If you think the absence of the Premier League would mean a shortage of things to be wound up by, you’re not watching football correctly.
England experience deja vu all over again
England are undefeated since their World Cup exit, and they have won every match in their European Championship 2016 qualifying group. They have done about as much as they could in terms of results, and for that they deserve limited credit. It can only be limited credit, though. That’s because so far they’ve beaten Switzerland (who have promise but little else, they played just as poorly as many past Swiss teams have in the World Cup), San Marino, Estonia and Slovenia.
Cast your mind back to England’s World Cup 2014 qualifying group. Again, they were undefeated, winning six and drawing four. The country went into the competition with cautious optimism. We realised that winning the competition was an impossibility, but the knockout stages were mooted as a reasonable achievement. Once again, England failed to meet expectations, with Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney just two of the senior players to fail under pressure.
Against Slovenia, Rooney won his 100th international cap, scored an equaliser to hit back after falling behind after another Liverpool midfielder made a costly error, and did it all as captain. It is not worth going over his failings as a player yet again, but it is worth noting that these circumstances created yet another jaunty atmosphere that gave people chance to celebrate. Rooney, England’s most important player, captain and brand leader took England to success.
It seems like many people are on the cusp on making the same mistake again. England have so far proven nothing more than that they are at the same level as they were when they were knocked out of the World Cup. They play Scotland this week, a poor side in a run of relatively good form. They should expect to win, and not be especially proud of it - but defeat would come as no surprise.
With England’s continued run of results since the grim Brazilian experience giving Roy Hodgson relative job security, Pardew remains at Newcastle and not, as we all want, at the head of the English football team. Don’t deny it: his bon mots, glasses and hubris deserve to be seen not just by Premier League fans, but by the whole world.
"For me, pressure is bird flu; I am feeling a lot of pressure. I am serious. You are laughing but I am serious. I am more scared of the bird flu than football. What is football compared with life? A swan with bird flu, for me, that is the drama of the last two days. I have to buy some masks and stuff. I am serious. Maybe for my team as well.” - Jose Mourinho, April 2006
Chelsea are cruising if overconfident in the Champions League, and top of the Premier League. They have the most physically and mentally resilient squad in England, not broken like Manchester United or inherently flawed like Arsenal. They have Diego Costa, perhaps the only striker who can match Sergio Aguero for form and general excellence. They have a healthy lead at the top of the league as they go into the winter run of fixtures, and you get the sense that Mourinho has impressed enough to call on funds in the transfer window should he deem it necessary. And yet he is now the man under the most pressure in English football, perhaps the world.
Bird flu is back, baby.
A duck farm in Yorkshire has been discovered to be harbouring a strain of the H5 virus. A six mile exclusion zone has been set up, and a cull has begun. But it gets worse. In Amsterdam, 150,000 hens will have to be destroyed as H5N8 was discovered in a poultry farm. The EU has called an emergency meeting to address this new outbreak, as it could soon spread to humans. Mourinho must be panicking - expect the odds on Manchester City to fall rapidly this morning, and even further should the virus not be contained.
The club have claimed to be appalled by the threats that Jessica Ennis-Hill received on the internet. Not so appalled that they’ll actually do anything about the root cause, obviously.
There’s an almost admirable chutzpah on display from Sepp Blatter and his friends. To be so compellingly and relentlessly objectionable and opaque for decades takes a level of commitment that few of us could ever hope to match. The recent report on the process that saw Qatar awarded the 2022 World Cup is just the latest example.
But given the country’s egregious record on human rights - which should not be taken as any kind of praise for British society’s societal attitudes - it stops being so funny given the effect it has on the world. And yet, there’s very little that can be done. It’s like dropping a sandwich on the floor, rendering it inedible. There’s no coming back from that.