THE CUP CONUNDRUM
Jürgen Klopp’s decision to play a team of Liverpool whelps in the FA Cup replay against Shrewsbury has gone down entirely as you’d expect, reader. Angry folk on various social media disgraces have had a pretty unified message for the German, telling him that if he won’t respect football’s oldest cup competition, he should just “[eff] off”. And Klopp intends to do just that on 4 February, joining his Liverpool players in catching up on the important things in life, such as doing a big shop, walking the dog and playing Duck Duck Goose while reserves boss Neil Critchley tries to bring the touchline gurns in his Anfield absence.
To be fair to Klopp, Premier League suits sent a letter to clubs last April asking managers to “honour and respect the underlining rationale for the mid-season player break, namely to provide their players with a break from the physical and mental rigours of playing matches” by not arranging “competitive or friendly matches with other clubs”. Clearly they didn’t have the postal budget to send a copy to English football’s governing body, because the FA scheduled Cup replays smack bang in the middle of it. Well done everyone! It’s why Klopp’s gone the full Bob Crow and ordered his workers to down tools next week.
It helps that Liverpool’s manager doesn’t give a flying one about the FA Cup. He’s never got past the fourth round since he has been in England. That BT Sport b@ntz campaign hasn’t helped one bit. José Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Bernard Cribbins and a host of other Premier League managers are behind Liverpool’s union man on this one. Even further down the pyramid, managers have said they could do without the faff. “My [chief suit] wants it but I don’t think [scrapping them] would be a bad thing,” blathered Oxford boss Karl Robinson, taking a sledgehammer to the forced schtick that lower-league clubs are all red-hot Cup romantics.
It’s a fair argument that minnows stand to lose out on the money-spinning revenue of a trip to one of the big clubs for a replay, but when that replay looks like a Lads v Dads match, is anyone really winning? How do you make people care? It’s a philosophical question that we’re clearly not clever enough to answer. But having once led an unsuccessful campaign to STOP FOOTBALL, it would be a cold day in hell that The Fiver joined the foamy-mouthed masses demanding more.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It’s a gateway to more laddish behaviour and – if it just goes unchecked – it’s a signal of a more laddish culture. It’s very easy for it to escalate from VAR talk and chat to slapping each other on the back and talking about their conquests at the weekend” – Ann Francke, head of the Chartered Management Institute, seemingly launches a maverick and somewhat ambitious STOP FOOTBALL (AND CRICKET) WORKPLACE CHAT campaign.
“Sunday’s Big Website says there’s this bloke called Noble Francis who is economics director at the Construction Products Association and is alleged to have said: ‘The average pre-tax margin of the top-10 UK contractors was -0.1% in 2018-19 and average margins have been negative for the last three years.’ Is this manner of talk fair to inflict on non-Fiver readers? It is clearly your duty to the public to print more letters from Noble Francis in order to put a stop to this sort of thing” – James McCarty Yeager.
“The French also struggle with the word squirrel (Fiver letters passim). I had a Swiss, French-speaking girlfriend. I decided to name our wifi network ‘Squirrel’, as it amused me when she tried to say it. She’s an ex now. I’ll get my coat” – Andy Beller.
“When I was an English language assistant in a French secondary school in the early-90s, getting the kids to say ‘squirrel’ was a great source of amusement. Of course, they absolutely loved my pronunciation of ‘écureuil’. I’d call that a score draw” – David Kenning.
“Re: Friday’s Quote of the Day. I can’t help but feel that ‘cojonesball’ is something of a tautology” – Jim Hearson.
“Many thanks to all at Fiver Towers for helping me promote my football noir by making it the prize o’the day all last week. The stats don’t lie: I have sold zero books in spite of (or because of) your help. Keep up the work” – Robi Polgar.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’the day is … Jim Hearson, who wins a copy of the Blizzard’s: The Best of the First Five Years, signed by editor and Fiver colleague Jonathan Wilson. And if you like what you see, you can buy or subscribe to it here. We’ve more to give away all week.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
A third man has been arrested over the death of Jordan Sinnott, who died after being attacked during a night out. The 25-year-old, who was on loan at Matlock Town from Alfreton, was found unconscious in Retford at 2am on Saturday.
Amnesty International has criticised a potential Saudi takeover of Newcastle United. “Players, backroom staff and fans alike ought to see this for what it is – sportswashing, plain and simple,” said its UK head of campaigns, Felix Jakens.
Eintracht Frankfurt have posthumously stripped the title of honorary president from Rudolf Gramlich after an investigation into his involvement with the Nazi regime before and during the second world war.
Manchester United are considering a fresh bid for Sporting’s Bruno Fernandes, with negotiations set to be ramped up before Friday’s 11pm GMT transfer deadline.
West Ham are sniffing around a loan deal for Tottenham’s Kyle Walker-Peters and are in advanced talks with Slavia Prague over €20m-rated midfielder Tomas Soucek.
Jean-Kévin Augustin is a Nasty Leeds player, having completed a loan switch from Leipzig.
And to the fun and games in South America dept: VAR had a rough debut in the Colombian championship after it took almost 10 minutes to rule on Ivan Duque’s red card for Millonarios against Deportivo Pasto … before downgrading it to a yellow. “I know they are only just starting out with it here, but it’s a long time,” sniffed Millonarios coach Alberto Gamero after his team’s 2-1 defeat.
STILL WANT MORE?
Nicky Bandini is back with her latest Serie A blog, as Ashley Young helps heat up the title race.
Leipzig had a rude awakening in Frankfurt, as Andy Brassell explains.
Come and get your 10 FA Cup fourth-round talking points.
Jonny Weeks picks out the best FA Cup photos from the weekend that was.
Twenty-five years on, memories of Cantona and “the hooligan”. By Rob Smyth.
The Club World Cup is not about football – it’s about making the rich even richer, writes Jonathan Wilson.
Paulo Dybala gets his chat on with Sid Lowe.
A night of sorts for Paul Doyle with Kylian Mbappé.
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!