Finally, the end to our eight-day football drought is in sight

·6-min read
<span>Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA</span>
Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

BIG CUP IS BACK, BABY!

Turns out 2021-22 is yet another party The Fiver was late for. There we were, getting excited for the first significant games of the new campaign in the shape of Tuesday’s Big Cup qualifiers, when it occurred to us that, though we wouldn’t entirely put it past Uefa to organise a competition without one, if this is the second qualifying round there had probably been a first. Sure enough the actual first significant games of the new campaign were played on 6 and 7 July, the nights of the Euro Not 2020 semi-finals, when our attention had been on Wembley rather than Budućnost Podgorica.

Still, it’s terribly exciting, isn’t it? Finally, the end to our eight-day football drought is in sight. In terms of pure anticipation and nervous energy it feels very much like the night before Christmas, if Christmas happened at least once a week and didn’t involve gifting or significant jollity. If you exchanged the concept of Christmas, in other words, with the one you currently refer to as Tuesday. As the poem very nearly says:

Twas the night before Tuesday when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In the hopes that … oh god, not more football already

As Britain stifles its way through the annual 72-hour period when it wishes it had bought the air conditioning unit it saw in the Robert Dyas sale that time, a period known in other cultures as “summer”, it doesn’t exactly feel like a new football season should be upon us. Uefa however was certainly excited by the prospect. So much so that, like a child who desperately needed a wee – just as they reached the toilet – they got a little ahead of themselves and held the draw for the third qualifying round on Monday. You could almost say that Uefa is like the Old Masters, the Rembrandts, Vermeers and Constables of the sporting administration universe. Not because they make the world more beautiful thanks to their combination of unique vision and technical excellence, but because on slow days they basically alleviate boredom by drawing something.

Aleksander Ceferin, Uefa’s top brass, is clearly the kind of character who wants to know what’s for pudding before he’s been served the main course. Fundamentally what the draw revealed is that it is all but impossible for a Big Cup team to get knocked out of Europe these days. For example, the Queen’s Celtic play Midjylland later in the first leg of their qualifying tie, thanks to Monday’s draws in the knowledge that if they win they get to play whoever emerges from the tie between PSV Eindhoven and Galatasaray. Whereas, if they lose they get relegated to Big Vase qualifying and have to play Jablonec.

In other words, however hard you try, quite often it’s simply impossible to escape from Uefa qualifying. It’s true of the Queen’s Celtic, and it’s true of us all.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I want to continue pushing the other goalkeepers we have here and I want to make sure my experience rubs off on them” – Scott Carson, 85, signs back on for a third season with Manchester City.

RECOMMENDED LOOKING

Here’s David Squires on … the sorry state of Swindon Town.

FIVER LETTERS

“Leon-Ben Lamprecht is quite right that the winners of drawn games should be decided by the quality of the defence (yesterday’s Fiver letters). Especially perhaps the quality of the goalkeeper, who is primarily responsible for keeping the ball out. So you could have a quick test of who has the best goalkeeper by putting them in the goal and having, say, five players from the other side each have a shot at goal from close range – 12 yards perhaps – and the winning team is the one whose goalkeeper can keep out the largest number of shots. It focuses on the positive skills of good goalkeeping, and much fairer than the lottery of penalties” – Robin Hazlehurst.

“If scores are level after 90 minutes, 120 minutes, a replay or whenever, a jury of supporters, experts and ex-footballers could be sequestered in a room and allowed to decide between them which of the sides would be the most deserving winner. And then award the game to the other team. Sport in general, and football in particular, is inherently unfair and this is the principle that should be upheld above all others” – Ed Taylor.

“I don’t have a Premier League team but I’ll be supporting Aston Villa this coming season, hoping they can do the impossible and win the title. The sole reason being to find out what Wayne Bridge thinks of Plain Old John Terry’s coaching ability, after reading his thoughts on Roberto Mancini’s managerial skills, in yesterday’s Quote of the Day” – John Mackay.

“As one of the fans who owns Bohemians FC, can I just say how much I enjoyed our win in the first qualifying round of [Tin Pot]. It was wonderful being able to attend the match in the Aviva Stadium, and we’ve just been informed that 6,000 of us will also be allowed to attend next week’s game as well. Happy days, as Sam Beckett would say” – Mark Crowther.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … John Mackay.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

A Premier League player has been arrested on suspicion of child sexual abuse offences. The player was detained last Friday and interviewed by police before he was released on bail. Meanwhile, Everton have suspended a first-team player pending a police investigation, but declined to confirm whether it was the same man.

Burnley have signed Wayne Hennessey on a two-year deal following his release by Crystal Palace. “The Clarets have added more proven Premier League pedigree to their squad with the capture of [the] record-breaking Wales international,” roared a club statement of the 96-cap keeper. Is that like us calling ourselves a record-breaking tea-timely free football email?

Wayne Hennessey is on his way to Burnley.
Wayne Hennessey is on his way to Burnley. Photograph: David Davies/PA

Nigeria international Frank Onyeka has hotfooted it to Brentford from Midtjylland, where Bees owner Matthew Benham is helpfully the majority shareholder.

Manchester United Women still don’t have a manager, but they do have a new signing in the shape of Norway midfielder Vilde Bøe Risa.

And USA! USA!! USA!!! are pumped for Big Sports Day, especially after their 2016 tilt fell short at the last-eight stage. “I think what happened was one of the worst results that the senior national team has had in a major tournament and from playing in that game I know how disappointed we all were,” sighed Becky Sauerbrunn. “For me it lit a fire going into the 2019 World Cup and also here.”

STILL WANT MORE?

Give young supporters a voice to help shape the future of football. By Kenza Boutalbi and Kian Hill.

Messi and a mess. Sid Lowe on Barcelona.

Money making, earlier.
Money making, earlier. Photograph: Quique García/EPA

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

THE POWER OF SQUIRES?

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