BLUE IS THE COLOUR
Sport is often held up as the world’s sole bastion of meritocracy, and with fair reason: how good at it you are is right there for everyone to see, your performances visible to the world and your quality not a matter of opinion but a matter of fact, described by simple, infallible metrics. And then you consider Frank Lampard’s managerial career – a more egregious example of privilege you could not wish to see, as Barry Davies might’ve put it.
Lampard is no stranger to such accusations, and not just because he’s a privately educated, Trump-appreciating Tory – when he was 17, Harry Redknapp was publicly harangued, in front of him, for preferring his nephew to Scott Canham. Yes, that’s the Scott Canham. In fairness to Lampard, he turned out to be a useful player – useful enough and conventional enough to be handed a managerial job he’d done little to earn other than be good at football. Then, after dragging Derby all the way from sixth to sixth, he was appointed by Chelsea, inspiring them from the depths of third to the heady heights of fourth, before being dismissed midway through his second season.
If any club was going to be compelled by this litany of triumph, Everton were going to be compelled by this litany of triumph, and they duly installed Lampard before handing him a decent January wedge to help stave off relegation. Two months later, they sit fourth-bottom of the table having lost five of their last six league games, and tonight visit third-bottom Burnley for what promises to be a match of devastating incompetence – The Fiver cannot wait.
One thing The Fiver has always wondered, though, is how Lampard responded when Chelsea became Big Cup champions just months after he left: did he think ‘lucky they fired me’, ‘up the Chels’; or did he think ‘disgrace they fired me’, ‘I was right all along’? Which effortless segue takes us to tonight’s Big Cup fixtures – yes, after doing its research, The Fiver has ascertained that the competition is not comprised solely of Liverpool and Manchester City.
At Stamford Bridge, the team formerly known as Frank Lampard’s Chelsea entertain Real Madrid – who are somehow managed by Carlo Ancelotti. Though Madrid are poised to win La Liga, the king of success with other people’s teams has recently added a new wrinkle to his CV, his team’s clásico humiliation seeing them deposed as the best in Spain before they’ve even been anointed as such, and if that’s not worth a raised eyebrow, The Fiver doesn’t know what is.
Also this evening Bayern Munich, the biggest threat to the dominance of “this league”, visit Villarreal who are, of course, managed by Unai Emery. Good enough to win Big Vase and reach the last eight of Big Cup, Emery was, of course, not good enough for “the Arsenal”, a point illustrated by Mikel Arteta’s imposing record of two top-eight teams beaten so far this season: West Ham and Spurs under Nuno. Maybe they should give Scotty Canham a go next.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
Join Barry Glendenning at 8pm (BST) for updates on Chelsea 2-2 Real Madrid in Big Cup, while Daniel Harris will be on hand at the same time for Villarreal 1-2 Bayern Munich and Tim de Lisle will be all over Burnley 0-0 Everton in the Premier League at 7.30pm.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It’s fair and factual to say I’m among the best wingers in the world” – it’s fair and factual to say that Villarreal’s Arnaut Danjuma is not lacking in self-belief as he gets his chat on with Jacob Steinberg.
Get your ears around the latest edition of Football Weekly! And after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus, Max, Barry and the pod squad are going back out on tour, baby. Tickets to live shows in June and July are available here so what are you waiting for?
MOVING THE GOALPOSTS
The Fiver has a new sister email, folks! It’s a weekly roundup of the wonderful world of women’s football called Moving the Goalposts. You don’t need to be told that it’s smarter and wittier than us, so sign up now! And you can read the second instalment, by Júlia Belas Trindad, about a night that changed women’s football for ever, here.
“Fair play to Steve Malone and his outrageous attempt to win letter o’ the day twice in two days by simply mailing in an identical letter. Fortunately the canny Fiver Ed was way ahead of him and simply printed the letter again but gave the prize to someone else. That is what happened right? Oh …” – Adrian Bradshaw (and 1,056 others).
“Surely it is at least a season too early to refer to FL’s Everton (yesterday’s Quote of the Day), they have to plummet through the Championship first before reaching the Football League” – Brian Ross.
“In response to Christophe Brown (yesterday’s letters), the difference between ‘being Spursy’ and ‘Arsenaling things up’ is approximately five and a half miles” – Richard Prangle.
“I can sympathise with Matt Dony (yesterday’s letters), I’m still waiting for my Grinderman Get It On CD single from 2007. I did enquire a week later, when a rather grumpy but possibly justified Barry Glendenning email replied: ‘If you never let us know your address, how are we supposed to send you it? I can’t find it on my desk now, it’s been a week’. Halcyon days” – Paddy Viner.
“I had almost the complete opposite experience to Matt Dony on the one occasion I was lucky enough to win a prize in Fiver letters: on supplying my address The Fiver lackey that had been put on wrapping and posting duty said ‘I cycle past there on my way home, I’ll drop it off for you’. Great personal service” – Brendan Mackinney.
“I thought that to ‘Arsenal things up’ was to pass the ball around in a sort of pleasing and initially exciting yet ultimately pointless way until ennui and dread set in and any hope of actually finishing the thing is lost forever in a fog of fear and loathing. See also, ‘to Fiver things up’. But then, I’m an American, so what do I know?” – Daniel Stauss.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’ the day is … Daniel Stauss, who wins a copy of Jon Spurling’s Get It On, a joyous retelling of how the 1970s rocked football. And it’s also available here.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Matt Le Tissier has stood down from his role as a Southampton ambassador after a social-media-disgrace post in support of a conspiracy theory that well documented killings of civilians by Russian troops in Bucha were media lies.
Derby’s administrators have, it seems, at last found someone suitable to buy the stricken club, naming US software entrepreneur Chris Kirchner as their preferred bidder.
Jürgen Klopp reckons Liverpool won’t be clearing out space for the Premier League trophy if they beat Manchester City on Sunday. “If we win … which is already difficult enough … I think no one would think, ‘that’s it, decided’,” he parped.
The shirt in which Diego Maradona scored his ‘Hand of God’ goal is going up for sale and is expected to fetch a cool £4m.
Ronald Koeman’s coming back for more with the Netherlands national team, and will succeed Louis van Gaal as manager after the Human Rights World Cup.
Tommy T wants Chelsea fans to – like M|A|R|R|S (ask your grandad) – pump up the volume when they host Real Madrid in Big Cup tonight. “We need to be better on the pitch but we also need the crowd to be better,” he roared.
And in last night’s Championship action, Luton were held and Paul Ince’s Reading grabbed a vital win, among other things.
STILL WANT MORE?
Jonathan Liew hails Phil Foden, street fighter, for his decisive influence on Manchester City’s Big Cup win over Atlético Madrid. And here’s Jamie Jackson on why Pep Guardiola losing his rag wasn’t a good sign for City.
Sid Lowe on Luis Díaz’s triumphant return to Portugal for Liverpool’s win against Benfica.
Which football grounds have been namechecked in songs? The Knowledge knows.
Twenty-five years ago, Juventus larruped Milan 6-1 at San Siro and it transformed the Serie-Ah landscape, explains Emmet Gates.
And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!