All roads lead to Anfield
You can’t really blame the Liverpool Echo for searching for the Liverpool FC angle in every news story, but there does need to be some limit to how much you can spin something to be about one club. Wednesday brings a wonderful example of the genre.
‘Ben Chilwell’s England debut and what it reveals about Liverpool’s transfer strategy,’ reads the Echo’s headline. Now your initial answer is ‘f*ck all’, but go with it.
‘The perfect solution to a longstanding problem, it is difficult to envisage Jurgen Klopp’s side without the 24-year-old [Andrew Robertson] careering, helter skelter, down the left hand side.
‘But it might never have happened if circumstances had been different in 2016. Leicester City’s King Power Stadium offers an alternate reality on a bi-weekly basis, with 21-year-old Ben Chilwell establishing himself as the Foxes’ first choice left back.
‘And so it proved again on Tuesday, after his performances have been deemed good enough to earn him his first England cap in the 1-0 win over Switzerland. Though it is not yet known when he will be handed his second cap, one thing is for certain: he could have been running out last night as a Liverpool player.’
Yes, that’s right. The connection is that Chilwell played for England and Liverpool scouted him but didn’t sign him, so aren’t Liverpool great?
Spoiler: These usually end in ‘aren’t Liverpool great’.
Forgive us for going way back to November 2017, but Neil Ashton’s prediction of doom really does look bloody ridiculous on this Wednesday morning.
Ashton was bemoaning England’s chances of World Cup progress and claiming that a three-man defence was a catastrophic plan, but saved his harshest words for England giving chances to players who he considered below the standard required for international football.
‘It is no use arranging all these prestige games one after the other so Marcus Rashford, Joe Gomez and Harry Maguire can collect England caps,’ was Ashton’s damning line.
We enjoyed all three starting for England against Spain on Saturday evening, and arguably being our three best players.
And so to Ashton’s column on Wednesday:
‘Rashford left behind his troubles at Manchester United and his looming three-game suspension for nutting Burnley’s Phil Bardsley in his last game.
‘He looks liberated in an England jersey.’
‘Rashford was glowing, with his energy and enthusiasm making the difference.’
Funny how Rashford looks at home in an England shirt, isn’t it? Perhaps those caps were worth it after all.
Slight difference of opinion
‘Harry Maguire, saluted by Leicester fans when he walked out on his home turf, inexplicably rolled the ball out of play off his studs to the left.
‘It was an elementary error, schoolboy stuff from a player England’s head coach genuinely believes is one of the best central defenders in the world.
‘Put it this way, you don’t see Sergio Ramos doing that’ – Neil Ashton, The Sun.
‘England’s most assured defender in front of an excitable home crowd. Did not get forward too often’ – Jack Gaughan, Daily Mail.
Tell us what you really think
Still, if you think that Neil Ashton was a little damning of Maguire after England beat Switzerland and kept their second clean sheet in nine games, just wait until you hear what The Sun’s chief sports writer Dave Kidd had in store for James Tarkowski:
‘There were only five regular Premier League starters in his line-up and one of those, James Tarkowski, was embarrassingly poor in the centre of the back three.
‘The Burnley man, sadly, is destined to be recalled in years to come in pub discussions about England’s poorest players — along with Michael Ricketts, Ryan Shawcross, Jay Bothroyd and Joey Barton.’
The rules on using speech marks
On Wednesday morning, Mirror Football ran a story on Fabinho’s quotes about former Monaco teammate Tiemoue Bakayoko. The headline on that story: ‘Tiemoue Bakayoko’s Chelsea exit called a ‘big mistake’ by Liverpool star Fabinho’.
Firstly, here are those quotes in full:
“I don’t think he struggled that much. I watched a few games and he seemed always good to me.
“Obviously, in your first season in a new club it’s always difficult and I wasn’t expecting him to leave, but AC Milan are getting a great player.
“I’m sure he’ll be able to prove how good he is and show what he did at Monaco. I’m sure if he comes back to England he will be stronger and will show everyone what he’s capable of.”
Now that Mirror Football headline contains two words in speech marks: ‘Big mistake’. The amateur sleuths amongst you will already have noticed that none of ‘big’, ‘mistake’ or ‘big mistake’ feature in Fabinho’s quotes. Which makes including them in speech marks in the headline some rotten journalism.
Next week: ‘Anthony Martial calls Jose Mourinho a ‘lying bellend’ as row escalates’.
The magic touch
In The Sun, Dave Kidd is the latest to understandably mock the Football Association after Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale claimed that Ethan Ampadu was abandoned by England because he “took too few touches”.
“I phoned England, very relevant people, to say you have to get hold of this chap,” Tisdale told BBC 5 Live. “I haven’t seen a 14-year-old as good as Ethan, but I was told he takes too few touches.
“They were looking for players who want to take more touches, but that is his strength, he does things in one touch or two touches and sees things early. I was told they had better, 12 players better, and they were aware of Ethan, but I told them he thinks correctly, acts correctly and makes good decisions.”
Now Mediawatch is not doubting Tisdale’s account of events, but if the FA really did ignore Ampadu at the age of 14 then they had a funny way of showing it. Ampadu was picked four times for England’s Under-15 team and twice for the Under-16s, eventually rejecting a call-up for the Under-16s because he was intent on declaring for Wales.
Express Sport, take a bow
The quotes (from Roberto Martinez on Romelu Lukaku):
“I have known Lukaku for a long time and I understand him. I knew his role with Belgium when I was at Everton – I just want him to score.”
The Express Sport headline:
‘Man Utd news: Romelu Lukaku secret unlocked by Belgium coach Roberto Martinez’.
Truly superb work.
Football story of the day
‘Raphael Varane’s sister wins Miss Dunkirk and could now compete for Miss France’ – Sun Football.
That sound you can hear is a barrel being scraped.
Recommended reading of the day
Sam Dean on Switzerland and international allegiances.
Nick Wright on Kemar Roofe.
Jack Pitt-Brooke on John Stones.
More from Planet Sport:
Top 10 players arguing with chair umpires: Featuring Roger Federer not giving a ‘s**t’ (Tennis365)
Gallery: Alastair Cook’s emotional Oval farewell (Cricket365)