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SAY IT AIN’T SO, BOILER MAN
The Fiver’s dream has died. No, not the one about living life to the max, though that has been on its last legs since the nineties. We’re talking about our dream of Big Sam Allardyce completing his greatest escape. It was a specific yet heartwarming fantasy, which involved West Brom avoiding relegation after a 0-0 draw with Liverpool that included no corners, no shots on target at either end and few visible signs of human life. The entertainment came after the game, when Big Sam celebrated another miracle by draining a pint of white wine in one hit in front of the Sky Sports cameras, before answering the first question of his interview with an unashamed, borderline homoerotic belch in the face of a bemused Geoff Shreeves. That dream died on Sunday night when West Brom were officially relegated after a 3-1 defeat at Arsenal.
It’s the first time in his career that Allardyce has gone down from the top flight. “Words cannot describe it,” he said, with words. “It’s not sunk in yet, but I’m sure I’ll wake up tomorrow and realise the situation. I’m bitterly disappointed we’re not still in the fight.” Allardyce and West Brom have yet to decide whether he will be at the club next season. “I am not going to answer a question on whether I am staying or going – it will just be a waste of time because I won’t be saying whether I am going or staying,” he said, before repeating the same sentence again and again in an increasingly disorientating and indulgent loop.
While the Championship relegation battle was dramatic enough to have Wayne Rooney tearing his rug out, the Premier League’s is almost done and dusted. If Fulham lose to Burnley at Craven Cottage on Monday night, they will join West Brom and Sheffield United in the second tier, a place where hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals. Which is great news for Big Sam: if he stays on and gets West Brom promoted, he can just order a scotch egg to have with his celebratory pint of wine.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I’ve had to manage a dressing room of people who haven’t been home in over a year – to keep them going when they’re homesick and struggling. It’s tested me on another level. People think having strength in depth is an advantage – well you manage them, then!” – Emma Hayes with a typically refreshing take on how guiding her brilliant WSL title-winning Chelsea team towards a remarkable quadruple has been no picnic.
“Is The Fiver branching out into music? The reviewer certainly knows who she’s dealing with: ‘[The Fiver] maintain a carousel of fresh photographs, sprinkle it all with carefully maintained parasocial politeness’ (whatever that means); ‘smaller than its substantial name would suggest’ (no comment); ‘embrace the discomfort and delight of feeling out of step with society’ (spot on); ‘[The Fiver] sees everyday reality with clear eyes, while still acknowledging the wonder and beauty inherent to it’ (oh” – Pablo Kaufman.
“Re: refereeing misadventures (Fiver letters passim). Many moons ago, while playing for University Staff Assoc (Kent), the ref called me over and asked whether I had a copy of John Betjeman’s poem ‘On the Underground’. We talk about stereotyping, surely attitudes to those in education need urgent sensitivity. To this day, it is the strangest conversation I have ever had with an official” – Martin Campion.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Uefa is set to switch the Big Cup final from Istanbul to Wembley if VIP suits are guaranteed quarantine-free entry to Britain and, presumably, a groaning, all-you-can-eat pre-match buffet trolley table.
Italian FA chief suit Gabriele Gravina has put on his strictest voice and told Juventus that there’ll be no place in Serie A for them unless they give up on their €$£ dream. “If, at the time of registering for the new season of Serie A, Juventus has not withdrawn from the [$uper £eague], they will be excluded,” he roared.
Brondby boss Niels Fredericksen says his internet-busting “KEEP ATTACKING” whiteboard message to players against Danish leaders Midtjylland was absolutely necessary. “There was an absolutely amazing soundscape,” he said in the usual spoken form. “One would not think there were only 8,000 spectators … it sounded like there were 30,000. I had trouble getting the messages on to the pitch.” In fairness, his team followed the advice and added a third in a 3-1 win to give themselves a chance of nicking the title.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær reckons Harry Maguire may be rotated out of Manchester United action for “weeks” after suffering ankle-knack against Aston Villa. “The boy [El Ghazi] landed on top of him,” winced Ole. “I’m not a doctor, and we’ve got to scan him.”
A small New York chocolate shop will be advertised on NYCFC’s shirt sleeve next season in a city-wide attempt to keep Covid-affected small businesses afloat. “We’re delighted for Sol Cacao to receive this kind of recognition and hope that fans across the city and country will be exposed to their delicious chocolate, made right here in the Bronx,” whooped a local Chamber of Commerce suit.
Cambridge United have rewarded manager Mark Bonner with a new three-year contract after leading them up to League One, but Walsall have given Brian Dutton the boot. “He pretty much achieved a lot of the things that I wanted him to achieve,” parped chairman Leigh Pomlett. “[But] I will not sit here as chairman facing the prospect of another 19th-place finish in League Two.”
And after starring in his first Groningen start for eight months, young Dutch upstart Arjen Robben has not given up on his Euro Not 2020 dream. “If [Frank de Boer] calls me, I would say yes!” he yelped.
STILL WANT MORE?
Sid Lowe on the Spanish title race that keeps on giving … then taking away … and then giving back again.
Andy Brassell on Bayern’s Bundesli9a joy.
The utter state of Juventus. By Nicky Bandini.
Flailing Foxes, happy Gilmour and rotation, rotation, rotation are just a few of the 10 talking points from the weekend’s Premier League action.
Sean Ingle has some recommended reading for Sergio Agüero.
Unloved billionaire owners will survive the pyro and protests and stay in situ unless football starts doing a better job at sharing its wealth, writes floating football brain in a jar Jonathan Wilson.
There was little dignity in last-gasp Championship survival for Wayne Rooney’s Derby, writes Jonathan Liew.
“I hope you know this was never about football”: even your emotionally inept Fiver’s eyes were a tad damp reading this.
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!