PLAY IT AGAIN
With so many managers complaining about how often the players on their football teams are forced to play football these days, The Fiver can’t help but yearn for the good old days when FA Cup ties were replayed indefinitely, for as long as it took before one of the teams involved eventually prevailed. In 1971, the amateur players of Alvechurch finally beat Oxford City after the two sides met six times across three weeks – on Saturday, Tuesday, Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, Monday – in their own and assorted other grounds, with four of the matches going to extra-time. Nearly all the players involved had full-time jobs and their attempts to qualify for the first round proper were also punctuated by league games. And do you know what? Rather than cry The Fiver a river, they just got on with it.
In stark contrast, today’s comparatively mollycoddled divas don’t have to play any more than one replay before their ties are decided by penalty shootouts and even that isn’t enough to pacify managers who still think their charges are being overworked. Of the six third-round replays slated for Tuesday evening, three feature Premier League sides whose managers have intimated they would rather not have to play. “I can’t sit here and say it’s the main priority as it’s not,” sighed Nigel Pearson, of his Watford side’s replay against Tranmere at Prenton Park. Tuesday afternoon’s news that the game has been washed out by Storm Brendan will have done little to improve the mood of a man whose players should already have booked their place in the fourth round, having thrown away a 3-0 lead against their League One opponents.
Lucky to survive against Rochdale at Spotland, Newcastle are faced with a replay Bernard Cribbins could certainly do without. With 12 of his senior players knacked, Bruce may be forced to squeeze himself into a club shirt and line up, but can console himself that – should he elect to do so – the black and white stripes will at least have a slimming effect.
Meanwhile in London, José Mourinho will be hoping his players have recovered sufficiently from the 25 minutes they spent running around against Liverpool last Saturday, to see off the challenge of Middlesbrough. The Tottenham boss has been defending his “pragmatic” (translation: “cowardly”) approach against the champions-elect on the grounds that his players aren’t fit enough to exert themselves fully for any longer. It is a weird claim that flies in the face of all available evidence from the Pochettino era that preceded his own reign. On the subject of who will line up against Boro, Humility Man™ said Toby Alderweireld was definitely being given the day off to kick back and relax. “He is the only one I can give a rest because I have options behind,” he blurted, making it clear that somebody else will be tasked with lumping the ball long in the general direction of Lucas Moura or whoever else gets to fill Harry Kane’s size nines.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I like Wilbrahimovic – it’s a good one. Norwich fans labelled me that. Paul Lambert used to put me on for 20-25 minutes in the Premier League and I remember three or four games on the bounce I was doing all these backheels and flicks and, because they were all coming off, I ended up getting that tag and it has been passed on” – Rochdale forward Aaron Wilbraham, 75, gets his chat on with Ben Fisher before their FA Cup replay at Newcastle.
Football Weekly is right here.
“In a season more full of ‘Everton, that …’ moments than just about any I can remember, the possibility that not only Ronald Koeman, but also Bobby M, had been linked with taking over at the Nou Camp has to be the most E,T … of all. Get your money on now for a Netherlands v Belgium final at Euro 2020 because it would just, you know, be Everton, that …” – Tony Killen.
“Re: yesterday’s Fiver. Since Barcelona are, so they say, more than a club, wouldn’t their door be marked ‘Fes-ne un’ (the Catalan for ‘do one’), rather than ‘Has uno’?” – Tom Paternoster-Howe.
“Every time, like today, I moan about modern football – having to subscribe to three different TV channels just to watch the football, players going down as soon as they’re touched, VAR and the like – I find myself yearning for the past. Then, I remember that on this day in 1994, Fantasy Football League was first broadcast with guests Peter Cook and Mandy Smith (there’s a reference for the kids) with Sir Geoff Hurst doing the staggeringly unfunny Phoenix from the Flames and realise how deluded I was back in the 1990s” – Noble Francis.
BITS AND BOBS
Quique Setién says he did not imagine in his “wildest dreams” becoming Barcelona manager after Ernesto Valverde was given a thorough booting. “Yesterday, I was walking around my home town with cows around me and now I’m here at Barcelona managing the best players in the world,” he honked.
Meanwhile, Barça have trousered more income over a season than any other club in world football for the first time. West Ham are 18th.
Watford have bolstered their squad with the €8m acquisition of Ignacio Pussetto from fellow Pozzo plaything Udinese.
Spurs will pass around Jack Clarke to QPR.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær doesn’t want people getting ahead of themselves over Mason Greenwood potentially receiving an England call. “Let the boy settle in first before we talk about England and the Euros,” he cooed.
Nuno Espírito Santo reckons Wolves will land his transfer targets to boost their thin squad. “It’s a tough moment but we’re working on it,” he growled.
STILL WANT MORE?
Sid Lowe on the right old palaver Barcelona got themselves into in giving Ernesto Valverde a thorough booting.
Jonathan Liew gets into the heads of Arda Turan and his Mr 15% to imagine the sort of natter they might have had after the midfielder’s loan at Istanbul Basaksehir went pear-shaped.
Ed Aarons wonders how Gareth Southgate will respond to Harry Kane’s long-term knack.
The Chelsea academy has a new generation of talent on the way, warns Gavin Willacy.
Catch up with all the latest deals around Europe’s leading leagues with our January transfer interactive.
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!