and temperature check. Even if such stringent conditions are observed there is no guarantee that a footballer will be safe. Or a footballer’s family member. Or a staff member. Or … well you get the picture. But at least there is a massive appetite for football, even if it means treating panicked Premier League footballers like sheep on dipping day to get them to market, right? Oh.

A YouGov poll published as the UK coronavirus death toll officially exceeded 40,000, found that 73% of people said they couldn’t give a flying one if the Premier League and EFL returned to our TVs because it would not lift their mood. The sheep have spoken. If only someone would actually listen.


Join Rob Smyth for retro minute-by-minute updates from the 1994 Big Cup final between Milan and Barcelona at 7.15pm BST.

To Athens!

To Athens! Photograph: Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images


“I know that many of you are tempted by his offer to get out of the dire situation that has crippled your club for so many years. But the Crown Prince is accused of ordering Jamal’s murder. All credible investigations have shown his responsibility. He has not been put on trial in his own country as he controls it with an iron fist … I implore you all to unite to protect your beloved club and city from the Crown Prince and those around him. They are making this move not to help you and not with your best interests in mind, but solely to serve themselves” – Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, pleads with Newcastle fans to “slam shut the door” on the potential takeover of their club by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.


A new weekly pod launches today! Forgotten Stories of Football will cover the best stories from the beautiful game you might not have heard before. Finally, The Fiver can tell the world why we’re not allowed to play five-a-side any more. But first, Paul Doyle on the 1936 Olympics, where fascism and farce tarnished Italy’s gold medals.

Forgotten Stories of Football

Football, farce and fascism at the 1936 Olympics


“I am extremely disappointed at Big Paper’s continuing negative coverage of the proposed takeover of Newcastle. The Premier League should not be a judge and jury of issues raised by parties who feel aggrieved with the Saudis. There are plenty of disreputable regimes who have committed human rights crimes yet did not see such negative coverage. If your persistent negative reporting continues I will cease to be a supporter and reader of Big Paper, but no doubt you will not be too bothered about that as long as you continue to chase headlines” – Dennis Rowe.

“In the unlikely event that football ever does recommence, would spitting become a bookable offence? Two gobs and you’re off? Then there’s a flob in the penalty area and automatic VAR review. Imagine those beautiful ultra slo-mo replays on Match of the Day” – Guy Davis.

“This photograph is brilliant and I would love a copy, but what appeals to me most is seeing Alf Ramsey rocking that classic tracksuit, footy socks and formal shoes combination” – Tony Crawford.

All eyes to Alf’s ‘going out’ shoes.

All eyes to Alf’s ‘going out’ shoes. Photograph: Gerry Cranham/Offside

“Can’t recommend any of my team’s matches to Matt Richman [Tuesday’s Fiver] but would suggest this bit of half-time entertainment for the interval” – Roger Cooper.

“I can strongly recommend the 2014 FA Cup semi-final to Matt Richman. Hull City 5 -3 Sheffield United. Hope I haven’t let the cat out of the bag there” – Keith Webb.

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 … Dennis Roger Cooper.


Which club’s chief suit said promotion to the Premier League should be scrapped if the Championship season is curtailed? Was it a) Liverpool b) Everton or c) Norwich City. It’s a tricky one, for sure.

The FA case against Fifa over Chelsea’s transfer ban verdict will be heard in June.

The Pope’s Newc O’Rangers have repeated their call for an overhaul of the management of the Scottish Professional Football League despite failing with a bid to secure an investigation into the handling of a vote to scrap the 2019-20 season.

Elche players refused to return to training in protest against reduced salaries.

And Ado Den Haag have only gone and signed Emilio Estevez. “I’m super happy … if you work hard and put your mind to it that you can attract big teams in Europe,” whooped the star of The Mighty Ducks 21-year-old Canadian midfielder.

Emilio Estevez

The other Emilio Estevez, right. Photograph: American Photo Syndicate/Rex Features


Face masks, regular testing and contact-free training: Will Unwin takes a look at the Premier League’s risky restart plan and wonders if it’s really worth it.

Which football ground is named after a boxer who died 2,380 years ago? Ask the Knowledge.

Former Brazil player Raí has attacked the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, labelling him “irresponsible” for pushing domestic football to resume. The World Cup winner then spoke exclusively to Yellow and Green Football.

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

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