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Magic of FA cup

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David Squires on … football conspiracy theories uncovered

Our resident cartoonist puts on his tin foil hat and reveals some shocking football-related conspiracies

https://www.theguardian.com/football/ng-interactive/2021/mar/23/david-squires-on-football-conspiracy-theories-uncovered

22ec6941d3f22fddaec2a79cff641721.jpg4a6028b4ddcc1acd037c48559a8c5e59.jpgd7b079d325dc6b187db8c5a0d3446a03.jpg6f04f40df4f0a1bb8ce8eca2e731a231.jpg

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The Fiver

The brazen neck to describe this as one of 'those big England nights'

 

Some England training entertainment, at the very least.
camera.png Some England training entertainment, at the very least. Photograph: Eddie Keogh/The FA/Getty Images

Scott Murray


TV TIMES

England play the worst team in the world later on Thursday. San Marino are ranked 210th and last in the official rankings, and we always trust Fifa when it starts talking numbers. That means they’ve been even less successful historically than the likes of São Tomé and Principe, Brunei Darussalam, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Scotland. Kick-off at Wembley is at 7.45pm GMT on ITV. Not long after, Stacey makes a big decision in EastEnders, which sounds interesting, while over on The Dog House (Channel 4, 8pm) the folk at the kennels might have found a forever home for Grant the little West Highland terrier. Aw bless. Very much looking forward to seeing him scamper about.

The San Marino match isn’t a total waste of time, though. Well, it sort of is, but it does give Gareth Southgate the opportunity to rest Harry Kane, who played all 120 minutes of Tottenham’s laugh riot at Dinamo Zagreb last Thursday, then three days later pulled off the heist at Villa Park where poor old Matty Cash was done up like a kipper, well true and proper. Plenty of midnight oil was burned while planning that caper, and criminal masterminds are still only human like the rest of us, they get tuckered out too, so Big H gets to put his feet up. Just in time to catch the last of this year’s heats in MasterChef.

Southgate had the brazen neck to describe this as one of “those big England nights”, slightly undermining an already ludicrous point by comparing it to the 9-0 win over Luxembourg in 1982. Drifting off into nostalgic reverie, he spoke of the “Luther Blissett hat-trick in my head” while insisting that “there are little moments in those games that we look back on from our youth and kids of today will do that.” The Fiver isn’t quite so confident about that, given the cumulative score between the two countries in their previous six meetings is 37-1, and we all know full well the only goal anyone remembers. Lightning never strikes twice, so expect a bored nation to start looking for the remote control at approximately 7.45pm and 6.3 seconds.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE!

Join Scott Murray for hot MBM coverage of England 6-0 San Marino from 7.45pm GMT, while Simon Burnton will mop up the rest of the Human Rights World Cup qualifiers on his clockwatch.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Yes” – Melbourne City’s Rhali Dobson accepts her partner’s proposal after she went over to celebrate with him, having scored in the final game of her career before retiring to support his cancer treatment. Think there’s some dust in the room.

What an UNBELIEVABLE moment as @rhali_dobson's partner proposes to her after the game! AHH! 😍😭#WLeague #MCYvPER pic.twitter.com/2RDSld3L5J

— Westfield W-League (@WLeague) March 25, 2021

FIVER LETTERS

“I’m not expecting a Fiver campaign, but consider this. Last Saturday my rubbish team Southend got a rare penalty v Firewall FC when our Tim Dieng was pushed to the ground by their skipper Jordan Clarke; definitely a pen, but Dieng made a meal of it by holding his face/head (though to be fair he had a bandaged head from a nasty cut a week earlier so could have been in pain). Clarke’s red card has been rescinded and now, instead, Dieng has been given a two-match ban. How is that possible when even ‘simulation’ spotted by a ref only gets a yellow and when theatrical tumbles are normal, unpunished fare in the Premier League and Big Cup? It’s bad enough that we’re probably going out of the league after 100-plus years without the EFL sticking an extra boot in” – Bryan Matthews.

“Re: Neil Wells (yesterday’s Fiver letters). As a Manchester United fan, I was at the 1971 Chelsea away match in which United conceded the first goal through a pass across, just outside the penalty area, but I hope that Paddy Crerand owns up and calls The Fiver to state it was not John Fitzpatrick who committed this heinous crime” – Rob Burke.

“OK, I know I’m not actually supposed to take anything seriously, to be emotionally pinged in any way, but in yesterday’s Fiver there were two remarkable letters, one in-good-faith report of a coaching change retraction, a young adult shifting the literacy rate of an entire country and an Egyptian who could make millions impersonating some Argentinian. Strange times; I enjoyed it” – Paul Benveniste.

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 … Bryan Matthews.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Crewe chairman John Bowler has stood down following the publication of the Sheldon report into sexual abuse in football. “We obviously welcome this decision,” read a statement from the Offside Trust. “We thought it might have been made in 2016.”

FFP rules are to undergo dramatic change, with the key break-even measure declared “purposeless” by Uefa. Hmm …

Fifa will not punish Norway after their players protested about Qatar’s hosting of the Human Rights World Cup before the 3-0 qualifying win in Gibraltar. “Fifa believes in the freedom of speech, and in the power of football as a force for good,” it cheered.

Respect, earlier.
camera.png Respect, earlier. Photograph: Jon Nazca/Reuters

Wales are licking their wounds after a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Belgium. “They are No 1 in the world for a reason,” sighed caretaker boss Robert Page.

The Republic O’Ireland did a goal – two of them! – but it wasn’t enough to avoid a 3-2 defeat in Serbia.

Slovenia defender Petar Stojanovic is revelling in his team’s 1-0 win over Croatia. “We’ve been told many times that we are just a skiing nation but we showed that we have a great national soccer team too,” he whooped.

Former Dutch goal-getter Marco van Basten wants the offside rule scrapped. “I am convinced that football would be better without it,” he trilled.

And Queen’s Celtic skipper Scott Brown will leave Parkhead this summer after 14 seasons with the club to join Aberdeen as player-coach.

STILL WANT MORE?

Six new England-born players, Michail Antonio and Human Rights 2022 to follow? The Reggae Boyz of Jamaica have big plans, as Paul MacInnes learns.

How the EFL prepares would-be stars of the future. By Ben Fisher.

From Weston-super-Mare to Wembley: Ben Fisher traces the origin story of super-Villan Ollie Watkins.

Every hero needs …
camera.png Every hero needs … Photograph: Eddie Keogh/The FA/Getty Images

When it comes to Qatar, look to Norway to find a moral compass, writes Barry Glendenning.

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

IS ADRIAN ‘AIDY’ BOOTHROYD STILL WORKING HIS MAGIC?

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47 minutes ago, Jason said:

Seems like this will happen soon...

 

May he long be there, sure he will get them results here and there and sure VAR will come to their aid but he is no where near WC. Good news imo.

43 minutes ago, Vesper said:

fuck that Norsk twat

Can you speak swedish Vesper?

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10 minutes ago, Atomiswave said:

May he long be there, sure he will get them results here and there and sure VAR will come to their aid but he is no where near WC. Good news imo.

Can you speak swedish Vesper?

ja

jag kan prata svenska men jag är inte helt flytande

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The Telegraph

Friday March 26 2021

Football Nerd

England could win a tournament playing attacking football but it would buck a trend

102x102DanZeqiri.png

By Daniel Zeqiri

It is the football debate that never ages and remains the subject of incalculable hours of pub conversation: which team should the England manager pick?

More often than not, the answer is a different team from the one they are currently selecting. In this spirit, there are growing frustrations with Gareth Southgate, mainly for not putting enough emphasis on England's attacking jewels and approaching games too conservatively.

However, a look at the trend of recent international tournaments suggests he may be right to be cautious.

Summer football is imperfect and necessarily involves compromise given the lack of available training time, and almost all recent tournament winners have been rather functional.

The winners of the last eight tournaments have conceded fewer than a goal per game, with four of them conceding fewer than a goal every other game. Just one scored more than two goals per game on average. A measured approach seems to get the job done.

Contrast this with the Champions League. Setting aside last year's Covid-affected format, seven of the previous 10 Champions League winners averaged more than two goals per game in the knockout stages and the final. Three of those 10 winners managed to lift the famous trophy while conceding more than a goal per game.

In this week's Football Nerd, I explore this subject in greater depth and wonder if Southgate may be justified to prioritise solidity.

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The Fiver

The Bossman Steo's coming-out party against Luxembourg

 

Surely this time, O’Ireland?
camera.png Surely this time, O’Ireland? Photograph: Novak Djurovic/PA

John Brewin


LUX AETERNA?

This week’s Human Rights World Cup qualifying has reminded us that night after night after night of wall-to-wall Barclays is not so bad. Guzzling Gazprom actually does represent la crème de la crème of football. Steve Bruce, Graham Potter, Andrea Agnelli, Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa: come back to the five and dime soon, lads. The Fiver never knows what it’s got until it loses it.

Ollie Watkins, the best (only?) thing to come out of Weston-super-Mare since Jeffrey Archer, scoring for England against not-actually-that-plucky minnows San Marino? Yawn, whatever. Frank de Boer a rubbish manager? José Mourinho told you that in a 2018 drive-by. Norwegian and German players revealing footballers have taken notice that all may not be roses behind the building of those desert enormodomes? Better, much better, but the lack of football on an international fortnight Friday is thin gruel for those trying to compose a halfway [that’s ambitious – Fiver Ed] humorous round-robin email.

A Bobby Goulding-esque side-step into the weird world of Super League is tempting but The Fiver can’t spake with any authority on that rough stuff up north. So the weekend’s fixtures in the Uefa region it is, where a good news story awaits. For Saturday night, when Luxembourg travel to Dublin, represents Stephen Kenny’s Republic O’Ireland coming-out party, when the Bossman Steo, as the true cognoscenti call him, might finally be able to smile. In the 11 months since he succeeded the Barnsley bluster of Mick McCarthy, Steo has usually worn the expression of Ron Saunders being handed a parking ticket. And small wonder, since the Bossman has been presented with a more-than-troublesome set of circumstances including Sheffield United players, Covid outbreaks, further false positives costing him key players in the play-off to reach the Euros and the ruinous club form of Shane Duffy.

It took 678 minutes for Alan Browne to break the Bossman’s duck, scoring the first goal of Steo’s reign in Serbia. By full-time, all of O’Ireland were wildly celebrating a 3-2 defeat, though strictly behind closed doors as restrictions demand. Now for the Luxembourgers, surely lambs to a Saturday night slaughter in the Aviva. If this was Eurovision, then perhaps this would be a contest (it’s 7-5 O’Ireland on that score, Cousin Wogan Fiver tells us).

In football terms, it’s 5-0 to O’Ireland, though the last meeting was in way back 1987 when Paul McGrath ooah-ed a late winner at the old Lansdowne Road. And times have moved on a tad since. Luxembourg, Europe’s one-time whipping boys, have become actually quite decent under the management of Luc Holtz – Bossman Luco to Lux cognoscenti. A squad including players from Norwich, Mainz, Dynamo Kiev and Standard Liège went close to reaching the Nations League B in the last campaign, which Cousin Co-efficient Fiver tells us actually means something. Oh Steo, oh no.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I will be removing myself until the people in power are able to regulate their platforms with the same vigour and ferocity that they currently do when you infringe copyright” – Thierry Henry announces he is stepping away from social media disgraces until the various platforms start taking racism and bullying seriously. He may be offline some time.

Thierry Henry, earlier.
camera.png Thierry Henry, earlier. Photograph: Ezequiel Becerra/AFP/Getty Images

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

It’s Football Weekly Extra … on a Friday?

FIVER LETTERS

“Can I be the 1,057th reader to wonder why, if Fifa believes in free speech, it is holding a World Cup in Qatar?” – Richard O’Hagan (and no others).

“Now that the EU, the UK, the US and Canada have sanctioned Chinese officials for the human rights violations against Uighur Muslims, and a leading set of barristers’ chambers have concluded that there is a ‘credible case’ of genocide, when do we expect Arsenal to apologise to Mesut Özil for dismissing concerns as just his ‘personal opinion’? Or do Arsenal still think that this is all just ‘politics’ and that they’re better off ‘not involving [themselves] in’ such politics?” – Will Reddie.

“Well done to Marco van Basten for suggesting the offside rule is scrapped (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs). Schoolyards in Britain have long been experimenting with this very proposal and even developed the unique tactical position of ‘official goal-hanger’ to ensure a maximum goal return for the big guy who took up smoking before you. However, in a pandemic-ravaged economy, can we really afford for the ranks of the unemployed to be swelled by the redundancies of VAR operatives and assistant referees?” – Colin Reed.

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 … Will Reddie.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Around 5,000 Netherlands fans will be able to attend their World Cup qualifier against Latvia in Amsterdam on Saturday as part of a government-backed initiative – provided they have tested negative for Covid in the morning and recorded it on a CoronaCheck app. “This is a way it could also work with the clubs and the European Championship,” declared Dutch FA suit Gijs de Jong.

Jogi Löw is happy his players sent another message to Qatar before their qualifying win over Iceland. “We stand for human rights, no matter the location. Those are our values,” he roared.

Wales players would have quite the ordering.
camera.png Wales players would have quite the ordering. Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/Reuters

Everton’s planning application for their new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock has received government approval. “On such a momentous day, [we] would like to thank every Evertonian, along with the many organisations, the tens of thousands of people across the city region and the team of dedicated staff who have played a vital role in ensuring the club reached today’s milestone,” cheered the club.

Sheffield United owner Prince Abdullah claims Chris Wilder tried to resign twice as manager before he left earlier this month. “I felt it was my mistake because we recruited how Chris wanted, we spent over £120m,” he tooted.

And José Mourinho insists he has learned to deal with critics questioning his methods. Through a prism of modesty, of course. “I don’t think anybody is going to discuss rocket science with the guys from Nasa, with everybody around the world,” he parped. “They think they can discuss football with one of the most important managers in the game. I got used to it. I appreciate that … I have so many Mourinistas around the world that I play for them.”

STILL WANT MORE?

It’s gettin’, it’s gettin’, it’s gettin’ kinda heavy: Marcus Christenson drops the Euro 2020 power rankings.

Thomas Strakosha stands in the way of England’s strikers in Tirana on Sunday. The Lazio goalkeeper gets his chat on with Will Unwin.

WSL Weekend sees Manchester United take to the Old Trafford stage on Saturday when they play West Ham, but Suzanne Wrack bemoans a missed broadcast opportunity.

No Leigh Sports Village for these ladies this weekend.
camera.png No Leigh Sports Village for these ladies this weekend. Photograph: Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Roqué Junior, yes, Roqué Junior, won the absolute lot in football. Only Ronaldinho, Cafu and Dida from Brazil matched his haul. He speaks to Eryck Gomes.

How better to boost hopes ahead of a big cup match than sessions on Call of Duty? Nick Ames hears from Josh Gowling, the manager of Hereford.

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

A MAXIMO FRIDAY

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Have you folks seen why James Rodrigues from Everton aint playing? He has taken hormones ( female ones ) and has had his johnson removed. He went through a full on surgery last week it is said. Its all been very hushed by his club. If true then he cant play footy no more.

https://www.sickchirpse.com/james-rodriguez-transgender/

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The Fiver

Losing to a nation whose big claim to fame is not having a claim to fame

 

Luxembourg bringing the pain, earlier.
camera.png Luxembourg bringing the pain, earlier. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/AFP/Getty Images
Barry Glendenning

Barry Glendenning


O’IRELAND!

If the Republic O’Ireland’s weekend defeat at the hands of Luxembourg was an FA Cup giant-killing, it would be classed as more of a noteworthy surprise than a particularly seismic shock. Granted, the presence of both national teams in the draw for the Grand Old Competition would initially raise eyebrows, but in terms of David slaying Goliath, Luxembourg’s victory ought to generate no more surprise than maybe a high end League Two side travelling to the home of mid-table opposition in the division above and securing a late and not entirely undeserved win.

While O’Ireland’s footballers, their manager and fans have every right to feel embarrassed by losing to a country whose biggest claim to fame is not actually having any claims to fame, nobody who has had the misfortune to sit through pretty much every single game O’Ireland have played in the past five years will have been particularly shocked to see them lose. Indeed if anything sums up the inherent Luxembourgness of Luxembourg in a nutshell, it’s the fact that arguably the greatest triumph in their football history turns out not to have been a particularly big deal.

Having mastered the art of looking sheepish and telling fans what he thinks they want to hear during years of post-match interviews in his role as Everton captain, Séamus Coleman didn’t mince his words following O’Ireland’s defeat. “We should be embarrassed,” he said. “As players we need to have a good hard look at ourselves. You need people demanding the ball out there and I don’t think we did that enough. If we were building up on one side then you need people to want it out the other side. I don’t think we heard enough voices. I’ve got to come out here and do an interview but there are no words for that,” he added, having just used 75 of them to sum his side’s performance up quite succinctly.

O’Ireland’s latest reverse means that their manager, Stephen Kenny, has now masterminded victory in precisely none of his opening 10 games in charge, a dismal record that has prompted many of his compatriots who didn’t consider him worthy of consideration for the role in the first place to call for his head. Unable to afford to replace him even if they wanted to, assorted Football Association of O’Ireland bigwigs have said they expect him to remain in charge. Having become the first “major” football nation to show their determination to boycott what promises to be a controversial World Cup in Qatar, O’Ireland must now prepare for more potential embarrassment on Tuesday night. Their next opponents? None other than Qatar.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“We’re in dreamland” – Hornhchurch boss Mark Stimson, whose Isthmian Premier Division season was abandoned on 3 November, is still trying to get his head round how his side fought back from going behind to Notts County three times before winning 5-4 on penalties to make it to the FA Trophy final.

Scenes! ‘Just a pub team from Hornchurch’
camera.png ‘Just a pub team from Hornchurch!’ Photograph: JMS Photography/Shutterstock

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Get your ears round the latest Football Weekly podcast here.

FIVER LETTERS

“So much for Stephen Kenny’s Republic O’Ireland coming-out party (Friday’s Fiver). I don’t know if Bossman Steo actually does smiling, in any case. As for The Fiver’s Eurovision comparison, this is the FAI we’re talking about here, so there’s zero chance that O’Ireland’s nul points represents Kenny’s Waterloo” – Justin Kavanagh.

“In the 62nd minute of Romania 0-1 Germany, the camera flashed to the suave German coach sitting in a padded Covid-restricted ‘Do Not Sit Here’ seat in his nice knitted sweater and matching overcoat. Is he a Löw unto himself?” – Steve Lewis.

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 … Steve Lewis.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Gareth Bale has backed the idea of a mass social media boycott to tackle online abuse. “If it was a campaign where a lot of influential people in sport and other forms of life [boycotted it] to make a statement then I think it could help,” said Bale, whose Wales teammates Ben Cabango and Rabbi Matondo were abused over the weekend.

Hal Robson-Kanu, Matondo and Tyler Roberts have been sent home from the Wales camp after “breaching FAW protocol”. An official statement confirmed that all three players will miss Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against Czech Republic.

The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, is hopeful crowds of more than 10,000 fans may be able to attend some matches at Euro Not 2020, with the semi-finals and final to be played at Wembley. “I’m very hopeful and optimistic that we will get many, many more people in for the later stage games,” Dowden roared.

Aidy Boothroyd is trying to stay optimistic with his England Under-21s facing an early exit from the Euros after a limp defeat to Portugal. “It’s still mathematically possible, we have to go out and get a good result [against Croatia]” mused Boothroyd, who is set for (presumably brief) contract talks this summer.

Oh Aidy!
camera.png Oh Aidy! Photograph: Jurij Kodrun - The FA/The FA/Getty Images

Gareth Southgate is channelling Liberty X and asking his England players to give him just a little bit more. “I’m pushing for a bit more because I think that’s the standard we’ve got to set if we want to be a really top team,” Southgate crooned.

Meanwhile, that distant cheering you can hear is Harry Maguire and John Stones digesting news that Robert Lewandowski’s knee-knack has ruled him out of Poland’s World Cup qualifier with England.

And referee Danny Makkelie has held his hands up after Portugal were denied a legitimate winning goal against Serbia. “I apologised to the Portuguese team and coach for what happened,” Makkelie told A Bola after his team of officials failed to spot that Cristiano Ronaldo’s shot had crossed the line. “When [referees] are in the news in this manner, it doesn’t make us happy at all.”

STILL WANT MORE?

Get your WSL talking points, right here!

WSL
camera.png Manchester City’s Chloe Kelly, Everton’s Hayley Raso, Chelsea star Sam Kerr and Birmingham’s Ruby Mace in composite picture action. Composite: Getty/Shutterstock

San Marino don’t deserve derision but perhaps a pre-qualifying tournament would offer a better pathway to improvement, writes Barry Glendenning.

Greg Wood on how Football Index dangerously blurred the lines between betting and investment, leading to a collapse that has cost its customers millions.

England cannot simply cram all their attacking talent into the same team, so Gareth Southgate is right to be pragmatic, notes Jacob Steinberg. Plus: player ratings from England’s victory in Albania.

Go, go power rankings!

Arsenal’s hipster full-back Héctor Bellerín has fallen in love with photography during lockdown. He gets his chat on with Nick Ames here.

Fancy a thousand words on England v Poland in 1973 from floating-football-brain-in-a-jar Jonathan Wilson? Of course you do.

Doink! The latest Joy of Six offers up half-a-dozen great toe-poke finishes from football and futsal, with an emphasis on Brazilian flair.

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

SOY OF THE ROVERS

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logo football observatory

Best players of the first trimester 2021

 

The CIES Football Observatory has developed a unique methodology to compare the performance of players irrespective of their position. Issue number 331 of the Weekly Post highlights the outfield footballers with the highest score for domestic league matches played since the 1st of January 2021 for each of the 98 big-5 league clubs. Only players fielded for at least two thirds of minutes during this period are included in the rankings.

The greatest value overall was recorded for Lionel Messi: 92.5 out of 100! Eliminated from the Champions League, the Argentinean striker and FC Barcelona can now focus on the Liga. However, the departure of Luis Suárez will be a major obstacle to the title race. The Uruguayan has indeed the top performance score (84.3) at Atlético Madrid, while Toni Kroos (87.5) leads the table for Real Madrid ahead of Karim Benzema (85.3).

In the other four main European leagues, the highest CIES FO performance index values were registered for Robert Lewandowski in the Bundesliga (89.5), Cristiano Ronaldo in the Serie A (89.3), Guillermo Maripán (86.3) in the Ligue 1 and Jorginho Frello in the Premier League (89.4). In the latter competition, Chelsea’s midfielder outranks Rubén Dias (89.4), Wilfred Ndidi (85.2) and Luke Shaw (83.4). The technical profiles of all big-5 league players are available here.

e7321ed28d7bdfd30216aae80684b9da.png

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Claude who used to be your on AFTV has passed away...

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2 minutes ago, Mana said:

Claude who used to be your on AFTV has passed away...

Damn, what caused it? He suddenly got so fat that he could barely breath I remember. He was alright imo, he was about facts and not surgering all the details. RIP.

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The Fiver

Sergio Agüero, the muse to Martin Tyler’s signature moment

 

Almost nine years old.
camera.png Almost nine years old. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Scott Murray


AGÜERGO

Lee Bradbury. Gerry Creaney. Rodney Marsh. Jô. Down the years, Manchester City have never wanted for strikers that would get fans discussing their performances in a highly animated fashion down the drinker. With great feeling. At some length. Using fruity linguistic flourishes. Sergio Agüero can be filed alongside these dudes, too, albeit for slightly different reasons. Agüero has been jaw-dropping in a rather more acceptable way, with his 257 goals in 384 matches, and while he’s not quite as loveable or relatable as the equally legendary Shaun Goater, The Fiver will concede that he’s probably, on balance, a little bit better.

But all good things peter out anticlimactically, and on Monday night the muse to Martin Tyler’s signature moment calmly announced his intention to quietly take his leave of City at the end of this supporter-free season. “When a cycle comes to an end, many sensations arise,” began a statement which in an ideal world would have been set to the soothing sounds of the pan pipes. Agüero went on to speak of his “indestructible bond with all those who love this club, people who will always be in my heart” and promised to “give it my utmost for the rest of the season”, which, given his knack problems, will probably consist mainly of sitting in the stands looking on aghast as City somehow conjure up yet another absurd way to crash out of Big Cup while hot favourites.

But even if European glory once again evades City, they’re going to win the league, aren’t they, and so Agüero ends his 10-year stay having landed five titles, an FA Cup and 287 Milk Cups. That’s not bad going, especially when you throw in the most dramatic winner of all, one that sent Fergie into a flat spin and knocked Michael Thomas into a c0cked hat. He leaves in search of “a new stage with new challenges”, and unlike the aforementioned Bradbury, Creaney, Marsh and Po’ Jô, bodyswerves a notorious graveyard for strikers with reputation very much intact. No pressure on his mooted replacement Erling Braut Haaland, then, given that at City, this job usually goes one of two very distinct ways.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“It was horrible! I apologise to all the mothers who saw their children get the same haircut … but the journalists saw [it] and forgot about the [knack]” – the Real Ronaldo reckons his unique World Cup 2002 hairdo, which looked like a massive forehead-bothering monobrow, ended up being a handy diversionary prop in press conferences.

It’s like he’s wearing his face as a mask.
camera.png It’s like he’s wearing his face as a mask. Photograph: Daniel García/EPA

RECOMMENDED LOOKING

David Squires counts your flags and conjures some lifelong England memories.

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

It’s only Football Weekly: your questions answered.

FIVER LETTERS

“First, it was pre-empting Spurs’ Big Vase travails, then the lauding of O’Ireland before their meeting with Luxembourg – maybe it’s time to pen a piece on Steve Bruce’s longevity at St James’ Park? You’d never have to buy your own Tin in Newcastle ever again when the inevitable comes to pass” – Jim Hearson.

“News that UK culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, is hopeful that crowds of more than 10,000 may be able to attend some matches at Euro Not 2020 has doubtlessly been greeted with envy in Dublin. The FAI won’t be expecting crowds that big until at least the World Cup 2026 qualifiers” – 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 … Justin Kavanagh.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Rebecca Welch is the first woman appointed to referee a Football League game. “I’ve got no doubt, in the next 10 to 15 years, we will see a female referee in the Premier League,” she peeped before Harrogate Town v Port Vale on Monday.

Rebecca Welch will be officiating Harrogate v Port Vale.
camera.png Rebecca Welch will be officiating Harrogate v Port Vale. Photograph: Adam Davy/Reuters

Republic O’Ireland boss Stephen Kenny has expressed dismay at the sorry state of human rights in Qatar before his side’s friendly against the 2022 hosts. “It’s not acceptable for so many people to lose their lives,” he said. “You can’t sweep that under the carpet, it can’t be ignored.”

Poland expect their 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw with England at Wembley to go ahead despite the number of positive Covid cases in Paolo Sousa’s squad rising to four.

Both legs of Chelsea’s Big Cup quarter-final win on away goals over Porto will be played in Seville because of Covid.

Mo Salah reckons memories of being shoulder-slammed out of the 2018 Big Cup final by Sergio Ramos will give him more pep in his step when Liverpool face Real Madrid next week. “Let’s just say that I have special motivation to win the tie,” he blabbed to Madrid’s in-house magazine Marca.

Shortbread McFiver’s hopes of a Scotland debut have been given a boost after Steve Clarke admitted he is feeling frisky enough to give someone else a go in goal against the Faroe Islands. “I can use the depth of the squad if I feel it is the right thing to do,” he teased. “I know what my team is, I have it written down and it is in my pocket.”

And Mongolia are nursing their wounds after a 14-0 shoeing in HR World Cup qualifying.

STILL WANT MORE?

“I felt degraded”: Ram Marwa on being racially abused as a young footballer.

Ram Marwa, pictured with his 13-year-old son Bjorn.
camera.png Ram Marwa, pictured with his 13-year-old son Bjorn. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Beleaguered O’Ireland boss Stephen Kenny needs to be cut some slack and given more time, reckons Paul Doyle.

Floating football brain in a jar Jonathan Wilson dissects the meaning of Sergio Agüero and his symbolic importance to City.

David Hytner gets his chat on with new Poland manager Paulo Sousa about interacting with his team on Zoom, Bob Lewandowski and the greats he played with.

Which Premier League clubs have the hardest and easiest run-ins? Ben McAleer takes a butcher’s.

Could a Norway boycott of the Human Rights World Cup in 2022 change the future of football, wonders Håvard Melnæs.

Caitlin Murray on the fallout from the failure of the USA! USA!! USA!!! men’s team to qualify for Big Sports Day in Tokyo.

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

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