It’s Matchday Tum-te-tum in Group Whatever Dude of Big Cup, and thoughts naturally turn to Manchester City’s fractious relationship with the continent’s biggest tournament. It’s been like this pretty much from the get-go: when City first qualified in 1968, their coach Malcolm Allison announced that “a lot of these foreign people are cowards” and that his team would “attack these people like they’ve never been attacked since the old Real Madrid”. Sure enough, Fenerbahce knocked them out in the first round, instantly turning the whole affair into the biggest metaphor for hubris since Captain Lawrie McMenemy took the Titanic out of Southampton docks in 1912 (subs please check). But say what you like about Big Mal, and the concepts of fate-tempting conceit and spirit-crushing inevitability, at least he went into battle in a positive frame of mind.
It’s difficult to glean a similar sense of can-do spirit from his modern equivalent Pep Guardiola. In what proved to be a successful attempt to demonstrate that there’s more than one manager currently working within the Greater Manchester conurbation who can act like a petulant teen at the drop of a hat, Pep responded to a query about his side’s chances of winning this year’s Big Cup by shrugging his shoulders, sticking out his bottom lip and muttering under his breath in the irritated, don’t-care-anyway-so-there fashion: “From what I saw last season, we are not ready, that’s what I feel. And still we don’t have that feeling, the feeling that the fans are pushing that we have to win.” At which point he turned away to stare out of the window, through the condensation and into the middle distance for six hours, with studied ennui.
To be fair to Guardiola, his analysis wasn’t completely the by-product of adolescent-style miserablism. City did, after all, get the back of their shorts handed to them last season in the quarter finals by Jürgen’s Ephemeral Eleven. And they’ve endured quite a few other painful experiences in Big Cup over the years, which may explain their support’s fatalistic attitude, unwillingness to emotionally invest, and quickness to temper whenever someone cues up Zadok the Priest on Spotify. In any case, Pep isn’t the sort to sulk too long, and soon enough he had cheered up enough to promise that his side would at least “put in all effort to win this competition”, starting at Shakhtar Donetsk. His mood having lightened accordingly, Pep drew a funny c0ck and balls in the condensation on the window, then went downstairs for his tea.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“If you’re nearly the second-most successful manger of the football club ever, fifth longest-serving, you do deserve a lot more respect than people are giving. There’s always yobs at every club, and that’s what’s happening to us at this moment in time – there’s a number of individuals that are showing a yobbish feeling towards myself and the team” – bottom of League One, Plymouth manager Derek Adams sets his stall out with a section of fans before what should be a lively home game with Gillingham.
BITS AND BOBS
Fifa big cheese Gianni Infantino has submitted a potentially explosive proposal for a lucrative, revamped Club World Cup, featuring top Premier League and European clubs – and played every season.
You may be surprised to learn this, but Usain Bolt’s planned deal with the Central Coast Mariners is on the flamin’ rocks.
Mesut Özil was a very bad man against Leicester City as Arsenal made it 10 wins out of 10. “The manager has imposed a new style and we are enjoying our time,” cheered Alex Iwobi. “We are enjoying each other and the chemistry is good.”
It’ll be Haringey Borough v Wimbledon in the FA Cup first round, while Newport County are due an away-day interrogation by the Met Police.
And The Fiver is doing its level best to steer clear of any cheap headlines after Hamburg sacked head coach Christian T1tz.