Wash your hands and send your emails to firstname.lastname@example.org…
If I could turn back time
As things are going to be quiet for a while, a question for the mailbox. If you could change one result as a neutral what would you choose? I would have loved Newcastle to have won the league title in 1996/96 so if they had beaten a Schmeichel-inspired United instead of losing 1-0, I think they’d have done it. More specifically though, I’d have to say Arsenal losing to Barcelona in the Champions League in 2006. A wonderful team that deserved more and was more than capable of beating them. How about you guys?
(Anyone else watch that marble race on video?) Alex, London
Cole off the line
As we find ourselves in the cold, unfeeling grasp of a global pandemic, I find warmth in the luxurious afterglow of Arsenal of the early noughties. Whilst basking on this warm and fuzzy I was struck by a thought, has there ever been a better proponent of the goal line clearance than Ashley Cole? He had an uncanny ability to cut short the ecstasy of opposing players and fans with vital touches at the most vital moments. Having done no research whatsoever I immediately proclaim the Arsenal edition of Ashley Cole as the Supreme Master of goal line clearances, lesser mortals may apply for subordinate ranks.
JF, Cape Town
Wales v Scotland
Bloody hell guys, I think the social isolation has sent you a bit bananas.
You reckon that wales team would beat the flowers of Scotland? Granted that welsh midfield looks very decent but they’ve got a defence of Davies, Gunter, Williams and Collins. That wouldn’t survive a season in the premier league.
With Gary mac and wee Gordie (that’s what they’d call him isn’t it, I’m from Essex, I haven’t got a clue) bossing the midfield i think it’s the Scots game all day long. Steve Clark and Robertson keeping the welsh wing wizards quiet? Sparky and braveheart would be a hell of a battle.
Andrew, Woodford green
In love with Smudge
Alan, in quarantine in Córdoba asked yesterday about players who weren’t great but us readers still loved anyway, well if we were talking club football I would probably choose Chelsea’s Tiago or Maniche, must have been their long hair because I do not remember them doing anything for Chelsea other than probably scoring a wonder goal, or Fulham’s Facundo Sava, a player more famous for wearing a mask when he scored a goal but he wasn’t the most prolific goalscorer for his club, not till he moved to La Liga, that mask alone though, that is why I will always love that guy, but Alan said International so naturally that would be England for myself, well the one that comes to mind would be Alan Smith.
Many could argue that Alan Smith was a decent player, now for me he never truly lived up to the full potential he had when at Leeds, this I still believe is because when he moved to Manchester United he was transitioned into a midfielder and suffered such a terrible leg break which ruled him out for a long time, but to me I have always loved the one they called Smudge, I truly hope we see him back on either the touchline as a coach or on our TV screens in some form.
How to finish the season
“Of course they deserve the title but it really doesn’t matter… It does not matter.” – Anonymous Guy in the comments under Rooney’s article.
Absolutely agreed: it does not matter. Football and all other non-essential activity have been postponed indefinitely, as is right and proper, and at this moment nothing matters more than the steps we take – which are completely within our power – to prevent as many people falling victim to this as we can. Stay at home. Look out for your neighbours from a safe distance. Buy only what you need from the supermarket and encourage others to do the same (but not by being a self-righteous prick on social media – try and encourage in a way that will actually work, rather than a way that will confirm to all your friends and followers how great you are). Then, once you have ticked all these boxes (by which time you’ll be in the house, with either time on your hands or work from home to avoid), think of ways to keep yourself busy, content in the knowledge that in doing so, you are actually doing your bit. If it helps you stay isolated, then think about topics that interest you. One of the topics that interests me is football. Another thing I quite like is opining and whingeing. Therefore, what I’ll do while locked up at home is write a mail to my favourite football website, opining and whingeing about that very topic. It is not important that I do this, but it’s better than inviting all may mates round for a prohibition style booze-up in my living room and having that descend into a wrestle or a game of spin the bottle. Because I swore last time: never again.
“If they are awarded it, it will be meaningless. Best call the whole thing off” – Another Guy, also in the comments under Rooney’s article.
So now my mind wanders again to the most current debate relating to my topic of interest. I read an article on the subject, then scan the comments underneath said article, and am presented with what I consider to be a glaringly obvious false dichotomy. “If they are awarded it, it will be meaningless.” Agreed. No team should be awarded something they have not fully achieved. So far, so good, but… “best call the whole thing off.” Ah. The only other alternative to having the title rendered meaningless, is to render the last seven months meaningless, so that when football returns, it will be as it were not at its most recent point before the outbreak of an unprecedented pandemic caused its rightful suspension – what one would surely consider its natural point of resumption – but as it were at the end of play on June 1st, 2019. Those goals you scored: they didn’t happen. Those matches you paid to go and see, or watched down the pub, and then again on Match of the Day because it made your day: didn’t take place. Those records that were broken: weren’t really. And why?
“Well, because we need to get the new season started, sharpish. We’re already late, pal!”
“But, can’t we just – I mean, there were only ten games to go, and it’s safe to play again now, so wouldn’t it make more sense to just play them out, we’ll be as quick as we can, and if we’re starting the new season late anyway, wouldn’t it be fairer to decide who starts where based on the most recent…”
“No, no, pal! You can’t wind the clock back to how the table last looked. That was five whole months ago. That’s meaningless now! Nar, you’ve got to go back FOURTEEN months. That’s the only fair thing to do.”
So it is written: until a season can be completed by May or June the following year, even if the Corona comes back next year and forces the cancellation of that season, and the season after that, the champions of England at the start of play in 2020, 2021 or 2022 will be Vincent Kompany-led Man City, Norwich are your newly promoted champions of the second-tier, and Mauricio Poccetino will have just been harshly sacked by Spurs after leading them to the Champions League final in their last recorded competitive match.
“My point was safety of fans, players, staff come 1st & if the remaining games just cannot be played the only fair & reasonable thing is to declare season null and void.” – Karen Brady.
Except there would always be a situation in which the remaining games could be played. The very fact that we accept a new season will at some point, however far in the future, be able to commence, means we therefore accept that there will be a time in which the “safety of fans, players, staff” will not be compromised by the recommencement of competitive sport.
“Who knows who would have gone down or come up if the PL/EFL games have not actually been played in full?” – Brady, one sentence later.
And it is for this reason that, as soon as it is safe for a ball to be kicked by a professional footballer in this country, it should be done so with the tables of all divisions as they were at the final whistle of the last competitive game to have been played in this country, on Monday 9th March when Leicester beat Aston Villa 4-0, Leicester looking sh*t hot again in pursuit of what could be a well-deserved Champions League place next season, and Villa looking like a big bag of sh*te destined to go straight back down if they don’t sort their sh*t out soon. When it’s safe for football to come back, we can allow these potential scenarios to play out to their completion – in as little as one month. It wouldn’t make one human being safer if the first match back after this crisis was the first match of the 2020/21 season, than it would if it were the 29th (Premiership) game of the 2019/20 season, because football itself will have been declared safe to play again. Even if there had had to have been an unplanned transfer window during the unplanned season suspension because the issues surrounding player contracts were unable to be settled, the teams taking their place at the start of the 20/21 season, whenever that were able to begin, would at least bear far more resemblance to the team who had earned it by belatedly finishing the previous one, than they would their versions of themselves in May 20 f*cking 19.
Philip J. Roberts, Liverpool
Further down the pyramid
As you can probably imagine, most of the the Non-League Paper this week is given over to discussing ways to end the season. As with those higher up the pyramid, those with the most to lose want everything nullified, while those with the most to gain from the current situation want that to be the end of season situation. One feature that caught my eye was a look back on how different things would have been in the past few National League seasons had been curtailed at this point.
Applying this to the Premier League – or at least stopping the season at this point – makes for interesting reading. Last season, Liverpool would have ended a 29-year wait for a league title; the year before, Southampton would have been relegated instead of Swansea City. The most drastic of all, however, is 2014-15, where Leicester City were bottom of the league and seven points adrift of Sunderland in 17th. Stopping the season on 22 March, after 29 games, would have been right before they won seven and drew one of their final nine games to end the season in phenomenal style. Without this upsurge, they would have been relegated and we (especially Foxes fans) would have been denied the most spectacular title win since Nottingham Forest in 1978.
There’s no easy solution to this. One of the appeals of football beneath the elite is that momentum is so important – every year someone makes the playoffs off a well-timed string of wins, and this is why people favour trying to complete a season, even if the final stretch would be more akin to a sprint than an endurance race.
Nev for PM
I just want to point out to all the hater’s of GNev’s strategy of using his position of fame to go after Boris and his policies…
We across the pond have literally elected (and will most likely re-elect) a man who has a worse reputation for managing teams than the Nevster.
And all he did was criticize the previous President’s policies from afar before using his personal wealth and fame/populist message to propel himself into power.
So all I’s saying is… God Save the Queen Gary Neville 2030?
N.V.M. (It’s only funny when it happens to someone else)
…DL, LFC in Geneva. I’d imagine from reading your email that you’ve barely spent any time in Liverpool. Because nobody who has spent time there would have written the utter sh*te you came out with. People in Liverpool know the Tory government has form for disregarding human life. It’s simply not something they value unless you’re rich.
How dare Gary Neville use his platform to criticise the government when they’ve done a perfectly good job is the impression I got from your email. Boris can’t be blamed for his choices because this is all a bit hard to predict. Please keep in mind that we weren’t the first country to experience COVID-19. We weren’t even the first in mainland Europe.
And when we look at Boris’ choices and decisions in government we see the following:
1. Boris directly helped to bring about Brexit. Brexit has resulted in 5000 nurses leaving the NHS in the past 2 years. Those extra staff would’ve been pretty handy right now. The Tory governments actions around NHS have resulted in there being 17,000 fewer beds now than there were in 2010. Nobody else can take responsibility for this since nobody else has been in power. As a response the government is now being forced to use tax money to buy up private beds to try and make up the deficit.
2. Boris at the start of March chose to brush COVID-19 off as not a particularly big deal. He joked about shaking hands and said it was personal choice how you choose to live. Boris was, at least in part, directed by a strategy of “herd immunity” which has never previously been tested without a vaccine in place.
Now Boris hates experts and sadly I am vaguely informed on this topic since I work in the pharmacy industry and I can tell you that this is f**king stupid. The footballing equivalent is that if I stand next to David Beckham and watch him smash free kicks into the top corner for an hour then I will magically be popping them in the top bins too.
3. Whilst we watched this utter chaos unfold in other countries like Italy Boris brought in no screening of people entering the UK and, even now, the UK is testing 60% fewer people than countries like Germany. Guess what the impact of that is? Fewer people are dying of COVID-19 in Germany than in England because they are being discovered, isolated and treated. Here we are playing the magical game that if we don’t test for it then perhaps it will go away.
4. And you think Gary praises Sunak but think Boris was involved so deserves credit too. I’d argue here that Gary himself is wrong; Sunak initially shat the bed with a significantly worse stimulus package than every other country on earth and then had to come back with something better because the markets threw up on the FTSE and the Pound and he upset his rich mates. That “something better” still leaves all the self employed on their asses and living off £94 a week. That’s 5 million people living off £94 a week – some of those people might have wives and kids who are also depending on them.
I get that you want a bit of escapism – I do too and you can bet your life that the nurses and doctors working for the NHS would love a break from the norm. But please don’t sit in a fancy warm home in low tax Switzerland asking Gary not to speak up for the people who will inevitably suffer from the choices this government has made over the past 2 weeks. It reflects a total lack of awareness of the issue or perhaps you just wanted Gary to stick to football because you lack the empathy required to understand where he might be coming from. I do appreciate though that you desperately must be entertained regardless of what else is going on so I’d recommend Netflix or a book.
Jesus I miss football. Did you all know how good Liverpool were? We were amazing. Nobody really spent any time talking about it and now maybe it’s too late.
Spurs were largely labelled chokers by an assortment of fans (mostly in the comment section anyway) for losing a CL final last season. Add to that they qualified for the CL yet again ahead of bigger clubs. Surely it was something that they could never expect at the start of the season and in any world other than football trollism, it’s an overachiement. But no, they were chokers because no matter what their initial expectation was, more was made of what they didn’t make of the position they found themselves in. Which makes me wonder about something.
I hear Liverpool fans that they’ll be happy with the league title (should it be awarded) as that’s something they would’ve bitten your hands off at the start of the season, which means it was basically what they could expect or even more than that. That’s after pushing City so close to the title last season. But they’re already out of the CL and the domestic cups.
So in the post corona world, would fans everywhere term Liverpool as chokers as well because they “only” achieved one of their prime objectives?
Liverpool fans, obviously you’re not allowed to answer, so could you let others answer? Thanks. What everyone else thinks shouldn’t matter to you anyway.
Another Bored Fan
Return of an old favourite
Social distancing has given me much time to ponder. One thought that came to mind was how much I enjoyed old school F365 lookalikes.
So this is one from my beautiful wife (Gina, Lfc) which I can’t believe I missed:
Mo Salah = Aidan Turner, Poldark.
Aidan, Lfc (he’s even got my name and I still missed it)