The Daily Star stumble into the England Lionesses race debate, while Jesse Lingard’s Nottingham Forest wage is pinned down once and for all…
It is genuinely uplifting to see so much space in all the papers given over to England’s Lionesses as they prepare for their Euro semi-final next week. There are Georgia Stanway quotes everywhere, much reasoned and thoughtful tactical analysis and plenty of deserved praise for Sarina Wiegman’s bold substitutions when the Spain game appeared to be going really quite badly awry.
There is, though, a deeply weird piece from Jeremy Cross in the Daily Star about the whiteness of the England team. Now this is a very reasonable topic for discussion, even if that forces you to end up debating with absolute wrong ‘uns on Twitter. It has been raised on these pages and elsewhere.
What nobody else has done, though, has implied this whiteness to be a failing on the part of Wiegman, who has been England head coach for 10 months. The focus has quite rightly been on a system that produces so few players of colour at the highest level rather than any suggestion of racism within the current managerial or playing staff.
Cross veers dangerously close to such an accusation with some unpleasant nudge, nudge, wink, winkery.
‘Just imagine if Gareth Southgate led his England men to the semi-finals of a major tournament and hadn’t started a single game with a BAME player in his side? All hell would break loose. Southgate would stand accused of being racist and the outpouring criticism would probably lead to him losing his job.’
Would it? And would it? And, finally, would it? This all seems like a bit of a reach to prove a point that barely warrants making. This doesn’t really have anything to do with the men’s team.
‘It might just be a simple case of Wiegman, who has just three black or mixed heritage stars in her squad, believing that her best starting XI just happens to be those players with white skin and blonde hair.’
Well, yes. It is that simple, apart from the weird bit about blonde hair that we don’t think we’re being too unfair in reading as a pretty deliberate ploy against Wiegman. But the whole paragraph is obnoxious, hinting without ever expressly saying out loud that Wiegman’s own selections could have an ulterior motive.
And this is particularly unpleasant and unnecessary when Cross himself quite rightly later highlights that this England team is a symptom of something deeper and more structural: ‘The current issues surrounding diversity cannot be solved overnight.’ Absolutely, but let’s cast aspersions about the manager’s failure to solve them overnight anyway.
Let’s be charitable and file this piece under ‘well-intentioned’ because the issue is a vital one, but this particular contribution to the debate leaves an unpleasant taste.
No matter how much we tap the sign, it seems that people remain absolutely determined to read way too much into pre-season results and performances. We can only conclude that absolutely nobody listens to us and that we have absolutely no influence. But that can’t be right.
While much is made of Darwin Nunez’s four goals for Liverpool against Leipzig proving he isn’t the worst player of all time after all, the maddest leap comes from Andy Dunn in the Mirror. Now we assume by this point we’ve all seen Conor Gallagher’s undeniably hilarious and inept attempted Panenka in a penalty shoot-out for Chelsea against Charlotte FC. Now it is surely obvious to anyone that if there’s one thing less meaningful than a pre-season match, it’s a pre-season shoot-out. Surely nobody would try and read anything into Gallagher’s embarrassing moment beyond a bit of social media viral action and a few chortles.
But you’ve reckoned without Dunn, who has seen enough in that one moment to conclude that Gallagher is not good enough for Chelsea.
‘Presumably Conor Gallagher is using pre-season to try to convince Thomas Tuchel he finally deserves a place in Chelsea’s Premier League squad.’
‘So what did 22-year-old Gallagher do when tasked with taking a spot-kick in a shoot-out against Charlotte FC? Execute the worst Panenka in penalty history. If the coach reads anything into friendly matches, what will that tell Tuchel?’
Absolutely nothing because Tuchel isn’t going to judge Gallagher or anyone else on a pre-season penalty shoot-out?
‘That Gallagher’s technique might not be as good as the player himself seems to think. It looks like loan time again.’
Oh. Just absurd. It may very well be the case that another loan is the correct option for Gallagher, that he might not be ready to be a Chelsea regular. But if that is the case it is not in any way because of one duffed penalty that quite literally couldn’t matter less. A better question might be why there is even a penalty shoot-out in a pre-season game anyway.
We once again find ourselves firmly in ‘the opposite would be far more newsworthy’ territory with today’s obligatory update from Manchester United and Erik Ten Hag. We understand why United’s pre-season is the subject of so much more focus than anyone else’s given the circumstances, but it doesn’t mean that everything is news. Take the new United manager’s latest inevitably and understandably non-committal quotes about Donny van de Beek’s prospects of becoming a regular for United.
“It’s the same for every player – he has to do it by himself. Me as a manager and the coaching staff around him can do everything to set the right conditions so he can perform but in the end the player has to do it by himself.
“They have to take responsibility for their performance. Donny has the capability.”
It could hardly be more beige and vanilla. It is impossible in good faith to read more into that than Van de Beek being a Manchester United player who Ten Hag will pick if he deserves to be picked, and that Ten Hag believes Van de Beek to be capable of achieving that.
Run it through the Daily Star tabloid machine, though, and you get this.
‘Erik ten Hag has warned Donny van de Beek their past relationship counts for nothing now they have been reunited at Manchester United.’
Lin the money
Daily Telegraph: ‘Jesse Lingard signs for Nottingham Forest in £80,000-a-week deal.’
The Mirror: ‘Former England star Jesse Lingard has joined Nottingham Forest on a one-year deal that will make him the highest earner in their history. Lingard will pick up a basic salary of £80,000 a week… but could boost that by a further £40,000 a week with bonuses.’
Sky Sports:’Sky Sports News has been told Lingard becomes Forest’s highest earner, with his deal thought to be worth £115,000 per week plus incentives.’
The Sun: ‘Jesse Lingard has joined Nottingham Forest on a free in a one-year deal worth £150,000 a week.’
The Athletic: ‘While Lingard is expected to become the highest earner in the Forest dressing room, he is not understood to be on a wage that is close to the £180,000 a week that has been bandied about on social media.’
The Times: ‘Nottingham Forest sign Jesse Lingard on one-year deal worth up to £200k a week.’
The Guardian: ‘Forest… have agreed terms with Lingard on an initial one-year contract worth close to £200,000 a week.’
F365: ‘Lingard saga concludes as he signs one-year deal worth around £200k per week with Forest.’
Daily Star: ‘Lingard will wear the No10 shirt for his new club and is understood to be earning up to around £200,000 a week, if he meets certain bonus incentives, as part of his one-year Forest deal.’
Daily Mail: ‘Jesse Lingard has signed a £200,000-a-week deal to join newly promoted Nottingham Forest.’
Still, at least we can all be reasonably confident that it’s a one-year deal.