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NO TROPHY FOR OLD MEN
Should Tottenham Hotspur win the Milk Cup this season, one suspects José Mourinho will rank the achievement right up there with some of the most mediocre of his glittering managerial career. A four-times winner before it was hijacked by a soft drinks company named after a Filipino water buffalo, one suspects the Tottenham manager would have nothing but sneering contempt for any big name manager heard talking up the importance of winning such a tin-pot competition. Any big name manager, that is, except him.
But context is everything and when you’re in charge of an apparently Big Club whose ongoing lack of success has spawned a thousand memes and gifs, any old cup will do. Even one so apparently in need of jazzing up its marketing department attempted to stage a draw in space, before eventually settling for Morrisons in Colindale instead. “I think it’s my biggest game since coming to Spurs,” said Mourinho, ahead of Tuesday’s semi-final against Brentford. “In the perspective of the club chasing silverware for many years I would say so.”
The competition that no fans get particularly excited about or even count as a major trophy until their team get within a game or two of winning it, the League Cup is famously the only one Spurs have won in the past 13 years. On a famous day in February 2008, Robbie Keane and Ledley King hoisted the trophy skywards after beating Chelsea in the final. It was a victory of considerable global significance, at least until No Country For Old Men stole its thunder by winning best film at the Oscars a few hours later.
While Tottenham haven’t troubled a trophy engraver for well over a decade, their opponents, Brentford, have never actually won a major piece of silverware at all. Indeed, tonight marks the first proper cup semi-final in their 131-year history, even if West Middlesex and London War Cup historians might disagree.
“It is a massive game for us,” said their manager, Thomas Frank. “We will do our best to try and attack and take our chances against one of the top teams in the world, who have top players and a top manager.” While Brentford are undeniably good enough to trouble Tottenham, their almost comical failure to somehow avoid promotion to the Premier League last season means their bottle – or specifically lack of it – is likely to be called into question. There are likely to be no shortage of on-brand, low-calorie, fruit-based caffeine drinks delivered to their dressing-room ahead of kick-off – here’s hoping the contents give their players some added zip.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I was hurt when, after giving me just eight minutes in a match, he [Antonio Conte] said I was responsible for everything. What could I have done in eight minutes? But I didn’t make a controversy of it then, and I won’t now either” – new Cagliari loan recruit Radja Nainggolan, not making a controversy of a lack of playing time at Inter by giving his former manager both barrels.
Milan! Madrid! Munich! The latest episode of Football Weekly is a veritable Trans-Europe Express. Listen here.
It’s David Squires on … football’s festive faux pas, Brexit biting Big Sam and “reply guys”.
“Re: Noble Francis’ letter [yesterday’s Fiver]. As a clinical psychologist by trade, I am familiar with allegiances to the most dubious of causes destined for disappointment and failure. Contemporary perspectives use the term cognitive dissonance to describe holding incompatible beliefs (e.g. I want to root for a winner; I root for Arsenal). As I have come to remark to friends, the pain and woe of people who seek goals that are clearly doomed to failure is what keeps me in business” – Paul Benveniste.
“Noble Francis’s idea that there must be some sort of help available for Arsenal diehards reminds me of the end of Dante’s Inferno, where the most vile sinners of all are completely trapped in ice. Since there’s no point in trying to talk to them, Dante and Virgil quickly move on. As an Arsenal fan myself, this seems like an apt metaphor” – Edward Dean.
“Liverpool and Manchester United are duking it out at the top of the Premier League, we’re about to get a slow-talking Democrat in the White House, and Jimmy Tarbuck is on the telly. We all wanted to escape from 2020, but surely no one asked to be sent back to the seventies?” – Mark McFadden.
“Did anyone else notice a decline in VAR delays over the festive break? I suspect that referees don’t enjoy standing in the wintry rain waiting for another bloke to watch telly. That or they got better presents to play with over Christmas than the VAR armpit-line-drawing machine.” – Mike Wilner.
“Re: the list of clubs Ralph Hasenhüttl cut his teeth at [yesterday’s Fiver]. SpVgg Unterhaching, VfR Aalen and FC Ingolstadt sound like the noises Jürgen Klopp will have made when he was as sick as a parrot come full time” – Jon Millard.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
The Premier League has announced that the latest two rounds of Covid-19 testing produced 40 positives. In tests conducted between 28 and 31 December, 28 players and club staff tested positive, with a further 12 in tests carried out between 1 and 3 January.
Gareth Southgate believes football remains “in the dark” about the long-term risks of heading the ball and concussions sustained on the pitch.
Real Madrid are leading the race to sign Bayern Munich’s David Alaba but Liverpool are rounding the bend and could make a late dash to get his autograph.
A proposed takeover of Wigan has collapsed after claims a Spanish consortium reduced its bid by 50%. “This would result in a 15-point deduction and would effectively relegate the club to League Two,” club administrators said in a statement.
Look out Pep! Ole Gunnar Solskjær reckons his Manchester United players will be like turbo-charged Duracell bunnies in the Milk Cup semi-final against City. “We’ve had four days now after Villa so hopefully we’ve got more fresh legs,” he yelped. “We’re going into the game in good form so there’s no excuses.”
And Viking Stavanger forward Even Østensen is doing his bit to STOP FOOTBALL by returning to his old job at a halibut farm. “My motivation was not quite at its peak. This feels natural,” the Norwegian cheered.
STILL WANT MORE?
Frank Lampard is not on Roman Abramovich’s yacht anymore and can ill afford to sail through Chelsea’s peaks and troughs, warns Jonathan Liew.
Richard Foster jumps in his time machine and takes us back to 1942, when Brentford won a Wembley cup final – with help from traffic police. And here’s a piece on why the Bees are more than just a Moneyball operation.
Is Shoreditch barista Sergio Ramos taking his magnificent beard and stellar dark arts to PSG or Manchester City? The Rumour Mill doesn’t know, but read it anyway.
Liverpool look jaded and their knack-crisis may be catching up with them, reckons that man Jonathan Liew again.
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