THE GORY GLORY GAME
For most of their 137-year existence, the grand institution of Tottenham Hotspur has been synonymous with aesthetics and style. Maybe the team never won quite as many trophies as the other big clubs, but they always played with an effervescence that spread joy and wonder where o’er they roamed. Arthur Rowe’s invigorating push-and-run side. Bill Nick and the glory game. The ethereal grace and elegance of John White, Glenn Hoddle, Gazza. A right bunch of preening dandies, and The Fiver stresses we mean that as a compliment, very much so.
You’ve got to hand it to José Mourinho, then. He’s been at the gaff for all of two or three minutes, and already he’s almost totally transformed the mood of the club, fundamentally altered its core principles and philosophies, razed everything to the ground. Fire now comes out of the taps. He’s done diddly squat to address the not-winning thing, but other changes have been effected, and these days the players stomp around all day with faces on, frowning, muttering, looking for trouble, trying to make eye contact, any opportunity to throw hands. On Monday evening, Hugo Lloris and Son Heung-min went at each other in the late-night-arts-discussion-at-Wetherspoons style; now Eric Dier has been handed a four-game ban by the FA for his attempt to restage the last 20 minutes of The Quiet Man after the FA Cup defeat to Norwich. It’s been quite the radical departure.
Breaking news: Mourinho isn’t happy. On Wednesday afternoon, he staged one of those passive-aggressive press conferences peppered with long pregnant pauses that are very much his speciality (though Eric Cantona did them better, and with infinitely more charm). Having been asked for his take on Dier’s ban, he simmered enigmatically for a Pinteresque beat before replying: “If I answer I’m going to be in trouble, and I don’t want to be.” Seventeen minutes later, the next sentence came along. “We all know how it works at these FA decisions. At least let’s start next season without a suspension.” And that was that, his last abrupt sentence being as close to upbeat as things get at Spurs these days. Oh dear. A penny for the thoughts of Danny Blanchflower.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
We have five matches for you, starting with West Brom 2-2 Derby in the Championship at 5pm BST, before Manchester City 3-1 Newcastle and Sheffield United 2-3 Wolves and West Ham 1-1 Burnley kick in at 6pm. Then, to round things off, we have Brighton 1-3 Liverpool at 8.15pm. And breathe.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I’m sorry I came [to Milan] halfway through the season. If I was here from day one we’d have won the championship” – never change Zlatan, never change.
Listen to the latest Football Weekly podcast then treat your ears to the first part of the forgotten story of Dundee United’s glory years under Jim McLean. It’s a cracker from our Forgotten Stories of Football podcast series. Delve into the archive here.
“Oh Fiver, regarding the Scottish manager-bashing (Tuesday’s Fiver), if only you’d done a tad more research. In the last 35 years of top-flight football in England, the total number of title wins by ex Scottish managers is 35. Whereas over the same time span there have been, er, two English title-winning managers. The football in Scotland is top-notch, just ask Virgil” – Marc Meldrum.
“A physical altercation, pushing, shoving and hugging; do those Spurs players think it’s just another weekend in Soho?” – Adrian Brodkin.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love Pat Nevin. The intelligent, cultured, erstwhile Chelsea and Tranmere star who is also in the Clyde Hall of Fame. But of all the things that he can eloquently explain, I’m not sure The Art of the Perfect Penalty is really his bag. Certainly not after this (featuring some classic Barry Davies commentary). Oh Patrick” – Noble Francis.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Héctor Bellerín says he is not going to let Arsenal’s inability to hold on to a lead get in the way of saving the planet. “Personally feel we didn’t deserve that result last night. Tough to take after the fight and courage from the whole team, therefore I will still plant those trees!” roared Bellerín on social media disgrace Twitter.
Is Ole Gunnar Solskjær happy with Manchester United’s form. Nope? “The last 16 games unbeaten gives us confidence but nowhere near what a Man Utd team should strive towards,” he warbled.
2005’s Vágner Love, 78, has joined Kazahkstan league leaders Kairat on a six-month deal.
Pep Guardiola has hinted it might be in the best interests of John Stones if he took his inconsistent legs somewhere else. “Sometimes my wish is not the wish of the players,” he tooted. “If we have to change, we’ll talk. What I want is the best for him.”
Newcastle boss Bernard Cribbins reckons Premier League clubs should dig deep and help out those struggling in the EFL. “I do feel the Premier League clubs must, I repeat must, try and help support the Football League,” he roared, as Mike Ashley guffawed in the corner.
And Adam Lallana has performed his last unnecessary Cruyff turn for Liverpool. “It is clear Adam will leave the club in the summer, if the summer ever starts,” sniffed Jürgen Klopp. “I already miss everything about him.”
STILL WANT MORE?
“I saw him last year. We played in a game in Singapore. I said hello. He tried to score past me but he didn’t, so I was quite happy with winning that one.” David James on ending Dimitar Berbatov’s career by dropping him in India, his desire to manage again and the lack of BAME coaches in the game.
MLS is back baby … and it’s in a Covid-19 hotspot with terrible food, sighs Graham Ruthven.
What are the best poems about football? The Knowledge unearths some lovely verses from Michael Foot in this week’s column.
Jamie Vardy gave Arsenal a painful reminder of what they almost had, reckons Ed Aarons.
And here’s Giles Richards on El Gothico: the drunken-bet fixture that raises money and spirits – even when Covid-19 means it can’t be played.
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