‘Harry Kane is alright’, a c***s XI and more mails…

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Harry Kane: Not all that
I will no doubt be lambasted for this but I just don’t get the Harry Kane hype, having watched him many times I just think he is an alright striker who has been incredibly lucky in front of goal. The over hyping of English players is nothing new but I just cannot for the life of me see what all the fuss is about, I don’t think he is a good fit for United and the money being spoken about is ridiculous. In short stay at Spurs Harry please, United get Sancho and play a front three of Rashford, Martial and Sancho thank you.

Just a quick one on football computer games, football manager on the Spectrum and the dogs bollocks Sensible World of Soccer on the Amiga the pinnacle of instinctive gameplay.

Stay safe everybody.
Paul Murphy, Manchester


Bigger v Better
Today’s first mail in your mailbox is all about the concept of what makes a club “big” and of United being “Britain’s most famous club”. I’m a United fan myself and I’m not here to make an argument against this. Nor will I dispute the not-so-subtle dig at our noisy neighbours about clubs that “will probably fade back into obscurity when the money runs out”.

But that mail reminded me of a conversation I’ve had many, many years ago with Portuguese football fans. There were Benfica fans coming off a bad run of winning nothing, fresh off a particularly poor stretch when they were managed by Graeme Souness. Conversely, their bitter rivals Porto were on a hot streak, which would continue later with the European success of the Mourinho teams.

The Benfica fans were trying to persuade me in halting English that their club was still Portugal’s biggest: the biggest stadium, the largest fan base, the most league titles.

There was a single Porto fan at the table, and I still remember his exact words:

“You’re bigger. We’re better.”

Whenever I feel about arguing for United based only on how big our club is, I’m reminded of his words. A focus on being just “big” will lead to complacency. I’d rather be “better”.


How did Man United get so big?
I was interested in Eamonn from Dublin’s email earlier today about Man United being “Britain’s biggest club” in the late 1980s, when they’d had significantly less success than other clubs in previous years. Can anyone point out why this is? I know about the Busby Babes and the ’68 EC win, but i’d always understood that they hadn’t done a great deal pre 1960s. So where does this come from? Maybe i’m wrong on the facts?

Not a criticism before anyone jumps on this as a dig, genuinely interested in the (intangible) drivers of this international fame.
Ben (on Llockdywn in Wales)


Why we should all want the season finished…
With another meeting of what we have been programmed to call football’s bigwigs happening this week to further discuss how to manage the unfinished season I wanted to make a case for why you, the fan of a team that isn’t definitely going to win the Premier League, would want this season to be finished.

If we break the options down to the following:

  1. Void the season. It never happened. Football clubs go bust giving back TV money which will definitely be refunded to consumers right
  2. End the season incomplete and start a new season based on the season before. No winner, relegation, promotion but records and stats still stand.
  3. End the season incomplete and start a new season based on some formula that determines winner, relegation, promotion.
  4. Finish the season, whenever and however that may be.

We are now starting to see that this is going to go on for a long time. My choice is 4, even if it means playing the 10 rounds once a month in a cycle of game, two weeks isolation with families, two weeks training, game.

But I want to make the case, especially for ABLs, United, Arsenal and flash in the pan London teams trying to pick a rivalry with Liverpool. And the case is this; if the season is allowed to finish there is a real chance that this Liverpool team will look like ordinary title winners and possibly may not even win. There will be an invisible asterisk next that win as an extraordinary football team is replaced by the memory of a normal football team.

If the season does not finish and Liverpool are not champions then fine, there is some short term BANTZ for you. But once the dust settles this Liverpool team will become legendary, no not legendary, that’s not a strong enough word. They become mythical. Ethereal. Every pub chat, podcast, top ten listicle and combined greatest XI will be sabotaged by this Liverpool team. Best goalkeepers? Allison, can’t disprove it as a global pandemic meant the season didn’t finish. Best strikers that are actually shit but score in champions league semis and finals, best league winners, full backs, midfield, CBs, Egyptian wingers that can’t pass or shoot but scores goals quicker than two of the best strikers the Prem has ever seen. All these debates now will not be able to get past the mythical Liverpool team of 19/20.

You think Liverpool fans are unbearable now. Other than City, Liverpool have already beaten your team at the Premier League. If football never starts again we will be world champions for ever.

It’s a chilling thought. And that’s why I believe that you, fans of clubs other than Liverpool, must make this Liverpool team just another expensively assembled football team and demand that the season is finished.

I mean gawd, imagine if we f**ked it up now? Just imagine.
Alex, South London


How do Liverpool start a squad transition?
Liverpool have built an amazing team over the past few years and one of the most major aspects of this is the dressing room harmony. This comes in two forms; players don’t complain about wanting to leave in the media but also the dressing room seems to be full of a number of nice enough people who get along. I think this results in a better team ethic overall which probably shows on the pitch.

And this is where the risk of making a high-profile signing (or selling a high-profile player) comes in; how can you be sure of what you’re adding versus what you’re taking away?

Ferguson was the master of this but I think it was a bit easier because so many of his stalwarts were Mancunians. If I had to pick a star to sell I would instinctively feel that Salah is the most replaceable of our front three from a talent perspective but his off-pitch selflessness might be a huge miss in the dressing room. He’s also a player who is always happy and smiling on a football pitch; maybe it helps to remind the rest that it’s a game they are lucky to be out there playing.

This is one of those mails with some thoughts and few conclusions. Although, off-topic, having seen Koulibaly play a few times I think he’s bloody immense. Whoever signs him will improve enormously.
Minty, LFC


Newcastle in an unwinnable situation
Thanks for the article by Jacque Talbot on the Newcastle takeover.

I have to say the whole situation feels like an unwinnable one for us fans. Do we embrace the negative reaction we’ve seen already from many including Amnesty International and a large number of journalists, and protest the potential new owners based on the reported human rights record of the state? Ask most rational Newcastle fans and they will accept that what is happening is morally questionable.

But the absolute apathy most feel towards the team now is the worst it’s ever been. Ashley has systematically broken us down over 13 years with glimmers of hope seeing the 50,000 gates keep rolling in to give him his payday. Do we protest Saudi, and stick with Ashley instead? What will we gain? Because no-one else would put up the money, guaranteed. And we’ve also proved that we can’t galvanise fully against Ashley, because people want to keep going to games.

I saw one journalist describe Newcastle as a ‘great community club, potentially now used as image-enhancement’ – the problem is that we aren’t a great community club anymore. In fact, this will be the easiest change that any new owners will need to make – the reunification of the football community spirit will come straight from page 1 of any ‘PR for Dummies’ book as it’s in such a dire yet fixable state right now.

If we decided to protest, we would achieve a thumbs-up from said journalists, maybe some politicians, and a few fans on twitter looking for likes. It would all be forgotten before you know it as we put our reserve side out for the FA Cup 3rd round.

What’s the alternative? Well just regeneration of the city, stadium, training facilities, academy, squad, manager, general goodwill and I dare I say it, a possible trophy. The fans who easily get carried away are rightly getting carried away, the rational ones among us? Well we are too, I can’t remember the last time i was this excited about what could be happening to my club and my city – they might even give the players an ice bath which isn’t a paddling pool.

I challenge any fan of one of the ‘nearly’ clubs like ourselves to be put in the same position and get the anti-Saudi signs out and march on Premier League HQ.

As I say, unwinnable.
Harry, Geordie in London


Soundtrack to sport?
As it seems likely that we might be seeing more than the odd one or two games played behind closed doors, I wonder if any of the broadcasters have given any thought to adding a subtle crowd noise soundtrack, a bit like canned laughter on comedy shows?

And if you’re bored, how about watching The Shouting Men. It’s a very funny road trip movie from 2010 about a group of Gillingham fans trying to get to Newcastle for an FA Cup game and features cameos from a lot of real footballing celebrities.

Tim Royall GFC


Taking on the World XI challenge
The XIs still seem to be going strong so thought I would try and contribute with a challenge that has been doing the rounds in my Whatsapp groups that I don’t think I’ve seen in the mailbox.

The rules:

Each player must have played professionally during your lifetime (for me that’s the last 30 years)
No two players can be the same nationality
No two players can have played for the same club (even if they’ve played at separate times).

Steven Gerrard has made an attempt.

It’s pretty challenging, but here’s my attempt (hopefully with no mistakes – I’ve already revised it about ten times):

GK: Jan Oblak

RB: Steve Finnan

CB: Rafael Varane

CB: Rio Ferdinand

LB: Philipp Lahm

CM: Frank Rijkaard

CM: David Silva

RAM: Lionel Messi

CAM: Jay-Jay Okocha

LAM: Son Heung-Min

CF: Didier Drogba

Dave, Spurs, East London


Another film and TV star XI
Long-time reader first time contributor. I read this morning that the Mailbox was struggling to put out an afternoon edition yesterday, so thought I might chip in with something.

I enjoyed Mikey, CFC’s Footballer Movie/TV stars XI, and understood the subsequent moans about the absence of Escape to Victory stars, so thought I would have a go. Apart from one position in which I struggled, I have kept Escape to Victory out of it.

GK: Laurie Sivell – Escape to Victory. Told you I struggled with this position. The former Ipswich and Lincoln goalie is the only one from that WW2 cheese-fest who makes the team. With Irish winger Kevin O’Callaghan bizarrely put between the posts before his mates break his arm to let Sly Stallone take his place, there was no room in the Allied team for poor Laurie, so he had to make do with keeping nets for the Germans. He let in four goals against an unfit and disorganised group of PoW camp residents. He’ll be disappointed with that.

DEF: Alvaro Arbeloa – Torrente 4: Lethal Crisis. Another instalment in the Spanish black comedy cop thriller series features several Real Madrid stars making cameos, among them Higuain and Ramos, but I needed a right-back to do a job for me, so the former Liverpool man gets the nod.

DEF: Paul Breitner – Potato Fritz. The German World Cup-winning legend with a heavy duty left foot also turned out as a frontier soldier helping pioneers to plant potatoes in a 1976 spaghetti western. How he came to be considered for the role, I do not know. His acting suggests neither does he.

DEF: John Terry and Martin Keown – Renford Rejects. The centre of the defence consists of this formidable partnership, with both appearing in this Nickelodeon children’s comedy show about a 5-a-side team of misfits and clichés. Harry Redknapp also made an appearance, so he can be manager.

Graeme Souness – The Boys from the Blackstuff. The serial Pogba-botherer whose wife is presumably telling him to “take all that stuff off the table” all the time, showed his face in the brilliantly gritty 1980s drama starring Bernard Hill. He puts in a brief but characteristically menacing appearance alongside Hill’s Yosser Hughes.

Kenny Dalglish – Scully. Souness is joined in midfield by his Liverpool and Scotland colleague by way of an appearance in playwright Alan Bleasdale’s comic drama. A Liverpool-obsessed teenager who dreams of playing at Anfield has hallucinations in which Dalglish appears, including once, worryingly, dressed as a fairy godmother. Mirroring real life, Dalglish replaced original choice Kevin Keegan.

Eric Cantona – Elizabeth. Yes, he was in Looking for Eric, but Cantona first raised an eyebrow when he appeared in Shekar Kapur’s luscious historical drama as a French diplomat.

George Best – Percy. The Belfast Boy also appeared in Cup Fever, the story of a youth team who meet Man Utd in a cup competition, but I can’t not mention his role in this 1971 British comedy about the world’s first recipient of a penis transplant. He didn’t get the transplant himself. His was working just fine by all accounts.

Stan Collymore – Basic Instinct 2. Dies getting a hand shandy from Sharon Stone while driving his sports car at speed through London? Yes, that really happened.

Ian Wright – Gun of a Black Sun. Mr Wright, Wright, Wright is actually not bad, but the film really is. A WW2 Nazi pistol with mystical powers is found in modern day Romania, with a power-hungry media magnate looking to use its power to bring about the Fourth Reich. Hogwash of the highest order.
A, Dublin


Another kind of C team
Following this morning’s installation of alphabetical XIs, I thought I’d submit my own team of ‘C’s.

GK: Joe Hart (I don’t know if it’s moussed hair or the fact he took Shay Given’s starting spot but I always thought he had a very slappable face.)

RB: Danny Simpson (Smacking around your girlfriend makes inclusion here a no-brainer)
CB: John Terry (The racism was bad enough but that 26th-minute sub thing during his last match was one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever seen in football)
CB: Sergio Ramos (Look at his f**king hair)
LB: Danny Rose (At least he kept his word about playing up north)

LW: Ryan Giggs (There’s got to be something wrong with you to be doing naked yoga with your brother’s wife for eight years)
CM: Joey Barton (Still can’t believe he was on Question Time. The clown seriously thinks he’s an intellectual)
CM: Steven Gerrard (Surely non-United fans also wanted to put their foot through their TV when kissed the camera? He then joins Rangers to top it off)
RM: Jack Grealish (Hair bands, talking about how mature you are in interviews, doing the opposite of the advice you gave to the public and smashing into parked cars. Sounds like a complete c)

FW: Paolo Di Canio (I don’t care how nice he was to injured players, getting a tattoo celebrating Mussolini and giving a fascist salute during a high-profile football match in a stadium he built makes you a massive c)
ST: Diego Costa (More of a pantomime c. Apparently quite a nice chap off the pitch but he was so bloody good at making you hate him when he was on it)
Eamonn, Dublin


Soundtrack to an era of football gaming
This may be a touch leftfield but, hey, you said the mailbox is thin right now and this is most definitely related to Mikey CFC’s email of today.

I’ve played football games since the start, from World Cup ’90 in the arcade at 20p a shot, through many games on various systems, up until Pro Evo (when it was way better than FIFA). Off the top of my head, I remember most recently having Striker (SNES), Actua Soccer (PS1), Actua 2 (PS2 I think), I.S.S. (N64) and Pro Evolution (PS2/3). Oh, and of course CM/FM. They all had their qualities and foibles, but got better and better. As many readers will attest, football games were (and I’m sure still are) a way of life.

So, to tangent from there…. back in the day (1995-2007 to be precise) me and in particular a couple of close friends lived this way of life. One of them used to write and record songs about it at the time – it was proper spirit of rock stuff, raw like sushi and quite literally recorded (in the beginning at least) in his bedroom at his parents’ house, on the cheapest, most rudimentary plastic 4-track you’ve ever seen. It was straight outta the ’80s Kit-Kat advert – “you can’t sing, you can’t play – you’ll go a long way”. We later wrote and recorded music together but his solo material, across several albums, paid homage to this earlier way of life – upshot being that he produced a lot of songs about these football games and us clowns at the time… which in turn meant a bunch of songs dedicated to playing whichever football game while drinking tea and smoking jazz ciggies. I’ve just been listening to them and howling. I’m convinced that Johnny Nic would fully appreciate it. We were never the best musicians or (even more so) singers but the lyrics were killer as long as you understood the subject matter. I’ll give you some examples/excerpts of The General’s back catalogue:

We Love Pro Evo (Ah Verre!, 2006, self-explanatory)

…Keep the ball moving, you can’t hope to score if you don’t have the ball
Crack one off early; if you get the chance then you must unleash the beef
I’ll tell you what’s gone wrong, boy
Too many, too many through balls
We intercept them with ease
Then counter attack
Chorus 1:
We love Pro Evo, it’s clothing soundos (cloth as in dishcloth – something we used to say, don’t ask)
It’s perfect with some tea and spliff
Classic round robin or Master League
We play all night, never fatigue

Redeye Jedi (Mutton Chops, 1999, about I.S.S. The “Jedi” refers to the three of us who played far too much)

A Jedi could be in your midst; he could even be your neighbour
Maybe there’s something you missed; he won’t wear a light saber
But he might have a glory stick, to cut you down to size
He might not be an evil Sith, but he’s bound to have red eyes
That’s because of cannabis smoke, and plenty of late nights
Gratuitous ISS, and plenty more late nights

We’re the redeye Jedi; we are footballing essence
Redeye Jedi; we have felt your presence

Other classics include I.S.S. (“If you’re struggling bring on Malacky, those continentals don’t like it up ’em”), Bananas’ Goal of Sarlac (“it rose and bent and dipped and S’d (?), into the top corner of the net, the keeper, never stood a chance”), Actua (Baby) Blues, into which he juxtaposed the John Motson game commentary along with his vocals and “Can of Worms”, needless to say about CM2.

There are other football-related (not game-related) songs too, the most worthy of mention being the early and extremely raw “I Love You (You Look Like Le Tiss)”. How I’d love Le God to hear it:

We could live together, in eternal bliss
But don’t you know I love you ’cause you look like Le Tiss

I’d love to know if any other mailboxers have ever come across this ilk of footy gaming musical tribute. And of course I’d be happy to provide any of these tracks to anyone who thinks they can relate to this madness or is otherwise interested.

Apologies too for the lengthy mail (but you did say you needed content).
Bennett, Val Verde (I can beat you, John; I don’t need the girl)