Jumpy and paranoid to the point of not taking questions from papers

Scott Murray
·7-min read
<span>Photograph: Clive Brunskill/EPA</span>
Photograph: Clive Brunskill/EPA

TOON OUT

Say what you like about Shed Reorganising, Car Boot Vacuuming and Old Episodes Of Quincy Watching’s Frank Lampard, but the recent run of five defeats in seven Premier League games that did for him wasn’t the worst in Chelsea’s history. Not by a long chalk. How about this string of results in 1980-81, from the start of December until the end of the season in May, and in the old Second Division to boot: 0-0, 0-2, 0-1, 0-2, 0-0, 0-0, 0-1, 3-0, 3-0, 0-4, 0-1, 0-1, 2-0, 0-1, 0-0, 0-1, 0-1, 0-0, 0-0, 0-2, 0-3, 0-2. They found the net in only three of their last 22 matches! If that sort of thing happened today, the steel toecap of Mr Roman’s Big Boot o’ Bye Bye would be worn down to a grade of foil not recommended for roasting.

The legendary Geoff Hurst presided over that fiasco, so it can happen to the best of them. And it’s currently threatening to happen to former Sheffield United, Huddersfield, Wigan, Crystal Palace, Birmingham, Sunderland, Hull, Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday manager Steve Bruce, currently plying his trade at Newcastle. His side have scored one in their last eight matches, a run that stretches to 744 minutes of football, and in the wake of Lampard’s sacking, he’s now the hot favourite to become the next Premier League manager dispatched for a quiet life of Giving The Front Door A Lick Of Paint, Sock Drawer Auditing, and Joining Whichever Pre-War British Movie Is On Talking Pictures (Sky 328 Freeview 81) Halfway Through But Sitting Through The Rest Of It Anyway Because There’s Nothing Much Else To Do.

Related: David Squires on … Chelsea's sacking of Frank Lampard

Thing is, unlike Mr Roman, but very much like a certain other famous local entrepreneur, Mr Mike is a big man, but he’s in bad shape. He finds it hard to summon the energy to give Bruce the old heave-ho, plus he bought his boots from Sports Direct and the label says they’re not suitable for kicking, dispatching anyone from your employ with one big hoof, wearing on your feet, or roasting. So Bruce remains in situ, albeit jumpy and paranoid to the point of not taking questions from the papers at his press conference on Monday. But with the Toon plummeting towards the drop zone, yet another defeat on Tuesday evening at home to Leeds might finally persuade Mr Mike to change into some bargain plimsolls and sidefoot him gently into the Tyne.

Bruce will take heart from one significant fact: Leeds were the last team Newcastle scored two against, 10 matches ago. Admittedly they also shipped five that day, but you’ve got to concentrate on the positives. Also, these dismal runs have to end some time. Chelsea turned it around back in the day, for instance, albeit by replacing Hurst with John Neal, a lesson from history that will give Toon fans, if not Bruce himself, a little succour. Rafa’s kicking his heels again, isn’t he, and he’s not the sort who likes to waste the day doing the crossword, cleaning his golf clubs or going down 1970s sitcom theme rabbit holes on YouTube.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE!

Join Simon Burnton from 6pm GMT for hot MBM coverage of Newcastle 1-1 Leeds, while Scott Murray will be on hand at 8.15pm for Southampton 2-1 Arsenal.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“The Daily Mail inevitably jumped on it with a headline along the lines of ‘Keys again claims he was the victim’. They do make me laugh. I’m flattered they still want to talk about me. The truth is – we were. It was a set-up. I’ve got all the evidence I need to prove that and I’ve promised that I’ll share it. I will at some point” – 10 years to the day, Richard Keys is still ready to reveal all about those dark forces.

CORPORATE NEWS OF THE DAY

“If you need reasons to give it your all in times as hard as this, don’t look outside of yourself. Those reasons are within each of us” – Carles Puyol tries his best to persuade fans to buy a shirt to be worn in just one match, the clásico, to support po’ Barcelona in the tough times. Yours to own for just €145. Més que un club, indeed.

&#x0020ac;145, earlier.
€145, earlier. Photograph: FC Barcelona

FIVER LETTERS

“According to this article, a company called Fiverr International plans to buy an advert during this year’s Super Bowl. Before I noticed the aberrant spelling, I was a bit confused about: a) where The Fiver got the money for such an extravagance; and b) what product or service it intended to advertise. The potential for Weird Uncle Fiver’s involvement made both concepts even more disturbing” – Mike Wilner.

“It’s nice to see Roman Abramovich playing with his managerial matryoshkas again. Removing the top half of a big Russian doll painted with the smug face of the Special One and revealing Ancelotti, Conte, Sarri, Rafa, Guus, Big Phil et al, each decreasing in size until he pulls out a tiny Frank Lampard. At least we can’t accuse José of being full of himself” – Mark McFadden.

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

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

West Ham plan to bring forward the permanent transfer of Saïd Benrahma if they press ahead with a loan move for Manchester-based clothing salesman Jesse Lingard. And keep Declan Rice.

A move to the north-west further down the line, then?
A move to the north-west further down the line, then? Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Reuters

A study has found that not having thousands of fans roaring BAD THINGS at footballers has made them less fresh and funky as they go about their work.

José Mourinho is proud that Spurs were serious as they beat Wycombe 4-1 in the FA Cup. “We brought the whole squad,” he blabbed. “Even when we had to play four matches in one week and people thought we were going to give away [Big Vase] or [Milk] Cup.”

Former Wales captain Ashley Williams has hung his boots up at the age of 36. “It has been an honour to play 741 games,” he humble-bragged.

And in news that deserves a tiny violin to soundtrack it, the pandemic will cost Europe’s 20 stinking-richest clubs more than £1.7bn by the end of this season.

STILL WANT MORE?

Mr Roman’s fear of missing out on Big Cup left Regular Old Frank Lampard no time to pull out of his nosedive, reckons David Hytner, while Barney Ronay thinks that in Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea are Cruyff-turning towards a kind of anti-ROFL.

“I could take up all this interview talking about the good moments and memories I enjoyed at Chelsea, but I have two others that I appreciate most: my first hat-trick, against MK Dons, and a game against Arsenal where I did not score but did eight slide tackles” – Oscar gets his chat on with Josué Seixas.

Like Weird Uncle Fiver when he gave up having popping candy on toast for breakfast, Liverpool are just no fun anymore, writes Jonathan Liew.

If you missed it, here’s an opus by Tom Lamont on VAR.

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

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