Andrea Pirlo's career since joining Juventus has been an extraordinary renaissance. He has become the poster boy for football hipsterism, without the negative connotation...
Hanging over our love of James Milner is the suspicion that Brendan Rodgers is going to make a frightful hash of him. Will somebody play him properly please?
The decision to move international fixtures from Saturdays to Fridays has had a number of consequences, some good, some bad, some as yet untested. On the positive side, it's entirely possible for somebody (a completely imaginary person) to just assume, when asked, that Friday night is free, become subject to other un-rearrangeable plans, and then be forced to miss England tussling with Montenegro in favour of stuffing their face with spicy chicken and utterly sublime paratha. On the negative, this means that this same person (again, we stress, completely imaginary) has to spend Sunday morning watching the blighted thing, since after all, they have a Diary to write. Or they would have. If they existed. Which they definitely, definitely don't.
Fortunately for you all, we Diarists have precisely the assiduous devotion to duty that you deserve. We were there, at Nouveau Wembley Nouveau, and we noticed things. Helpfully for the structure of this piece, the things we noticed numbered five. Commence listing!
1. England's Jack Wilshere doesn't actually exist. Arsenal's Jack Wilshere does, obviously, but as a committed Marxist and advocate of global revolution he views the very concept of nation states with contempt, and as a clever and discerning footballer he feels that the nature of the calendar and squad-churn ensures that the international game cannot help but disappoint on a number of fundamental levels. So he goes fishing whenever the break rolls around, and because it would look odd if he weren't picked, the sports editors of the nation have a whip-round and get a lookalike in to cover. Which explains everything and means we can all get on with our lives in peace.
2. Andros Townsend definitely does exist, and indeed seems to exist quite effectively. Before kick-off, there was some scepticism that Townsend -- who this season has precisely as many Premier League goals and bookings for diving as Ashley Young -- would be effective against Montenegro. There were believers, too, who felt that by choosing a young player over James Milner, the utility player constructed entirely from cement and dehydrated beef stock, Roy Hodgson would be sending a message of defiance to Brazil, Spain, Al-Qaeda, the BBC, Women's Hour, and anybody else that might presume to assume that England weren't the greatest damn nation in the whole damn world. Roar.
Anyway, the believers won, and the sceptics were rounded up, taken to Tower Hill, and are awaiting execution. Townsend was direct, quick, and -- pleasingly for everybody that likes a neat conclusion to such things -- pinged a quite excellent goal in off the post to seal the win. Can he do it at international level? Yes he can. Is the concept of international level completely stupid, since qualifying groups are sorted by geography whereas club football is sorted by ability? Shut up. Should Townsend now start every single England game until Adnan Januzaj gets his three lions tattoo? Obviously. Or until he's disappointing against Poland, anyway, when we can all berate Hodgson for not preferring experience. Inconsistency, Roy! Hodgson out.
3. At the beginning of the first half: "It's in our hands. Not entirely sure if that's good news or not." At the beginning of the second half: "We are usually lastminute.com." Oh, Clive!
4. The lifts in Nu-Wembley seem just like normal lifts. Press the button, go up or down (or both, if you pressed the wrong button by accident), get out, repeat. But if you know what you're about, and you have the right keys, then there is another floor, below the lowest marked. Insiders call it simply 'the Trough'.
For an outsider to gain access is unheard of, and yet there we were, awestruck and silent. We would have brought you photographs of everything. Of the specially-adapted dentist's chair into which reluctant administrators are placed. Of the leather straps that keep them there. Of the funnel that is clamped onto onto their faces, and the tube that slides down into their throats. Of the mounds of glimmering, lightly-seasoned pork meat that sit wetly in the shadows, sweating, waiting to be pumped into their unwitting and unwilling gullets. But, well, we forgot to turn the flash on. Ahem. More on this will be reported at the next international week. Do not worry.
5. On reflection, it has not been a strong week for any of us. International breaks are difficult things to get through, yes, but even so, the splashback from this one has been so embarrassing that ... wait, what? The FA are selling tickets for Tuesday's game to foreign people? Foreign people that aren't English? English people that aren't Jack Wilshere? Pass me that pitchfork, darling! The rage is a-coursing! I'm gonna get my outrage on! Oh, yes! I'm gonna seethe!
Andi Thomas and Alexander Netherton