The Fiver | Covid-19 and a new era of Stop-Start Football

The Fiver | Covid-19 and a new era of Stop-Start Football


We’ve had STOP FOOTBALL, The Fiver’s diligent 11-year campaign that was finally heard by the authorities in March. We’ve had START FOOTBALL, the surprisingly enjoyable and problem-free relaunch. Now, with a second wave of Covid-19 on the way, it looks like we are set for a new era of STOP-START FOOTBALL.

The postponement/cancellation of Leyton Orient’s Milk Cup tie against Spurs on Tuesday night is surely the first of many games that will be called off because of positive Covid-19 tests. West Ham’s match against Hull went ahead despite their manager David Moyes and two players testing positive just before the game. But it feels like bigger problems are round the corner. The schedule is already so tight that even Special One-deniers have started feeling a soupcon of sympathy for José Mourinho. And while it would surely lift global morale to study the nuances of Mourinho’s facial expression and imagine his internal monologue at the precise moment he is told Spurs will have to play four matches in five days, the third of them in Kazakhstan, there are only so many postponements that can take place before the whole 2020-21 season falls down.

The grim, inescapable reality is that, for some, the 2020-21 season will be the last. Tuesday’s announcement that fans are unlikely to return to grounds until at least March means some clubs will go to the wall unless they receive financial help. “Last season, Premier League clubs suffered £700m in losses and at present, our national game is losing more than £100m per month,” read an FA statement. “This is starting to have a devastating impact on clubs and their communities. Football is not the same without attending fans and the football economy is unsustainable without them.” A noble sentiment, if a bit rich given the Premier League has been scheduling John O’Groats v Land’s End at 12pm on Sunday and 8pm on Monday for the past 28 years.

Despite history suggesting otherwise, Frank Lampard’s Chelsea manager Frank Lampard says the Premier League needs to “have a heart” and support struggling Football League clubs. Burnley manager Sean Dyche was a bit more pragmatic. “If the Premier League can do their bit to enhance the chance of other teams surviving, and when that is needed, possibly they’ll step in,” he roared, as The Fiver suffered a particularly acute hit of gravel-voice envy. “But if you are going to apply that rule of thumb, does that mean every hedge fund manager that is incredibly successful, are they going to filter that down to the hedge fund managers that are not so successful? There’s lots of different businesses out there making huge sums of money that could therefore protect similar lines of business but lower down. If you are going to apply it to football, I think you have to apply it across the country to everyone and every business.”

It’s easy to moan, and The Fiver is a world-class operator in this discipline, but the whole thing is so unenviable and unprecedented that we haven’t a clue what should or will happen next. Football faces a chilly winter in which the only certainties are Wolves buying half the population of Portugal, Jürgen Klopp wearing a baseball cap everywhere, even in bed, and lots of suits squinting as they nervously scrutinise the small print.


Join Rob Smyth from 7pm BST for hot clockwatch coverage of the Rumbelows Cup third round, including Leicester 2-3 Arsenal and Fleetwood 1-3 Everton.


“I work with the long, the fast and the clever throw-in. And that goes for the entire field. I’ve coached some teams that only wanted to practise long throws close to the opponent’s goal, but my philosophy is to practice across the entire field. And Liverpool is the first team to really enjoy the benefits of this philosophy” – Thomas Grønnemark explains how he came to become throw-in coach at the Premier League champions and what that entails.

There he is.


Get your ears around the latest Football Weekly podcast, a European special.

Football Weekly

The Barça crisis, Pirlo’s Juventus and Bayern’s machine

Sorry your browser does not support audio – but you can download here and listen




“Given the number of clubs other than Wolves who could qualify for the title of ‘Mendes FC’ and the fact they can now field a team consisting almost entirely of Portuguese players, can I suggest maybe FC Wolvo, or alternatively, the Seleçyow?” – Phil Russell.

“I know our north London neighbours have earned their ‘Spursy’ epithet over the years but I think it’s about time ‘Orienty’ entered the football lexicon. We’re cursed” – John De la Cruz.

“You said that ‘Rennes goalkeeper Edward Mendy is just a cough from the doctor away from putting Kepa Arrizabalaga out of his Chelsea misery’ (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs). Surely it’s a cough for the doctor? No one these days wants to be coughed on by their doctor, especially these days” – Chris Warren (and 1,056 others).

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 … Phil Russell.


Luis Suárez is heading to Atlético Madrid on a free after Barcelona, again showcasing just how well run they are, failed to sort the fine print on an agreement.

Again, you’ll be shocked to learn that Wolves have added another Portuguese player to their squad, in the form of Nelson Semedo, who arrives from Barcelona in a deal worth up to €40m. Leeds, meanwhile, have procured Diego Llorente from Real Sociedad.

Nelson Semedo in Wolves’ new third kit.

Half of Gollivan are attempting to defend West Ham’s limited spending over the summer. “I can’t go and sign two or three players the manager [David Moyes] doesn’t want or we’d have a civil war because I don’t pick the players,” he tooted. “Our manager is a manager, not a coach. I cannot say for sure we are going to sign anybody, and as each day passes I get more depressed. There’s no point saying otherwise.”

Manchester United have told Roma to come back with 18m fat ones if they want Chris Smalling for keeps.

The flamin’ FFA has admitted that, yes, it did forget to make the Matildas’ away kit available to buy in a women’s cut. “The initial unavailability of 2020 national teams away kits in a women’s silhouette was not consistent with the values in which the FFA seeks to uphold,” grovelled a statement.

And plump up your cushions and bulk order more Tin, because every Premier League game in October is set to be televised. Yes, even West Brom v Burnley!


Mick McCarthy on Jack Charlton. It’s lovely.

Has anyone crossed two bigger derby divides than Alex Greenwood? The Knowledge has the answer.

Bravery, earlier.

The grim outlook for Dover Athletic. By Ben Fisher.

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