...what happened to the fourth Champions League place the last time an English team won the thing. Plus, who would want to pay £60 to watch the current England team?
A Sunderland fan in the mailbox is surprised by Jack Colback's call up to the England squad. Plus, thoughts on Welbeck and Liverpool's Champions League draw...
If you have anything to add on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Liverpool Just getting Started...
Jim MUFC, it's safe to assume you haven't been watching Liverpool play all season. If you had you would have watched Liverpool out-tactic (thanks Sam..) teams when they needed to, out-score them when we had to, and simply dominate games we should not have been allowed to.
Liverpool were unlucky to lose against both Chelsea and Man City earlier in the season and I, for one, am salivating at the thought of going to head-to-head with them at Anfield. I expect a result against both teams on current form. We have earned it. The Liverpool squad isn't as a strong as Man City or Chelsea's but there are reasons we are where we are now. The work rate and ethic of the team is among the best in the league. We now have five or six outlets of creativity and goalscorers in Suarez, Sturridge, Coutinho, Sterling, Henderson and Gerrard. And last but not least we have a tactically savvy and outstanding manager in Brendan Rodgers.
It is Rodgers' ability that has Liverpool where we are now. It is his tinkering and beloved diamond formation that saw us run riot against Arsenal and at Old Trafford. And it is his application of methodology and approach that has resulted in Liverpool topping the goals scored charts and getting the absolute best out of the most formidable strike partnership in England. His last transfer targets included names like Willian, Mkhitaryan and Costa, all top-class players. And now it appears we will have Champions League football to offer them...
Jim, you say it's too good to be true and won't last. I'm afraid you're wrong my friend, we are only just getting started...
Dazza, LFC, Dublin
...Jimm your point would be valid if we hadn't of already played both those teams in successive games away from home and were very very unfortunate not to go away with anything to show for it. I mean who remembers that Sterling offside in the City game!? It still beggars belief.
Anyway we had Gerrard and Sturridge missing for those games so in essence the rich boys actually got off easy (even Brad Smith had to come on at one stage!) which won't be the case is the coming weeks hopefully.
Yes we looked nervous playing Sunderland; having the tension of a title challenge build for over a month without playing in front of your own supporters will do that to a team but we managed to come through it which is more than I can say for your lot lately.
Vinnie Dublin, LFC
...In regards to Jim, MUFC who says
'I've been thinking lately that Liverpool could be in for a reality check when they come up against City and Chelsea. I'm a UTD fan so I may be biased, but still.'
Yes, you are very biased. Can I remind you that the reality check we had when we played them away was that we got robbed of 2-3 crucial decisions which more then likey meant a goal for us at important parts of the game when we could have gained a good lead over them.
Dont get me wrong, I still think it will be a City, Chelsea 1-2 with us third but we've been having reality checks when we played them two away, Spurs away, Stoke away, Arsenal at home, Southampton away and even Everton at home and we've come away unscathed for most those games.
Phil, Can't wait to see the banner in the sky, Notts
Leeds A Warning To Liverpool
I'm surprised that the current plight of Leeds United has been completely ignored on these pages, but then I suppose anything that happens outside the upper echelons of the Premier League doesn't warrant much airtime, and saying as their last league title came the year before football was invented, does it even really count?
This is one of England's biggest clubs, regularly with attendances exceeding 30,000 and can often be found as the club with the biggest away support in the entire country, despite not having played 'real' football in 10 years. Pillaged and taken into administration by Ken Bates and almost relegated from League One just a few years ago, we were back in the Championship with exciting young players like Snodgrass, Howson, Bradley Johnson, Max Gradel and Jermaine Beckford and things were looking good. These players were all sold to fund the building of a corporate hospitality suite by Bates, who then sold the club to GFH, an investment bank with no money to invest.
Saddled with players who are mates of the odious Neil Warnock on lucrative long-term contracts, the wages for the last few months have been paid by Massimo Cellino, the Italian gangster who failed the fit and proper person test, today the club failed to pay the wages of the playing staff, leaking over £1million a month and with no viable cash flow, administration (or worse) is looking like a strong possibility yet again. Groundhog Day for one of England's biggest and most successful clubs, and nobody really knows what will happen next.
Word of warning to clubs like Liverpool, £250m in debt with that debt increasing but promised to shrink with the hope of regular Champions League football, have a look at Leeds circa 2000-2004 to see what happens when you miss out on that European football after flying so high, gambling with huge debts. I find it funny when Liverpool fans in the mailbox claim they are doing things 'the right way', when really they are spending large fees on players and wages with the owners simply assuming the will be in the Champions League each year - 'Living The Dream' I believe Peter Ridsdale called it.
Money DOES Rule
'As Ed Woodward said in a presentation to shareholders in February: "Some of our competitors haven't won the league for a long time but still sell many shirts, including one down the road." There is something so reprehensible about this titanic club being run by owners who simply do not understand a love for football and have neither shown any intent to grasp fans' feelings.' This is an extract from Stanger's W&L this week.
The reality of football today, when even Championship players get paid five figures or more per week, is that financial stability HAS to be safeguarded before players can be bought and title challenges mounted. As much as fans and media like to argue otherwise, for most clubs, survival is a worthy end in itself because of ever-increasing costs (rising way above inflation). The vast majority of chairmen around the country would admit as much behind closed doors but not openly. One finally came out with it and you jump on his back.
You, the media, are loathe to admit this. Why? Because, quite simply, you don't understand finance. You can't read a balance sheet. You don't know how to balance risk and reward of investments. And you don't want to be replaced by someone who does, someone who might be able to say "it makes sense not to overspend because of the potential increased interest on a loan". You've carved out a lovely niche for yourselves where you get to be willfully reactionary and pass judgement in ignorance and football fans lap it up. Perhaps it's because they, like you, prefer to bury their head in the sand and pretend money doesn't rule the game.
So there is an endless cycle of the media peddling a romantic ideal that is long outdated to preserve your employment, and fans lapping it up because they can't let that same ideal go because they can't admit that the club they've loved for years will only love them back if they keep coughing up the funds.
The sooner you all move on and accept what you've all helped create the better.
I know you won't print this but I suspect you know it's true.
Evil Weavil III
This Arsenal Fan Wants...
The question was who Arsenal fans would like to win the league. I assume many of us will agree with Mr Green from this morning's mailbox, but I do have an opinion on the matter. So, in order of preference,
1 - Liverpool. My brother supports them, and even though I won't hear the end of it, it would be nice for him if they did it. Also, their attacking football is a pleasure to watch and the fact that their defence is so leaky makes them even more fun to watch. Also, they have built this team without loads of ill-gotten money.
2 - Man City. They are like the rich kid at school who was able to get whatever they wanted, but at least their manager is quite likeable and they also do play attractive football at times. Also, they alway have an embarrassing loss in them, which is a likeable trait.
3 - A team of diseased rats, rabid dogs and ebola-ridden hyenas.
4 - Chelsea. They may be ruthlessly efficient but they are boring to watch and are managed by the most hideous man in football. The man who forced a perfectly good ref to retire by lying about him. The man who tried to gouge out the eye of a cancer patient. The man who is loved by all the press because he creates stories for them to write about.
Adonis (Hoping this will be their year) Stevenson, AFC
Everton Fans Just Want Fourth
John Whelan, Dublin, asks whether Everton fans would take Champions League and Liverpool winning the League, or give up one if it means the other doesn't happen.
Now. First of all, I'm an Everton fan. I'm not going to jinx Everton's chances of qualifying: Arsenal are 'in charge' of that fourth place spot because they are in it, just as Everton are 'in charge' of fifth right now: to stay where they are, the sides just need to win as many points as the sides below them, but to overtake, they need to win more than those above them.
Second, the only way Everton can play any part in the title chase now is by taking points off City, and I'm not sure even that would make the difference, given City have two games in hand on Liverpool and are just two points behind them: in this case, City are in charge of their destiny, rather than Everton or even Liverpool.
Given both of these things, if it is at all possible for Everton to finish in a Champions' League spot, I'd take that, regardless of anything else. I couldn't care less whether newspapers and TV heap praise on us (fourth place is not the League title, after all) because I'm an Everton fan and I know what it would mean for me and other Evertonians to be there.
In fairness, Liverpool look very good. But the fact is that they have spent a huge amount of money in the last few years (and started from a better position than most sides in the league) albeit that the other two challengers for the title have spent more than them. We can't compete with the money Liverpool have spent and continue to spend, while we are not even on the same planet (in cash terms) as Chelsea and Man City: we're really more interested in our own revival, under a manager whose been with us for just eight months worth of football.
So, if it's possible for us to finish fourth, that's what I want.
Not in the slightest bit bothered about anything else at the moment.
Rory O'Keeffe, Brighton
...While obviously I would prefer Liverpool not to win the league (and so I suspect would most other right-minded fans, just imagine all the Liverpool emails the Mailbox would get!) I would go for fourth place all day long.
Our lads our have done bloomin' marvelous this season and with Mr Nice Roberto it's easy to be proud of the Toffees. A spot in the Money League, sorry Champions League, might just let Martinez spend some cash on much-needed reinforcements and keep the momentum going. Why not be positive and hope the club do as well as they can?! I care more about how Everton do than what any other team does so if it meant a fourth place spot I would take it and get my best arrogance-umbrella out ready for the downpour.
Plus I can rely on the lads down the road committing some right royal cock-ups in the very near future (Brenda opening his mouth, someone's leg being chewed off, Andy Carroll) which will always provide a selection of good come-backs I can give to my LFC-supporting chums.
Geoff the optimistic Evertonian
Sherwood > Moyes
Possibly the most damning stat on Moyes. In the Premier League since Sherwood took over:
Sherwood: Played 14, 26 points
Moyes: Played 14, 23 points.
(Was worked out by a Man United-supporting friend, seems to be accurate though).
Maybe Moyes needs to buy a gilet, or make Bentaleb the first name on the team sheet.
Will Donovan, North London, THFC
Today's Big Weekend feature offered 'confirmation' that fans who would fly an anti-Moyes banner over Old Trafford are 'a completely ridiculous set of individuals' who should give up this 'laughable exercise' and donate the money to a worthy cause.
That's a bit harsh. For me, despite being a Blackburn Rovers fan and therefore on the receiving end from Burnley in recent years, a decent plane banner is up there with a good old Batty/Le Saux dust-up, a fit streaker, a Cantona kung-fu assault and a nice wad of phlegm in Rudy Voller's hair - things we do indeed want to see on a football pitch (or at least John Nicholson does). Let them have their fun.
Anyway, if we're talking about laughable wastes of money, a Premier League season ticket is surely up there with the worst of them.
Suck it Up, United Fans
There was a fat kid in my class. He used to be cracking at sports but at approximately 14 he ate a lot of chips. We all mercilessly mocked the poor boy. Problem was he took it really badly and acted like a petulant little twerp. One day he figured out that if he just took our stick in good humour and reduced his ever-expanding waist-line he'd soon be dominating sports day once again. Point is Man Utd fans need to take the dip in form in good humour and not act like utter idiots hiring a plane. What good is a banner really going to do? No one loses their job because a giant poster says they should.
Martin (their decline is still very funny) Jackson
They Don't Speak For Us
I'm writing as no doubt United fans are going to get a lot of abuse if the select few cretins from Red Issue go ahead with their plane banner plans on Saturday. Also with regards to the loons shouting abuse towards Sir Alex (seriously?!) and Moyes in the South stand (they never sing there but suddenly decide to find their voice). The thing about all this is, it is an extremely small minority that have lost the plot, yet reading this morning's mailbox you'd think it was tens of thousands involved. I need to be clear about this, these people do NOT act on behalf of the majority and certainly don't mirror my feelings on the issue of David Moyes. It should be pointed out Red Issue were the ones spouting the pure fan fiction of Giggs storming away from Moyes saying "we're f*cking Man United!", and that Sir Alex was going to return as manager to sort the mess out.
I was in attendance on Tuesday and contrary to Ben AFC, London's mail the other day, whilst the loud and continued support that was on display during the Liverpool game was slightly less noticeable, where I was stood the majority did stay til the end and the atmosphere remained constant for most of the time. This wasn't because I'm happy with Moyes and the steaming pile of s**t he's served up for us this season, but because as long as people are in the stadium (or above it?) we should be fully behind the team, because how does booing and hanging banners from planes help us win a football game? Away from a match we can criticise him all we like, and if/ when Moyes does leave (assuming he hasn't turned it around) then the time for publicly slating him will come. Sure, people started filing out after going 3-0 down (90th minute) but we all had to drive back to London for work the next day I suppose. If we're getting petty then I recall a Champions League semi-final in 2009 where the Emirates was three-quarters empty after 60 minutes, but that's not the point of why I'm writing.
The point is, sure, some loons are about to do something with a plane that is stupid and (I hope) the majority of United fans feel is the wrong thing to do, but don't tarnish all of us as having lost the plot just because a few have. If this does go ahead, I'd even advocate an airing (get it?) of some of the retired pro-Moyes chants from earlier in the season just to show that these people are doing the wrong thing, even if most of us realise Moyes is doing a poor job and is not the right man. More realistically, if you agree with the plane idea, why not show your frustration by sitting in silence? It wouldn't be too different to most home games, or better yet don't turn up at all. For now, and until he's gone, as Sir Alex requeste,d I'm sticking with supporting not just him, but more importantly the team, in a positive manner.
Chris, MUFC, Barnet
I'll Fly The Flipping Plane
Protesting against Moyes does not make the fans plastic glory hunters. They are attempting to look after the best interests of the football club for which they pay good money to support. I admit that flying a plane over the stadium is a bit extreme, there are far more effective ways of getting the message across. Despite this, it's finally a step in the right direction.
There is literally nothing Moyes has said or done over his tenure that makes people believe he is the right man for the job. He has failed on every single level to prove to the fans, players and media that he deserves such a prestigious role. As a life-long United fan I now feel disconnected from the club, we are helpless until this man is removed. The final straw was in the first 10 minutes of the City game. Everyone knew from the team sheet what was going to happen, apart from the man who wrote it. Desperately trying to put right his glaring mistake shows that he is completely incompetent at this job.
He has had enough time to at least demonstrate the direction he wants to go and has wasted £70m in the process. A Guardiola or Mourinho wouldn't have got us in this state to begin with, but if they did, they would be afforded more time by the fans. The reason for this? They are respected and have earned respect by being serial winners. The fans would trust in the manager to get it right, who can say that Moyes can do the same?
The biggest mystery of all is why United didn't end up with Guardiola or Mourinho. Ferguson retires and in the same summer, two world-class managers change jobs. The opportunity to carry on the legacy is there for all to see, why wasn't this taken?
Make It An Actual League
How I think a 'UEFA Nations League' could work is to do away with qualifying for the Euros altogether. Basically 54 countries split into four leagues fighting it out in their respective leagues, much in the way club football works now. At the end of every two or four years you have champions, promotions, relegations etc however at a given point in time a cut is made and the top 32 (another debate) of the 54 teams get to compete in the regular summer European tournament.
Details could be ironed out but you could have Spain fighting it out for a league and cup double every four years.
Arron Hunt, Baile Atha Claith
I love the Friday Quiz! Always gives me a feeling of 'Yeah I know a lot about this football lark'. I especially love these 'follow the club' ones.
So when you said you tried to make it difficult today all I could think was yeah, bring it on! Let's massage my ego!
Anywho, I got two! Two!! And one of them was because the guy's picture was on the top of piece. So yeah, thanks guys! I'm not even angry! I'm impressed!
John Whelan (Rustu Recber????), Dublin
Big-Ups To Merse
I enjoy your 'eye on the expert' pieces. I was glad that Paul Merson seemed appreciated despite his obvious flaws as a pundit.
For some reason, at the end of the article I just wanted it to say:
'wonderful footballer though...literally. Wonderful.'
DF (they start off just decent, then from 1.57 there are some lovely goals) AFC
n a bid to put Raúl H. García (cool name btw) off reading this website altogether.
If I ever met Eidur Gudjohnsen and didn't immediately fall victim to his Arctic stare and perfect beard, I would do things to him that would Christian Grey wince.
...It may be Friday and it's supposed to be a laugh but, seriously, what is Raul babbling about?
Oh no, you've embarrassed yourselves printing a letter from a man saying Guardiola's a dreamboat. A MAN? What were you smoking over there, lads? Printing such disgusting thoughts under the pretence of 'modernity'. Bad teds, you lot.
Now, it might just be me, but is there something sinister just under the surface of that email? It's fine to think about that sort of stuff but please don't share it and DEFINITELY don't go into 'painstaking detail' about the whole thing. It's completely fine what you do behind closed doors, just don't shove it in my face eh?
Honestly, I think I'm doubly annoyed that he's a Liverpool fan as well and even puts YNWA in his sign off. Yeah, you'll never walk alone, just be sure not to say anything suggestive about another bloke, yeah?
Giant, flaming skip for Raul ta.
Kris, LFC, Manchester
On Degsy's Genitals
When the Venn diagram of Degsy's column overlaps with the final story in Mediawatch it is either the day that all is right with the world or all is wrong. I can't decide.
Matt, Saints (If fourth place is a trophy, then surely eighth place deserves an Easter Egg or something) London
Regarding Mediawatch shamelessly printing Pard****** without censor - was it not considered for one second the connotations of such a terrible word and the offence caused due to its utterance?
The Pardster might seem jovial on camera most of the time, but I think most have noticed his darker side, especially of late. Even lately he's not even shown up to Newcastle for no reason at all!
So, if a Bast*** is an illegitimate child, a Pard***** must either be an illegitimate Pardew, or a spawn of illegitimate Pardews. Offended now?!
OffCom's comin' ta get ya!