BUT FIRST … RIP NOBBY
Nobby Stiles, one of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning heroes, has died aged 78 after a long period with prostate cancer and advanced dementia.
A European Cup winner with Manchester United in 1968, Stiles will be for ever remembered for his victory jig at Wembley two years earlier, clutching the Jules Rimet trophy in one hand, the “Toothless Tiger’s” false teeth in the other.
“It’s still the biggest thing that happened to me,” Stiles told the Guardian in 2002. “Everyone still wants a piece of you because of it. Not just lads of my age, you’d expect that. But kids of me grandkids’ age, they come up to me and go: ‘Hey, you, you’re the fella with no teeth who danced round Wembley, aren’t you?’ In a way, you end up belonging to everyone.”
A skilful and creative midfielder, Stiles was an uncompromising tackler who also played for Middlesbrough and Preston before retiring in 1975. He managed Preston, Vancouver Whitecaps and West Brom, and also coached for United under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Tributes have been swiftly paid. Geoff Hurst described Stiles as “the heart and soul” of the 1966 team. United said they were “extremely saddened” and added: “Nobby was a titan of the club’s history, cherished for his heart and personality on and off the pitch. He will be sorely missed by us all.” The Football Association said it was “incredibly saddened” to learn of Stiles’s death, while West Brom wrote on social media: “Farewell to the most famous grin in English football.”
NO MOUR MERCY
The Fiver has always taken everything we see and read on assorted celebrity Instagram accounts with a pinch of salt, because they tend to present a side of life famous people only want the world to see. While posting photos of hologram dads and private island birthday retreats with celebrity chums is all well and good, the Fiver can’t help but feel we’d identify with our favourite American “influencer” just a little bit more if from time to time she conveyed the impression her life wasn’t one relentless grind of vacuous and entirely self-inflicted tedium.
Despite his enormous wealth and long history of managerial success, José Mourinho’s account can also be a study of misery, never more so than when his team have just been beaten. On Thursday night the Tottenham manager looked particularly forlorn and moody as he was pictured sitting on the team bus after watching his second string lose against Royal Antwerp in Euro Vase.
“Bad performances deserve bad results,” he harrumphed, throwing serious shade. “Hope everyone in this bus is as upset as I am. Tomorrow 11am training.” And while one presumes the driver at least was spared the ordeal of huffing and puffing his way around Tottenham’s well-appointed training ground on what should have been a day off, one suspects the players who’d sent their manager into his latest tailspin o’funk were not shown such mercy.
Despite refusing to single out the particularly abject Dele Alli for blame when talking to the press before boarding the vehicle, José still managed to do exactly that in his own inimitable way. “You always tell me ‘why is this player not playing, why is this player not playing?’ – maybe you don’t ask me that for a few weeks as you have the answer.” Hooked at half-time along with three other players, one suspects it may be some time before Dele lines up for Tottenham again, although their under-23s are slated to play Derby at Enfield next Friday.
Elsewhere in Euro Vase, Arsenal saw off the plucky Irish minnows Dundalk, whose stout rearguard collapsed in the face of a three-goal flurry either side of half-time. Somewhat remarkably, Filippo Giovagnoli’s side didn’t commit a single foul in the game, prompting the Italian to take a leaf out of Mourinho’s book by sarcastically commending his players on their sense of fair play. “Our team is so polite,” said the Italian. “They are such gentlemen. They work hard and fight hard but won’t use other things to stop the opponent.”
There were also wins for Leicester and the Pope’s O’Rangers, while the woes of the Queen’s Celtic continued. Two up in Lille only to be pegged back by their hosts and forced to settle for a point, Neil Lennon’s men are now without victory in their past four matches. O’Rangers, by contrast, have won eight on the spin, a side of the increasingly influential Ibrox outfit that no Queen’s Celtic fan ever wants to see.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“A unique champion, a symbol, blessed and cursed, ‘Pibe de Oro’, the Argentinian par excellence, a prophet, a victim of himself and others, a man and team player, ‘Hand of God’ and friend of Fidel, World Cups and Scudettos in Italy, torment and ecstasy, eternal journey, anarchist and coach. For him, like few others, pages and pages of a great story of men called Football. From president Massimo Moratti and FC Internazionale, Happy Birthday Diego!” – Inter Milan’s Twitter feed gets only very slightly carried away as they wish Diego Maradona a warts-and-all happy 60th birthday.
To celebrate Diego’s big day, photographer Paolo Vezzoli roamed the streets of Naples for this picture gallery.
“It’s always nice to read allusions to the pitfalls of high frequency jackets on low resolution televisions (yesterday’s Fiver). Though would it be fair to say the Leipzig players wouldn’t have suffered the same mesmeric issues as television viewers, since the human eye is slightly sharper than your 625-line Saisho?” – Mike Hall.
“Regarding your first bits and bobs comment yesterday. You do know that the Spanish word for man is hombre don’t you? I really can’t imagine two consortiums going hand to hand, mainly because it doesn’t make any sense” – Phillip Duffy.
“So, pace Sid Lowe (Sid’s stuff passim including Football Weekly) apparently a certain president’s valedictory farewell at the weekend was whiney, self-justifying, full of self-praise for largely imagined triumphs and successes achieved long ago, glossing over recent financial and personnel management disasters, unlistenably long, tedious and incoherent, and ending with a bombshell rewriting of all alliances that could spell terminal doom or at least a headache for decades to come. A rehearsal of the script to be delivered by a certain other president sometime next week?” – Robin Hazlehurst.
“I felt the Fiver made a bit of a meal of it yesterday. Published 10 minutes ahead of the article on Delia’s letter to Boris, perhaps it was just desserts for being early” – Johnny McIntyre.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Ole Gunnar Solskjær has praised Manchester United’s “fantastic” response to their 6-1 shellacking by Spurs. “Any result as brutal as that would have to get a response and it has been dealt with internally,” he trilled. “The manner of defeat wasn’t something we should ever have to be confronted with again.”
José Mourinho has told Spurs fans to expect a “different” Gareth Bale to the one who left for Real Madrid in 2013. “Seven years is a long, long, long gap. So which player in the world is the same as he was seven years ago?” mused Mourinho, without offering any thoughts on his own career trajectory during that time.
Frank Lampard has denied ever doubting Christian Pulisic’s quality. “I played in America for 18 months and I would never underestimate the desire that [USA! USA!! USA!!!] players have to understand the technical side of the game,” he humphed.
And Mike Ashley has shown his soft side by agreeing to refund Newcastle season-ticket holders for matches played behind closed doors.
STILL WANT MORE?
Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven, not eight, not nine, but 10 things to look out for in the Premier League this weekend.
The story of the first and only black Busby Babe – Dennis Walker – is told here by Bill Hern and David Gleave.
Steven Pye doesn’t hold any punches when he says Arsenal have specialised in failure at Old Trafford for decades.
Manchester City winger Chloe Kelly gets her chat on with Louise Taylor about Sunday’s FA Cup final and playing cage football with her five brothers.
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