Prince Harry’s bride-to-be, Meghan Markle, wasn’t the only public figure to front up on Thursday in a bid to explain to a curious English public why at least one key figure will be absent from an imminent event of major national and global significance. While she was telling us how much she cares for her father, who will not be present at her wedding, Gareth Southgate rocked up before the ladies and gentlemen of the fourth estate, to explain why Joe Hart, among others, will not be present at what promises to be an even bigger circus with far more comedy potential.
Along with Ryan Bertrand, Hart is one of just two England players to suffer the indignity of making the 18-man England squad for the 2018 Fifa [Ethics] World Cup Russia World Cup™ Panini sticker album, only to be unceremoniously dropped from the actual 23-man England squad ahead of the 2018 Fifa [Ethics] World Cup Russia World Cup™ tournament. Although it is far from the first indignity Hart has suffered in recent months, Southgate said the decision to leave him out was a tough one. “Of course it was a difficult call,” explained the England manager. “But in the end I’ve got to look at performances over the last 18 months with their clubs, and the three lads we picked were the three best goalkeepers in the league this year.”
While Southgate addressed the other high-profile absentees, including Jack Wilshere, he was also eager to sing the praises of those who will be given the opportunity to slink home from Kaliningrad in disgrace before the end of June. The baby of the group, Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold, was singled out for special praise on the back of Big Cup performances in which “he’s shown, in games of real pressure, the personality and the ability to cope with that”. The Fiver can only hope the teenager copes as maturely when certain newspapers inevitably get on his case for such heinous misdemeanours as buying his mam a nice house, going out for breakfast or shopping for inexpensive clothes.
As tends to be the case at such gatherings where the England football team is being discussed, the very important subject of who will wear a nylon piece of elastic on one sleeve and call “heads” or “tails” raised its weary head. An office famously likened by Big Paper’s Royal Wedding correspondent Marina Hyde to that of a regimental goat, the identity of who will captain the football side remains a peculiarly English obsession. Southgate said he will “think about that in a bit more detail” when his avengers assemble before flying out to Russia. One suspects that whoever gets the gig will not have to lift anything heavier than team morale.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“The boots tell a story of a modern Egyptian icon, performing in the UK, with a truly global impact” – Neal Spencer, the British museum’s keeper of ancient Egypt and Sudan, on a pair of Mo Salah’s boots being donated for an exhibition. To the shock and amazement, no doubt, of their manufacturer.
Yes, it’s our not-singing, not-dancing World Cup Fiver. Out every Thursday lunchtime BST, here’s the latest edition, on the flamin’ sacrosanct Socceroos.
Football Weekly Extraaaaaaaaaaa will be roughly in this vicinity.
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“Fiver, Fiver, Fiver … have all those years of Tin robbed you of your sense of proportion? Describing Sam Allardyce’s bespoke beverage-measuring device as Sam’s boab led me to consider the possible variants to his usual pint of wine. Is a boab larger than a jeraboam? A Methuselah? What about the almighty Nebuchadnezzar? Sadly, apparently a boab is a tree, albeit a bottle tree. In the far reaches of Western Australia the boab trees, though not exceptionally high, appear huge. The name ‘bottle tree’ relates to the swollen trunk that can reach a massive girth of up to 20 metres. Maybe it’s appropriate after all” – Stephen Hodgson.
“Poor 2005’s David Moyes (yesterday’s Fiver). He only got himself a six-month contract, whereas tactically astute Sam Allardyce took an 18-month deal, when everyone knew they’d both be gone by now (except David, perhaps). I wonder whether Big Sam would top the league for managers making more from having contracts terminated than actually working them? Now there’s a manager table someone at Fiver Towers can spend the weeks between now and 14 June working out in order to fill column space between the thrills of the pre-WC friendlies” –
“Looking at the picture posted in yesterday’s Fiver in absence of letters, I couldn’t help thinking that Manchester United club suits had found a subtle way of terminating Marouane Fellaini’s new contract negotiations” – Dave Gill.
Send your letters to [email protected] And if you’ve nothing better to do you can also tweet The Fiver. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Stephen Hodgson.
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BITS AND BOBS
Darren Moore at West Brom: incoming.
When is a retirement not a retirement? When it’s Gigi Buffon’s. It transpires that Juventus’ soon-to-be-ex-goalie might keep going after all. “Until a few days ago it was certain that I would stop playing,” he tooted. “Now there are some interesting proposals.”
Big Vase is back in the clutches of Atlético Madrid after their 3-0 win over Marseille. “This [Big Vase] represents more than the [Big Vase] trophy,” roared Diego Simeone. “We reinvented ourselves in this competition.”
Given his efforts to sign every half-decent player who has ever existed, it must’ve been tricky for Arsène Wenger to pick his biggest transfer regret. “[He] was here with [His] mother and we were very close,” lamented Wenger. “There is always something you could have done differently, but the problem of negotiations is to know when you give in and when you don’t give in.” Whoops.
Thibaut Courtois has voiced some sensible and considered thoughts on the schedule demanded of elite footballers: “If we play the World Cup final, we will have only two or three weeks of rest,” he sighed. “If you look at the NBA: eight months, 82 games. The guys who play the finals will play the final in June, but only begin again in October.” The Fiver eagerly anticipates no one doing anything.
And plans have been put in place for a victory parade for Liverpool should they win Big Cup. “Regardless of whether you are a Red, Blue or not a football fan at all, an event like this has a hugely positive impact,” honked mayor Joe Anderson.
STILL WANT MORE?
Liam Rosenior on being released by Brighton.
The FA Cup no longer defines a career, reckons Paul Wilson – but he still hopes to see some unruly behaviour in Saturday’s final.
Daniel Taylor on England’s squad.
Jacob Steinberg on the latest state of West Ham.
Everyone loves a good humiliation, so here’s Paul Doyle revelling in Hungary 10-1 El Salvador at España 82, the latest in our World Cup stunning moments series.
Martin Tyler first went to see Woking in 1953. Now, aged 72, he’s joining their coaching staff.
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