IT’S BUSINESS TIME
Easter historically marks the point on the calendar where things in the world of football begin to sort themselves out, the effective start of the Business End of the season, and this year has been no different. Derby County’s relegation to the third tier for the first time since 1984 was confirmed on Monday. Burnley look nailed on to be heading in that direction too, if the sacking of Sean Dyche, Maxwell Cornet’s radar, and the state of that takeover are anything to go by. And the immediate future of a couple of other clubs could be shaped on Tuesday as well, depending on what happens at Anfield between Liverpool and Manchester United. You may as well watch it, there’s nowt else on.
United’s last visit to Merseyside was a fiasco for the ages, a post-lunch walkabout at Goodison Park in which they achieved what had previously been thought impossible by making a Frank Lampard team look vaguely tactically coherent. They surely can’t be as bad this time, though even worse is as likely an outcome as better, if the lumpen attempt to paper over the cracks with Saturday’s scraped victory over Norwich, who were allowed to score two goals for only the sixth time this season, is anything to go by. Still, hope springs eternal, and a surprise win would boost their hopes of a top-four finish, which are somehow still alive, what an indictment of the self-styled best league in the world.
Defeat for the side nominally led by Ralf Rangnick would surely put an end to their Big Cup pipe dreams, though on the plus side it would allow their fans to keep shouting at Paul Pogba, which everyone seems to enjoy doing. A Liverpool win would send Jürgen Klopp’s men top, for 24 hours at least, and keep the title race alive, though any points dropped would seriously compromise their chances of a second championship in three seasons, and indeed the quadruple, which everyone continues to blether on about, as though Villarreal, Chelsea and Manchester City have no agency whatsoever. Day one of the Business End is a biggie, then. Buckle up, only 39 more to go!
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
18 April: “The gaffer has been unbelievable since he came in. The gaffer wants us to play a certain way and ever since he walked into the building everyone has bought into what he wants them to do” – Hibs midfielder Chris Cadden reckons manager Shaun Maloney should have the club’s complete backing after the 2-1 Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Hearts.
19 April: “Our hope in appointing Shaun Maloney as a young, highly regarded coach was that he would help us take the club forward, but ultimately it didn’t work out” – chief suit Ron Gordon begs to differ, hoisting Maloney through the door marked Do One after just 19 games in charge.
A New Formation: how Black British footballers shaped the modern game. Tickets are now available for the live event, featuring Jonathan Liew, Andrew Cole and Hope Powell.
Get your ears around the latest Football Weekly. And while we’re at it, Max, Barry and the pod squad are going back out on tour. Tickets to live shows in June and July are available here, so get buying.
MOVING THE GOALPOSTS
The Fiver has a new sister email, folks! You don’t need to be told that it’s smarter and wittier than us – so sign up. The latest edition has been sent whistling into inboxes but you can get a taste here.
“The Fiver mentioned the use by Burnley of AI to attract young talent last January. Perhaps the new owners have expanded its use to the coaching department and we can now look forward to the first appointment of a coaching robot combining all the successful characteristics of the greatest coaches in the game” – John Weldon.
“May I suggest that the artist formerly known as ‘Plain Old John Terry’ now be known by his new moniker: ‘Non-Fungible John Terry’?” – Robin Foster.
“John Myles (Thursday’s Fiver letters) asks if it is preferable to have a letter not published, or have it included on a day when the winner of the prizeless letter o’ the day is a rollover. I once won the prizeless letter o’ the day not because my letter was erudite, amusing or worthy, but because after two rollovers even The Fiver drew the line at a third. I have two books as prizes but only winning to avoid a third rollover is still my greatest victory” – John Stainton.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Cristiano Ronaldo will not be in Manchester United’s squad at Liverpool after the death of his baby son during childbirth.
Wayne Rooney reckons Derby’s relegation to League One should be keeping former owner Mel Morris awake at night. “Hopefully he doesn’t have a good night’s sleep and that plays on his mind,” growled Rooney. “I think he needs to have a think about it. Where the club’s been left, it was a complete mess.”
David Moyes may have to dust off his old Patrick Platini boots for West Ham’s Big Vase tilt after Issa Diop’s ankle-knack left him with only Craig Dawson and a hologram of Alf Garnett as recognisable centre-backs.
Barcelona’s 1-0 loss to Cádiz at Camp Nou has left Xavi “angry and disappointed” and “really worried” about missing out on Big Cup next season.
Clubs have voted for the introduction of VAR (and the tedious debates about shoulders being marginally offside that come with it) into the Scottish Premiership next season. That’s bound to go well.
Fun and Games in South America dept: the future of cartoon-style brawls erupting in matches between Brazil and Argentina looks safe after punches, kicks, shoves and Benny Hill-style chases followed the Seleção’s 2-1 win in the final of the Mundial Montaigu under-16s tournament.
And a Tranmere ballboy was thrown out by stewards for reacting in the lairiest “I’ll have you and yer da!” way possible to a shove from Exeter’s Cheick Diabate, after the scamp tried to waste time during Rovers’ 2-0 win.
STILL WANT MORE?
This is a real beauty by Jonathan Liew on Sean Dyche and Burnley.
Roma are back on the rise under José Mourinho, reports Nicky Bandini.
Another game, another Real Madrid late show. The Spanish title is heading their way again, explains Sid Lowe.
P-A-R-T-E-why? Because Arsenal gotta, roars Ben McAleer.
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