No outsiders were allowed to attend Cardiff’s 0-0 draw with Charlton this week but do not think for a moment that Chelsea suits are unaware of what went on there. The result left Cardiff in sixth place in the Championship. If they stay there until the end of the season, then it’s goodbye Wales for Neil Harris, and hello Stamford Bridge! A sixth-place finish in the second tier is not the sort of managerial feat that a club with Chelsea’s ambitions can afford to ignore.
Harris is 42 years old, the same age as Chelsea’s current gaffer, and – just in case this matters – he has a relatively long record of success as a manager, having previously raised standards at Millwall. Then again, he didn’t go to the right school as a player and doesn’t have glamorous ties, and that’s not a good look in Tory Britain. Harris, then, isn’t eligible to benefit from what we may call the Reverse Sam Allardici Effect, unlike one Frank Lampard Jr. If the man currently in the Chelsea hot seat were called Francesco Lampardici – or indeed Garrio Rowetto – then an army of pen and pitchfork wielders would be calling for his head.
To put it another way: if Frank Lampard were named Maurizio Sarri, he’d be sitting mighty nervously right now, with tens of thousands of boots aimed unflinchingly at his hole. Because on Wednesday, Lampard’s Chelsea were outrun and outwitted by David Moyes’s West Ham – not to be confused with Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham, who also dumped on Lampard’s Chelsea this season. As did Everton, Southampton, Newcastle and Bournemouth (what? Are you making stuff up again? – Fiver Ed), not to mention Bayern Munich, who remain on course to give Chelsea a solid Arsenalling and inflict their highest ever aggregate defeat in Europe.
“It’s about perspective,” sniffed Lampard after a defence featuring none of the youngsters he is said to be nurturing conceded three goals to a relegation-threatened rabble who hadn’t scored since the pre-pandemic age. “I can’t help but tell the truth,” continued the manager whose team have already lost two more league matches than Sarri did during the whole season. “It’s a game we should have won,” explained Lampard. “I wouldn’t say it’s the story of our season because it’s been a good season, but there have been so many of these moments.” There certainly have. Which is why Leicester, who finished 20 points behind Sarri’s Chelsea last season, are still above Lampard’s outfit, and Wolves and Manchester United are gaining ground fast. Chelsea have already signed reinforcements for next season, but maybe they should be preparing a parachute for Harris.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
Ready for another night of hot Premier League action? No, us neither. But you can follow Sheffield United 0-1 Tottenham with Barry Glendenning and Manchester City 1-2 Liverpool with Paul Doyle if you fancy.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Some Valencia fans are scolding and cursing at my family and I. Don’t they get it? The club is ours. We can do anything we want with it and no one can say anything” – Kim Lim, the daughter of Valencia owner Peter Lim, endears herself to the Mestalla faithful.
Football Weekly Extra (Extra?) will be landing here soon enough. In the meantime, why not try our Forgotten Stories of Football podcast? This week it takes a look back at Luton Town’s ill-fated Manager Idol project.
“If you ask me, the real bootlace issue in yesterday’s Fiver is not who is fit to tie Kevin De Bruyne’s. A closer look at Mesut Özil’s boots in the brolly photo reveals an intriguing lace-tying technique. I’m familiar with the age-old way of wrapping them around the middle, under the arch of the foot. Özil’s more toe-forward approach is new to me. What advantage does this method offer? Could the Fiver please put on some shoes – trousers would be helpful too – and do some investigative journalism to unravel this?” – Peter Oh.
“Having just finished watching my beloved Hammers outplay Chelsea, imagine my amusement when I read the Fiver’s woeful prediction of a 2-0 loss. But that Moyesiah, he wins things (in July, that is). From now on, please continue to predict dire outcomes for West Ham, as we can’t get Championship games on the TV here in Jacinda’s blessed, shining isles” – Christopher in New Zealand.
“The only rewarding aspect of witnessing a thoroughly dispiriting 4-1 drubbing for my team was responding to Rob Smyth wondering if anyone was actually reading his MBM report. In homage to the 3-2 Bournemouth victory predicted by The Fiver, I am going to optimistically predict you publish this but that it doesn’t win the prizeless letter o’ the day” – Paul Sheppard [nailed it – Fiver Ed].
“Sheffield United cracking open tins of Magnet ale? Tadcaster is miles away from Sheffield. It would be more likely to be a can of Stones or – these are Premier League footballers – a Kelham Island brew” – Darren Leathley.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Seven Eritrea internationals who have been in hiding in Uganda for more than six months fear being sent home “as traitors” if they are not granted asylum.
A Liverpool-supporting protester was briefly detained in Hong Kong on Wednesday after police mistook his “long live Liverpool” chant for a pro-independence slogan.
As reported by your super soaraway Big Paper six days ago, flying full-back Achraf Hakimi has joined Inter from Real Madrid after two years on loan at Dortmund.
Everton have signed teenage full-back Niels Nkounkou from Marseille on a free transfer. The France U19 international will join up with the club’s youth team while picking up pointers from the club’s official cool uncle, Leighton Baines.
Those clever suits at the Premier League have come up with an ingenious method of recouping lost readies: charging an £8m entry fee to promoted clubs for the next two seasons. Proper Journalism’s David Conn has the exclusive deets.
Jürgen Klopp is off to Pep’s gaff for a guard of honour on Thursday night, but is he content? Not at all. “I don’t feel finally satisfied,” he growled. “It’s a big step but not the only thing I want to talk about with the boys in 20 years”.
Pep may already have the dust sheets up at the Etihad with a big rebuilding job on his hands at Manchester City. Bayern Munich’s David Alaba is on his shopping list, it says here.
Speaking of renovation work, Kevin Blackwell’s new kitchen is on hold after joining Neil Warnock’s Middlesbrough backroom team. “I’d spent most of lockdown getting jobs done on the house, but then Boro came out of the blue,” Blackwell chirped. “Listen, [eff] the kitchen. I can build a kitchen any time.”
STILL WANT MORE?
Oh, what a night! Late November, back in 2015. Sachin Nakrani recalls Liverpool’s win at the Etihad that sowed the seeds for their title charge.
The end of Dyche-ball at Burnley? Paul Wilson considers a manager who has huskily expressed his concern at a lack of funds to match his successes.
From Alan Stubbs to Dong Fangzhou: test your knowledge of memorable guards of honour ahead of tonight’s show of maximum respect.
Gavin Willacy on the halcyon days when England Schoolboys played summer games at a packed Wembley Stadium.
Why Barcelona have gone bad, by Sid Lowe.
Paul Connolly headbangs to Jürgen Klopp’s heavy metal heaven from 17,000 km away in Melbourne, but he’s no plastic fan.
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