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The Fiver | Intriguing attempts to whip players into a nationalistic frenzy

IRE LAND

After what seems like two months [subs please check, it really does feel like two months, it could actually be two months], the international break is finally over. Looking back, it’s hard to say who enjoyed it the least. You? Us? Or maybe Republic 0’Ireland boss Stephen Kenny, whose intriguing but as-yet-unspecified attempts to whip his players into a nationalistic frenzy – a symposium on the later work of WB Yeats? A screening of the 1967 film adaptation of Ulysses? An acoustic performance of the theme to Wanderly Wagon? – backfired with a three-goal loss to England and subsequent brouhaha.

It was Kenny, wasn’t it. His team of politically motivated firebrands have struggled all year to channel their fervour into positive results, ending 2020 having scored just one goal, and that an injury-time equaliser against one of the most nondescript teams in the entire history of Bulgarian sport. (Congratulations to Shane Duffy for doing that, and god knows he needs something to hold on to right now.) But if that wasn’t bad enough, Kenny has now been forced to lie low, his pre-match cultural melange having been leaked to an English newspaper not previously noted for its nuanced and balanced take on Anglo-Irish relations. Cue bedlam on Social Media Disgrace Twitter and … well, mainly Social Media Disgrace Twitter really, but it’s annoyed all the right people, the usual suspects working themselves into performative foam, so it’s not been all bad.

Even so, the FAI has launched an inquiry to establish whether Kenny broke the managerial code. (It’s not announced details, though if it can’t find anyone in-house to head it up, we hear Sir Alex Allan is currently on the look-out for work.) The mood music suggests Kenny will survive all the confected outrage, the FAI determined to keep him in the post for the next round of internationals in March, though he’ll not be allowed to use the video any more or play any of his Wolfe Tones tapes on the bus. He’ll also be left with solving the puzzle of who leaked the story. Who’s out to get him? As if that little goalscoring problem wasn’t more than enough to worry about.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“They were that outrageous they bordered on ridiculous. It’s a two-bob [Mr 15%] being amateurish. Why would you put your client in that position? It is hugely disrespectful to all of us [at Newcastle] … it just proves to me he is trying to make a fast buck again and it’s ridiculous” – Bernard Cribbins’ lid nearly rattles off its sizeable pot after being asked about Daniel Campos’s claims that Miguel Almíron wants to do one to “a team that has a lot of possession”.

FIVER LETTERS

“The caption on the photo of Rebekah Vardy in yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs says it was taken at the National Ice Centre, a building where I’ve watched many ice hockey games (on both rinks) and attended the odd beer festival. At some point in the distant past a bird got in and made a home in the rafters. There is something amusing about a person accused of doing something, erm, dastardly, running the risk of being distracted by a pigeon” – Ed Taylor.

“I sympathise with Chris McHallem getting more joy in football from his team’s rivals losing (yesterday’s Fiver letters). For several years now, I’ve only rarely experienced the pleasant tingle of such schadenfreude, being more routinely afflicted by its bitter opposite, gluckschmerz” – Steve Allen.

“Living and working in the East Midlands as I do, caught between Forest and Derby fans like a child of divorce caught between warring parents, I’d say Chris’s approach to football is about right” – Kieran Hames.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’the day is … Ed Taylor, who wins a copy of Glove Story 2 – Another Book for Every Goalkeeper, Past and Present, by Rob Stokes [postage available to UK only, sorry – Fiver Postal Ed].

RECOMMENDED LOOKING

If CCTV-captured bangers from long range in the Bulgarian amateur leagues are your thing, then you are properly in luck.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Fifa has banned Haiti FA president Yves Jean-Bart from all football-related activities and fined him £827,000 after finding him guilty of sexually harassing and abusing various female players, including minors.

Jürgen Klopp has had words with Mo Salah after the forward’s positive Covid-19 test in Egypt. Not strong words, if this is anything to go by. “A brother’s wedding is a very special moment,” he blabbed. “Our players, they are incredibly disciplined. All the rest is just between Mo and me.”

José Mourinho has cranked the whine up to nine before Spurs v Manchester City. “Gareth Southgate … supposedly told that some club managers put pressure on the players not to play for the national team. I would like him to say who,” he wailed. “Of course we all know that [Raheem] Sterling is going to play [against Spurs].”

Mikel Arteta claims there is no problem between Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos and David Luiz – following disputed reports of a training-ground handbags – and even if the pair hypothetically did go at each other like a pair of drunk kangaroos, he wouldn’t know because he watches training from miles away. “There is no problem between the two,” he honked. “I’ve got really bad vision from far.”

Lionel Messi to Manchester City? You’ll be shocked to learn Pep isn’t leaning one way or the other.

Derby coach and occasional Big Website columnist Liam Rosenior is part of a six-person panel who will oversee the process to appoint Greg Clarke’s successor as FA chair.

MPs are rapidly “losing patience” with the Premier League and EFL’s failure to agree on a rescue package. “The current fiasco in reaching an agreement isn’t about the lack of money, but lack of leadership,” tooted Julian Knight.

And Catania coach Giuseppe Raffaele has been slapped with a four-match ban after the 2-1 Serie C win over Vibonese, in which he tackled an opposition player about to counter-attack deep in added-time.

James Dart
(@James_Dart)

Catania coach Giuseppe Raffaele gets a four-match ban in Serie C after the 2-1 win over Vibonese, for tackling an opposition player about to counter-attack deep in added-time pic.twitter.com/VlELo7jR7r

November 19, 2020

STILL WANT MORE?

“White people were mad. Whew, were they mad” – Megan Rapinoe reveals the extent to which taking a knee bothered people in an extract taken from her new book.

The tedium of the international fortnight is only over when you’ve read 10 things to look out for in the Premier League this weekend. So go on then, do it.

Pep Guardiola’s new deal gives him the chance to address unfinished Big Cup business and build a second great Manchester City team, so says floating football brain in a jar Jonathan Wilson.

Bryan Graham previews the MLS playoffs so you don’t have to.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

AH, FRIDAY

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