Sliding doors, ‘blue billionaire bottlers’ and the Haaland-De Bruyne axis of pain

<span>Chelsea players just about getting the better of Leeds, earlier.</span><span>Photograph: David Horton/CameraSport/Getty Images</span>
Chelsea players just about getting the better of Leeds, earlier.Photograph: David Horton/CameraSport/Getty Images


Following Newcastle’s win over Blackburn in the FA Cup on Tuesday, Eddie Howe claimed that his side’s victory could prove to be “a sliding doors moment”, one of those apparently inconsequential occurrences that nonetheless significantly alter the trajectory of future events. The very next night, the metaphorical doors in question appeared to slam violently shut in his face as his team were handed an away trip to Manchester City in the quarter-finals. While this truly brutal draw doesn’t entirely rule out Newcastle’s chances of making the semi-finals and getting a day out at Wembley, it significantly reduces the chances of geordies having a sliding doors moment of their own on the Metropolitan line in April.

On the same night Newcastle squeaked through at Ewood Park, Luton were subjected to the kind of mauling by City that invariably earns the vanquished side one of those condescending tributes Pep Guardiola invariably pays to teams who have offered little in the way of resistance. “I think the Luton central defenders defended really well,” he honked, having just seen them prove what a difficult place Kenilworth Road can be for visitors to play, unless you’re a preposterously gifted Norwegian giant running on to inch-perfect passes from an almost supernaturally accurate Belgian. “Sometimes when you come up against that kind of opposition you get a bit of a doing,” reflected Luton’s almost supernaturally handsome manager Rob Edwards after the game, having previously conceded – with tongue firmly in cheek – that his opposite number’s side had been “quite good” in victory.

With Kasey Palmer and Ellis Simms doing a passable imitation of the Haaland-De Bruyne axis of pain 24 hours before it became fashionable, Coventry became the lowest-ranked side left in this year’s competition having knocked out the previous lowest, Maidstone United. This earned them a trip to Wolves, whose supporters were treated to the sight of Gary O’Neil giving it the Full Klopp in the post-match fist-pump stakes following a narrow win over Brighton. The quarter-final is already being talked up as a potential powder-keg derby, even if a West Brom-supporting fan of Football Daily’s acquaintance insists that none of the Baggies, Aston Villa, Birmingham City or Wolves have any feelings stronger than almost total indifference towards Coventry, which has to sting.

By all accounts, Leicester are the nearest thing Mark Robins’ side have to bitter rivals but their victory at Bournemouth has earned them a trip to Stamford Bridge, where the blue billionaire bottlers of Chelsea advanced to the quarter-finals by scraping past Leeds’ reserves. Meanwhile at Old Trafford, Manchester United will host Liverpool, whose Under-9s stayed up well past their bedtime to see off Southampton, while an increasingly deranged Erik ten Hag was left to deflect from his side’s latest laboured win by raging against some gag cracked at the expense of Bruno Fernandes by [Football Daily checks notes] … the famously controversial administrators of Fulham’s TikTok account. And to think some continue to maintain the FA Cup has lost its magic.


“I always say that the pitch is freedom for someone who doesn’t see. Those who know how to appreciate it can enjoy it to the fullest. Even if you lose, draw, and even when things don’t go well, it’s where you can be free” – Gracia Sosa, star of the Argentina women’s blind football team, talking to Júlia Belas Trindade in the latest edition of Moving the Goalposts.


“Re yesterday’s Football Daily on the interim appointment of John O’Shea as Ireland gaffer. Given you regularly treat your reader to a smorgasbord of managers being guided through the door marked ‘Do One’ in a variety of languages, is it too much too ask for Stephen Kenny’s big green ‘doras’ to have been marked ‘Bain As’, or even ‘Téigh ag feadáil’ (go whistling)?” – Harry Wall.

Regarding Neil Rose on whether to clap or not to clap opposition players (yesterday’s Football Daily letters). My father gets around this conundrum by not clapping anyone, unless they go off knacked (they get two claps). If it was the opposition, then it was due to them being better then us so they should be doing that or we had performed badly. If it was us, it was because the opposition had performed badly or they were ‘just doing what they’re paid to do’ (I don’t know if he extends this logic to other areas where it’s conventional to clap to show appreciation, like the theatre), although in all other respects his support seems quite normal, so maybe he just doesn’t like clapping” – Andy Gill.

To Neil, I’m inclined to agree, a rare show of appreciation for the opposition after an outstanding display is more than acceptable. I was fortunate (?) enough to witness and be a part of the standing ovation the Stretford End gave to Proper Ronaldo, after his imperious hat-trick bundled us through the Big Cup exit door 20 years ago. Sometimes you just have to stand there and applaud greatness. Neil obviously doesn’t have a fantasy team, however. If he had, I would imagine witnessing Erling Haaland spanking in five just days after half the planet had triple-captained him for a double-game week – in which he scored a solitary one – would have provoked an entirely different reaction” – Mark Read.

Style, panache, thrilling heroics, and getting a stomp on a game is always worthy of applause, no matter the team. Neil is correct” – Bill Preston.

As a man of a certain age originally from the north of England, I had to laugh at Rochdale fan John Leach’s description of his father and grandfather as ‘essentially functional mutes of the northern type of the day’ (yesterday’s full email edition). But then I started musing on the verbiage vomited from pundits and broadcasters and social media disgraces about any and all subjects, and I became rather wistful for simpler times” – Colin Reed.

Send letters to Today’s winner of our letter o’ the day is … Andy Gill, who lands a copy of Pat Nevin: football and how to survive it, published by Octopus Books.