What would a top-flight campaign be without food fights and no training?

·5-min read
<span>Photograph: Anton Want/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Anton Want/Getty Images

THOSE LITTLE TYKES

The Championship play-offs begin tonight, with Barnsley three games away from a return to the Premier League and once again being able to hold a top-flight Christmas party. The Fiver has fond memories of the Tykes squad led by Danny Wilson in 1997-98, as you don’t get players of John Hendrie’s ilk in the modern era of English football.

The club also had on their books a man by the name of Lars Leese, plucked from relative obscurity in Germany to become the club’s second-choice goalkeeper. He wrote a book about his experiences at Barnsley from the festive celebrations resulting in two players knocking boots with strippers on stage to one teammate dressing up as Adolf Hitler and giving the German a Nazi salute.

Related: Unsung Barnsley nurture unlikely Premier League dream

If they are to return under Valérien Ismaël you would hope the likes of Herbie Kane and Cauley Woodrow will call upon Oakwell’s heroes of yesteryear to ensure they are fighting fit for the Premier League. What would a top-flight campaign be without routine food fights in local restaurants or a training camp without any actual training?

Surviving in the Premier League is a tough business for any professional football club, so if Barnsley do make it they will need to enjoy the experience and their predecessors certainly knew how to do that. They beat Liverpool away in 1997 and could do it again 21 years later if they follow the right advice. First stop: Swansea, second stop: La Manga.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE!

Join Barry Glendenning from 6pm for sizzling Championship play-off coverage of Bournemouth 2-2 Brentford before Will Unwin takes the baton at 8.15pm for Barnsley 3-1 Swansea.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I step down from the post as president for a deep-rooted and necessary restart. With this I take on the responsibility for my derailment in the board meeting of April 23 that should remain the low point in the desolate leadership situation of the DFB” – the German FA president, Fritz Keller, has stepped down three weeks after apparently comparing his vice-president to the notorious Nazi judge Roland Freisler.

So long, Fritz.
So long, Fritz. Photograph: Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images

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Here’s the latest Football Weekly podcast.

FIVER LETTERS

“After the FA Cup final it is interesting to note that the winners of both cups and the top three divisions in England this season are all called ‘City’. The supporters of these clubs must surely be happy, successful and thriving people. Meanwhile I follow an Albion; these are 17th and 19th in the Premier League, 16th in League One. Which says it all really” – Tony Crawford.

Jimmy Armfield, a legend on and off the pitch.
Jimmy Armfield, a legend on and off the pitch. Photograph: PA

“While it doesn’t involve officials, Richard Bullock’s tale of Howard Hassall (Friday’s Fiver) reminded me of a moment from one of Howard Wilkinson’s brief stints as England manager. During a fractious press conference about an underwhelming performance (by the England men’s team, perish the thought) he questioned the credentials of the assembled and relied on the old chestnut of asking how many caps they had won. A voice piped up from the back of the room “43, Howard, and 15 as captain”. That’s what I call a zinger from Jimmy Armfield” – Ed Taylor.

“Liverpool’s clean-cut heroes battled Big Sam’s forces of darkness, but with little headway. The answer was staring them in the face. All season we’ve admired goals by bearded wonders like Harry Kane, Ilkay Gündogan, Riyad Mahrez, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and Bruno Fernandes. The solution to Jürgen’s West Brom conundrum was simple: send another beard into attack to accompany Mo Salah’s Golden Boot chin. It was a close shave, but Klopp needed that Brazilian” – Mark McFadden.

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 … Ed Taylor.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Burnley are taking on triallists selected by artificial intelligence from more than 12,000 applications made through a smartphone app. The Clarets are the first Premier League club to launch an open talent search with the AiScout app, and have a shortlist of 28 players aged between 17 and 22.

Germany keeper Marc-André ter Stegen will miss the upcoming Euro 20201 jamboree with knee-knack. “For the first time in many years I will be a fan at home, I hope we win it,” cheered the Barça stopper.

Happiness is the key for Ferran Torres, according to Pep Guardiola. “Ferran was upset with the world,” teased Manchester City’s manager.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær reckons the protests against the Glazers have affected the performances of his players. “I just didn’t want to use that as an excuse because we lost the two games,” he squealed. “But surely it’s a reason.”

La Liga has moved all of this weekend’s pivotal final-day games to 5pm (BST) on Saturday, in order to avoid a clash with the Eurovision Song Contest. Atlético and Real Madrid will kick off three hours before the show in Rotterdam, where singer-songwriter Blas Cantó will carry Spanish hopes.

Brendan Rodgers wants his team to stick another boot into Tommy T by securing their top-four spot at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night. “We’ve got a great opportunity to qualify,” trilled Rodgers. “With two games to go, we aim to take it.”

STILL WANT MORE?

Atlético Madrid have entered The Suárez Zone. Sid Lowe can feel the power.

Edin Terzic is the Borussia Dortmund fan who rescued his club as stand-in coach. Andy Brassell documents the weekend in the Bundesliga.

Juve are still alive after Inter failed to kill off their top-four hopes. Nicky Bandini reports on a battle royal for the Champions League.

Sacré bleu! The final day of the Ligue 1 season will be the most exciting in years.

The FA Cup, the Premier League: 10 talking points.

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

THAT CAT STINKS

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