Imagine the map is a different color and we found this main image.Photo: Eleanor Hoad/Every Second Media/Rex/Shutterstock
Football is just the best, isn’t it? No game comes close. Eleven v 11, goalposts, jumpers, goals, saves, misses, tackles, dirty fouls, scenes you don’t want to see but you really do, b@ntz, anger, joy and pain. It’s not perfect, but that’s how we like it. And yet. There is always someone who wants to tinker with the game. You know the kind. You probably hear them every week.
Generic radio host: “Brian on the M1, what have you got for us?”
Brian: “I’m a Northampton fan and am coming back from Burton.”
Radio host [frantically fumbles through paper, finds scoreline, types into Google]: “Yeah, good win for you today, Brian… um, Jon Brady is doing a good job for you there, right?”
Brian: “Jon is doing well, he has just signed a new contract but he is not being helped by referees, there seems to be a global conspiracy against Northampton. We need VAR in League One, and we also need kick-ins instead of throw-ins, they need to ban tackling and headers, allow goalkeepers to handle a backpass and there needs to be sin bins like in rugby… I’m a regular customer to Franklin’s Gardens for the rugby and…’
Radio presenter: “Great to hear from you Brian, the line is cut off a bit there… now here’s Ozzy, a Manchester United fan from Chipping Sodbury…”
One of football’s biggest problems is that there are too many Northampton Brians within the centers of power who watch the game and think it would be superior if it fit their worldview. Sometimes they get it right: three points for a win, banning the backpass that revived attacking football in the 1990s. Vanishing spray. But sometimes they are wrong. Remember 10 yards for dissent? The introduction of VAR, meanwhile, has unleashed the bowels of hell and exposed the fact that referees are just a bunch of people making it up as they go along. That came as a surprise to some, but why match officials should be any different from any other profession is the next question.
VAR, for all the drama it can add – see the Afcon semi between Nigeria and South Africa for such confections – has turned a simple game into a muddle. Football’s strongest point was its purity, but the VAR era has made it as confused as rugby union can be. No one in the red pants world Real knows the Rugger Laws; they are constantly changing anyway. Why complicate football? Ifab enters, ahead of next month’s meeting on the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond. Introduce ‘cooling off periods’ for dissent, sin bins in old money. And waving blue cards at the miscreant sent to calm down. Two blue equals red, blue and yellow equals red and… thank you very much, Brian.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“[Cristiano] Ronaldo suffers from it [knack]. A duel with Gustavo Cuéllar started in which Ronaldo was hit in a very sensitive area. This is confirmed information. The fans can think whatever they want.” – Al-Nassr releases a statement trying to explain why their star player appeared to rub an Al-Hilal scarf near his crotch after the 2-0 defeat in the Riyadh Season Cup Trophy [yes, it is officially both a cup and a trophy – Football Daily Ed], prompting calls for his arrest and deportation by some observers. Mind you, it wasn’t the most bizarre scene that night. The Undertaker who came out to lift the cutlery sawed on it.
FOOTBALL DAILY LETTERS
Re: the fuss over fans in Hong Kong who couldn’t see Lionel Messi standing on the grass in pink shorts (yesterday’s Football Daily). I’m reminded of several years ago when I traveled to Atlanta to watch Manchester City play on a pre-season tour of the US. At that moment, Roberto Mancini walked along the touchline in his calf-length wool overcoat, with a sky blue and white scarf tucked neatly inside. Imagine my disappointment when Signor Mancini emerged from the tunnel in his shirt sleeves with barely a scarf in sight. Granted, this was Atlanta in August, but talk about ‘the biggest disappointment of all time’” – Pat Condray.
Can I be one of the 1,057 Simpsons-watching pedants who notice that Grandpa Abe does not enter and exit a restaurant in the famous gif (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs, full email edition), but in fact a brothel” – Mathias Schill (and others).
Send letters to email@example.com. The winner of today’s newsletter is… Pat Condray, who will receive a copy of The Social One: why Jürgen Klopp was the perfect fit for Liverpool, published by Pitch Publishing. Visit their football bookstore here.
HONG KONG PHOOEY
Anger in Hong Kong over Lionel Messi’s failure to appear in a pointless friendly due to a minor talent has now flared up in the political sphere. After recovering to dazzle fans in Japan with a disinterested 30-minute walk around a field in Tokyo, Hong Kong Executive Council Chairman Regina Ip had this perfectly normal view: “Hong Kong people hate Messi, Inter Miami and the black hand behind them, because of the deliberate and calculated criticism of Hong Kong. [Messi should] never be allowed to return.” A tour hasn’t gone this bad since Guns N’ Roses left fans stunned when Axl Rose fronted the We’re F’N’ Back! Tour with a variety of incomprehensible screeches. Mind you, there’s good news for Hong Kong fans who paid up to £490 per ticket: they’ll be offered a 50% refund by Tatler Asia, who will lose around £6 million on the match.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Gareth Southgate will only consider his future as England manager after the 2024 European Championship, with his sole focus on losing somewhere on penalties and winning the tournament in Germany this summer.
Gary Neville and Roy Keane have accused some of the opponents they faced against Manchester United in the Big Cup [snip] and suspicious [snip] were not always [snip snippety snip – Football Daily Lawyers].
Erik Tan Hag is delighted his Old Trafford ties will change Manchester United’s fortunes. “There is adventure. They are a danger. They want to do it together and pass it on to each other,” he trembled. “Now it’s about keeping moving, keeping going, being hungry.”
Eddie Howe has jumped into the defense of Newcastle’s defensive tree Dan Burn amid calls from fans for him to be dropped in favor of Tino Livramento. “He’s vital to the way we play, actually, in a lot of different ways, without giving away too many tactical things,” Howe said, shielding his iPad. “[He’s] a very big presence, of course physically, but also vocally.”
Arsenal boss and Football Daily’s occasional Big Website colleague Jonas Eidevall has put the boot in the Women’s League Cup. “I think [the Conti Cup] is a tournament that other countries look at and say: ‘We shouldn’t organize a tournament like that’,” he sighed. “I think there is a lot of room for improvement.”
And Livingston boss David Martindale insists his joke about Derek Adams leaving Ross County was not intended as a personal attack, but merely a comment on their woes that would benefit his own club. “You had an unhappy manager and unhappy players and it is of course better for Livingston that that unhappy environment continues,” he honked.
DO YOU WANT MORE?
“I must carry my father’s name until I can no longer walk.” Wolves midfielder Mario Lemina on the loss of his father, being around one of his brothers at Molineux and how Gary O’Neil’s positivity has transformed the team.
It is Friday. Here are 10 things to watch out for in the Premier this weekend.
“Every detail counts”: the secrets behind Southampton’s unbeaten record. By Ben Visser.
“Pressure makes diamonds”: Suzanne Wrack talks to Louanne Worsey about how third-tier Nottingham Forest are preparing to beat Everton in the Women’s FA Cup.
Does Jürgen Klopp’s departure from Liverpool mean the end of FSG’s golden age, asks Aaron Timms.
And Max Rushden is ready to ask: from stone faces to full Ketsbaia: what is acceptable for the party police?
To London Zoo in 1939, as a young boy prepares to coolly walk home alongside Ming, the baby giant panda. The goalkeeper seems distracted.
35 YEARS AGO!