THE RETURN OF PROPER FOOTBALL
If nothing else, the last few months have proved conclusively that the old adage “football without fans is nothing” is bull, tish, pish, balls, balderdash, piffle, waffle, yap and mummery. True, football without fans is not very good. But imagine what the last nine Covid-infused months would have been like without any football at all. The Fiver can only speak for itself, but we’d either be in prison, a gutter or rehab. Or on the run. Or maybe we’d have used the time spent watching the likes of Leicester v Fulham at 5pm on a weekday to learn a new language, or get round to reading Finnegans Wake, or whatever it is you haven’t done either. Leicester v Fulham is better, though, isn’t it?
But now fans are back! This evening, at 7pm, Brunton Park will welcome the first supporters to an English professional game in a non-trial event since the sport was suspended on 13 March. Carlisle United have sold all 2,000 tickets on offer for their League Two match against Salford, the first step on a long road back to some sort of normality. Fans have to arrive early, wear face masks, observe social distancing, not touch the ball if it comes near them, not approach players, and avoid “unnecessary movement”. They’ve also been advised to avoid using toilets during peak times such as half-time and full-time, although now we come to think about it, that might have already been covered with the unnecessary movement clause.
They can also cane booze like there’s no tomorrow, without having to purchase a “substantial meal”, and are of course permitted to sing as long and loud as they like, either in support of their team, or to advise Michael Gove where he can store his scotch eggs. Luton, Wycombe, Charlton, Shrewsbury and Cambridge also welcome fans to their stadium a little later this evening, while Arsenal will become the first top-flight club to fling open their gates again on Thursday night, for the Big Vase fixture against Rapid Vienna. Given Arsenal’s poor form, the willingness of their support to offer trenchant in-game critiques, and how clearly and crisply we’ll be able to hear all these observations with such a small crowd in, expect the TV commentary to be one long rolling 90-minute apology for bad language. The Fiver is very much looking forward to it.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I’m not going to resign [after the 2-0 defeat by Shakhtar], no way. We have always had delicate moments. It is true that it is a bad streak in terms of results, but we must continue. We played very well in the first half but the ball didn’t want to go in the net” – Zinedine Zidane does some expert straw-clutching as he steers Real Madrid towards the glamorous environs of Big Vase Round of 32.
“After the FA Cup draw paired Marine with Spurs (Tuesday’s Bits and Bobs) I was astonished to read that Neil Young is still linked with Crosby. All we need now are Stills and Nash. (Fiver readers under 55 may need to ask a bill-payer to explain this to them) But surely Neil can’t believe Crazy Horse Mourinho has a Heart of Gold? We all know that José virtually guarantees money-spinning TV coverage but his sides arrive Like a Hurricane, and After the Gold Rush what then for our Neil (he could retire to Sugar Mountain – Fiver Ed)?” – Mark McFadden.
“Apropos of nothing (I was bored at half-time in the Shakhtar v Real Madrid game) but pointless stat of the day has to be that Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid has now lost more games and has a lower win percentage than David Moyes at West Ham this season” – Noble Francis.
“Leon-Ben Lamprecht refers to the ‘Department of Redundancy Department’. Would that be part of the Birmingham School of Business School?” – Alan Murphy.
“I can’t believe 1,056 other people haven’t taken the time to write to you to tell you they knew exactly what you meant when you used the phrase about Maradona being the “greatest GOAT”. He was. He was the Greatest “Greatest of all Time”. Nevermind people boring you about a basketball GOAT because they watched a Netflix documentary during lockdown or the tennis GOAT cause let’s be honest – tennis just can’t unite a nation. Neither can golf. Or athletics. Or boxing. No. There can be GOATs in respective sports but Maradona was the Greatest GOAT! That’s what you meant wasn’t it? Honestly, sometimes you have to fight back!” – Andy Morrison.
“While Jossy would no doubt give his right nut to play for the Magpies again (Tuesday’s Bits and Bobs), may I be the first of 1,057 to point out that the erstwhile Glipton Grasshoppers are from Lancashire?” – Andrew Taylor (and, worryingly, no others).
Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’the day prize is … Andrew Taylor, who wins a copy of The Got, Not Got Football Gift Book – Every Fan’s Catalogue of Desires, by Derek Hammond and Gary Silke (postage available to UK only, sorry – Fiver Postal Ed].
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Mikel Arteta has backed the use of temporary concussion substitutes in football, following the horrific clash of heads between Raúl Jiménez and David Luiz, while Sir Geoff Hurst has also supported the idea. Brexit means Brexit! Premier League and EFL clubs cannot sign foreign players until they are 18, with all transfers from EU nations set to be subject to work permits.
Neil Lennon was “hurt” by Queen’s Celtic fans’ protests. “Some of the criticism is over the top,” he sniffed. “It can turn around very quickly, then it’s baby steps after that.”
Norn Iron beat Wales to the the Euro 2022 qualifying play-offs, and are now one step away from a historic first major women’s tournament finals appearance but there was heartbreak for Scotland after a comedic Finnish finnish led to their elimination.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea’s Frank Lampard has praised the attitude of Callum Hudson-Odoi in a move straight out of the Football Manager textbook. “It was hard not to include him in the Tottenham game,” cooed FLCFL. “He took it well. His reaction in training was great.”
The USA! USA!! USA!!! women’s national team have reached an agreement with the US Soccer Federation over equal work conditions with their male counterparts. About time too.
STILL WANT MORE?
Jamal Musiala is Bayern Munich’s latest young star and he qualifies to play for England. Sid Lowe ran the rule over him against Atlético Madrid.
Roberto Firmino took just 22 Big Cup minutes to show his Liverpool worth, reckons Paul Wilson.
James Milner’s unique place in football history and Sir Stanley Matthews’ 70-year span feature in this week’s Knowledge.
Lee Bowyer, the isokinetic dynamometer, new lawnmowers, Guns N’ Roses? Ben Fisher chews the fat with Thomas Sandgaard, Charlton’s ‘Superman’ owner.
“I wasn’t allowed to play football as a girl … it just felt so unfair and such an injustice.” Suzanne Wrack speaks to Kelly Simmons, the FA technical director of the women’s game.
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!
‘ANOTHER BLOATED DISCO, ANOTHER SNIFF OF ROMANCE’