HOME AND AWAY
It feels like it was only Tuesday when England were bringing the curtain down on the men’s season. Oh how we have missed football since that day. We’ve been kicking rolled-up socks around the living room in the hope it would compensate for the lack of action on the tellybox – it did not – and ironically ended with a plasma screen getting cracked. We really shouldn’t darn our socks so heavily.
What glee was felt on Thursday morning then, when we awoke at 11.35am after a night on the grog, rubbed our bleary eyes and found out that the Premier League fixtures for 2022-23 have been released to finally give us something to which we can look forward once more. We pored over each and every game: Liverpool v Manchester City, Fulham v Leeds, Bournemouth v West Ham, all the big ones. We have even drawn up a wallchart to write in which games we will be putting on big telly each weekend. Naturally, we’ve sent our apologies for various family occasions for the next year, priorities and that.
“You can’t satisfy everyone,” sighed Glenn Thompson, the big fixtures brain in charge of putting everything together, as conspiracy theorists pointed to Manchester United opening at home – against Brighton – for a sixth consecutive season, while others seethed at the perceived injustice of Liverpool kicking off against a newly-promoted team – Fulham – for the fourth year in a row. “There are 2,036 matches across the Premier League and Football League over a nine-month period, and the ideal solution is to ensure that those matches can all be played when scheduled.” Or rescheduled at the last minute for broadcast reasons.
We are already playing out in our minds what will happen when Bournemouth host Southampton on Tuesday 18 October. Will the autumn air make a difference on the south coast? Will leaves fall on to the pitch and divert the ball beyond Mark Travers to secure a last-minute win for Saints? So many unknown factors could impact a potentially season-defining game, but we will now have to wait months to find out. It transpires that, after a long and hard look at the fixtures, painstakingly going through them week by week, every team plays each other home and away (a little Fiver exclusive there for you) and – 🚨BREAKING!!!🚨 – the club with the most points come the end of the season will win the league, while those with the three lowest tallies will be relegated. Let the games begin (in two months).
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE!
Join Sarah Rendell from 8pm BST for MBM coverage of England 3-1 Belgium in their women’s international friendly.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“If we want to compete with the temptations of the screen … more is needed than sticking to tradition and nostalgia” – now, Weird Uncle Fiver may be a lost cause when it comes to temptations of the screen, but the Dutch FA’s director of amateur football, Jan Dirk van der Zee, is hoping other fans will hop on board with plans for new laws in football, such as kick-ins, flying subs and dribbling from free-kicks.
“While I doubt that Sallai, Nagy and Gazdag will become quite as famous as Hidegkuti, Puskás and Bozsik for giving England a hiding, does this result mean the brave Three Lions are now on track to make sure It’s Coming Home! by 2035?” – Steve Wardinski.
“No Football Weekly-branded pint glasses (yesterday’s Last Line)? Do the marketing people behind the shop know nothing about the Football Weekly listeners?” – Joe Pearson [could we not get some Fiver merch? – Fiver Commercial Ed].
“I see Gmail has taken to truncating my copy of The Fiver at a somewhat inappropriate place, or maybe it’s trying to tell me something” – Tim Grey.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Tim Grey.
Max, Barry and the pod squad are back on the road. The last remaining tickets to live shows in June and July are available here.
Suzy Wrack’s new book, A Woman’s Game, has just been released and you can get your copy now from Big Website’s bookshop.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Just when you thought the French authorities couldn’t shame themselves any further, we learn that riot police were deployed at the Champions League final because of the misconceived association of Hillsborough with hooliganism. “This is a total, outrageous failure to understand the disaster,” said Louise Brookes, whose brother Andrew was one of the 97 killed. “And this prejudice, that Liverpool supporters are hooligans, based on a complete misunderstanding of something that happened 33 years ago, nearly caused another disaster in Paris, to a new generation of Liverpool fans.”
Meanwhile, the French government official investigating the chaos in Paris, in which police used teargas on supporters as young as nine, accepts there are “many regrets” over what happened, but still claims preparations had been robust. “The controlling of the crowd could have been better,” parped Michel Cadot, the sports ministry’s delegate on major events, with spectacular understatement.
Steph Houghton hasn’t made the England squad for this summer’s Euro 2022, but Fran Kirby is in the final 23. “It is hard for every player we have to disappoint,” sighed manager Sarina Wiegman. “Of course she was really disappointed. I know she did everything to make it, so she wasn’t happy. She just took the arguments I gave her and we left it for now and we’ll be in contact later.”
Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez claims French president Emmanuel Macron intervened to persuade Kylian Mbappé to sign a new contract with PSG. “Macron called Mbappé, it makes no sense,” he sobbed. “PSG offered him to be the leader of the project, it changed everything.”
Pep Guardiola loves a challenge, so will be delighted that Manchester City have added Erling Haaland to a disgracefully underpowered squad – and it looks like Brighton’s Marc Cucurella is next.
Barnsley have gone for Cheltenham’s Michael Duff as their new manager. “Now I’m here, in the stadium, wearing the kit, I can’t wait to get going and meet the players,” he cheered, failing to notice that he isn’t one.
And in motivational news, dozens of Botafogo fans have invaded the club’s training centre to remonstrate with players and officials over their poor run of form, which has left them in the relegation zone of Brazil’s Série A.
STILL WANT MORE?
“Gareth Southgate’s is another managerial reign that tells us a great deal more about England and the deep cultural delusions of English football than it does about tactics, formations, penalty shootouts and all the rest.” Do read Barney Ronay.
On the plane or on the sofa? Nick Ames looks at how England’s Human Rights World Cup squad is shaping up.
Things aren’t particularly rosy in France’s garden, reports Raphaël Jucobin.
And if it’s your thing Tim … you can
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