Less fun than a wet Saturday trailing around the Metrocentre?

Nick Ames
The Guardian
<span>Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA</span>
Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA


It breaks the heart when kith and kin turn upon one another. So imagine the devastation on Tyneside as two Geordie legends go hammer and tongs, and on the eve of such a big game as well. Newcastle slink down to Spurs on Sunday but a chunk of Bernard Cribbins’s precious prep time has been spent shouting down a man who could give lessons on how not to hold down the Toon’s famed No 9 shirt. Michael Chopra (six years, 31 appearances, three goals) still has an “in” or two at the club that raised him and let slip earlier this week that he’d heard worrying things. “[Cribbins] has come in and some of the players don’t know their jobs – they’re not really working on their shape,” he intoned – quite some concern when you’ve just been dismantled by newly-promoted Norwich and shown an attitude that, according to the ex-Alloa and Kerala Blasters striker, “was disgusting”.

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Related: Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

Ouch. Would Cribbins turn the other cheek given that, so far, Newcastle have looked less fun than a wet Saturday afternoon trailing around the Metrocentre? Would he outline a plan designed to stick it to Mauricio Pochettino and chums in their glitzy new stadium on Sunday? Not quite. “The Chopra thing,” he began, with assembled hacks no doubt sitting back and drooling, “was blown out of all proportion … I’m just surprised that people [pay] any attention to him. Some of this stuff is just fabricated and lies. When it’s like that you think: ‘Why is that making national headlines when it is total rubbish?’”

In fairness Newcastle’s performances have thus far done that themselves. All Chopra has done is perpetuate the exhausting cycle of mistrust and self-loathing that has unsurprisingly survived the arrival of Cribbins, whose enlisting was a transparent move to tug at fans’ heartstrings while Rafa Benítez merrily boarded the next 737 to China. “After two games, there’s a so-called mini-crisis and all the rest of it and … that is over-sensationalised,” he added. “Everything seems to be that way. But look, I understand that, it’s the nature of the club – it always has been. There’s always a storm in Newcastle and at the minute, we’re in one.”

Perhaps they know no other way – it’s just that this is a far cry from the up-and-down exuberance of, say, Kevin Keegan. And perhaps Cribbins’s critics are right that, for the modicum of warm-heartedness his presence promotes, the solution won’t be found on their own doorstep. Handily enough that’s one sentiment with which Chopra, flogged unceremoniously to Cardiff City for £500,000 in 2006, might be particularly able to sympathise with.


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“Supporters are reminded that any items that may incite hatred or abuse cannot be brought into the stadium and amnesty bins will be placed around the entrances for these to be disposed of before entrance to the ground will be permitted. Bristol Rovers is a family and community club and it is imperative that our supporters continue to represent us favourably at all times” – former Pirates forward Matty Taylor, who jumped ship for rivals Bristol City in 2017, returns with new club Oxford United on Saturday, prompting this Rovers club statement.

<span class="element-image__caption">This means you too, Captain Gas.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images</span>
This means you too, Captain Gas. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images


“Now that Vincent Kompany has been relieved of Anderlecht match-day managerial duties so as to concentrate on his own game, will he now be given the rest of the week off to concentrate upon rest and recovery for the next match?” – Geoff Wignall.

“In response to Michael Hann trying to ask searching football-related questions to 90s celebrities (yesterday’s Fiver letters). In the early-90s, when David Icke was doing the university circuit with his lizards schtick, I became a bit bored, so put my hand up and asked him what he thought of the new backpass rule. At which point he went back into substituting-for-Frank-Bough-on-Grandstand mode and answered in a most eloquent manner. It’s always worth asking. Overall, he was in favour and on this he has been proved correct” – Matt Thurstan.

“I was delighted to notice from an aside in yesterday’s Fiver letters that, after a lengthy period of stagnation, the recent arrival of Zach Marzouk and nine others have boosted the number of Fiver pedants to a new high of 1,068. Congratulations” – Steve Allen [one in, one out, now back to manageable levels – Fiver Ed].

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 … Matt Thurstan.


Bury’s possible demise is “absolutely disgraceful”, according to Phil Neville. “Common sense has to prevail,” fumed the Bury native. “One man cannot stop one football club, which has hundreds of years of history, going out of existence,” he said, forgetting this.

<span class="element-image__caption">A handwritten note on the gates at Gigg Lane.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: Dave Howarth/PA</span>
A handwritten note on the gates at Gigg Lane. Photograph: Dave Howarth/PA

On the subject of Greater Manchester crisis clubs where things are going from bad to worse, Kevin Nolan is interested in filling the vacant managerial role at Bolton.

The Pope’s Newc O’Rangers have been ordered to close part of Ibrox for Thursday’s Big Vase clash with Legia Warsaw following “racist behaviour – which includes sectarian singing” from supporters.

England goalkeeper Carly Telford has taken a jug of ice-cold water and poured it all over the notion that France did a stand-up job of hosting the World Cup. “[It was] a balloon that deflated quickly,” she sniffed. “Towns and cities weren’t as kitted out or as football-friendly as they needed to be.”

Unai Emery has pleaded with Shkodran Mustafi and Mohamed Elneny to launch themselves through the Arsenal door marked Do One to find “another challenge” quick-smart.

Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has heaped absolutely no added pressure on James Maddison by saying he could be the next Raheem Sterling. “James is a different type of player but is a similar ilk in terms of his view of the game,” cooed Rodgers.

And Fernando Torres went out in style with an, erm, 6-1 J-League defeat by Vissel Kobe in his last match for Sagan Tosu before retirement. “I tried to find an iconic moment to play my final game and I think that is perfect timing,” he tooted.

<span class="element-image__caption">Fernando Torres gets his chat on with David Villa after the game.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Fernando Torres gets his chat on with David Villa after the game. Photograph: Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images


Ten things to look out for in the Premier League this weekend, including a ding-dong clash at Anfield and Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s Palace reunion.

If you ignore that annoyingly-timed 6-1 win mentioned above, it had all been going Pete Tong at Vissel Kobe. John Duerden explains why.

“To really offend people around Villa Park, just say the F word.” Paul Doyle on how to get Villans fans all up in your grill.

Despite splashing the cash this summer, there’s unease at Juventus as the Serie A season prepares for the big kick-off, writes Nicky Bandini.

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