A can-kicking, makeshift, off-the-cuff approach to long-term success

Scott Murray


The Scottish FA is great. Really great. It’s simply the best, perhaps the main reason Shortbread McFiver has turned out to be the well-adjusted figure we know and love today. In 1950, the SFA declined to send the national side to the World Cup in Brazil despite having qualified, because they’d failed to beat England in the Home Internationals. In 1954 it agreed to send players to Switzerland, though only 13 of them to save cash, and none from O’Rangers because they were on a trip to the USA! USA!! USA!!! dancing for coin. Uruguay beat Scotland 7-0. In 1958, Matt Busby was recovering from Munich so they got the trainer from Clyde to fill in for the greatest manager of his era. The Scots lost two of their three games and were knocked out in short order, though at least nobody back home saw how it happened because the SFA was worried about attendances at junior level so banned all televised coverage. Good old SFA! And to think its pièce de résistance was still 20 years away.

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These eejits are cooking up another fiasco as we speak. Having given the Scotland job to a man who had most recently managed Genk and Zamalek a few years ago and unsuccessfully to boot, and who boasted the lowest win ratio (14%) of all Nottingham Forest bosses in history from a field that includes Stuart Pearce, Philippe Montanier and Second Choice Steve, it recently decided that might not have been such a great idea after all and bundled him out of the door quicksmart. Now it’s looking for an interim boss – Malky Mackay perhaps, or Scot Gemmill – because this sort of can-kicking, makeshift, off-the-cuff approach is clearly the route to long-term success, isn’t it, if recent high-profile developments elsewhere are anything to go by. Good old SFA!

Elsewhere, in other unrelated news, erstwhile interim but suddenly full-time Manchester United manager Ole Farrell Solskjær has been insisting that he’s the right man for the job. After a late-1971 style run of 14 wins in 17 games, Ole Farrell is currently on an early-1972-esque sequence of six losses in eight, and a few particularly observant pundits are beginning to wonder whether anyone at the club is capable of organising an elbow-fundament identification programme in a brewing facility.

“There’s always a crisis at Manchester United whenever you lose a game or two,” began frank Ole Farrell on Tuesday morning. “Manchester City and Liverpool are the only two teams who’ve taken more points in the last 18 games. The boys have done fantastic. We’ve lost three out of the last five league games – that’s a bit too many, but that’s football. I’m confident in my team and myself to take this challenge on.” Meanwhile outside, on the street, The Fiver’s increasingly problematic stereotypical cousin Shortbread McFiver woke up and thanked his lucky stars he supports Fort William (current Highland League goal difference minus 220 after 33 matches) rather than United, because following the fortunes of Scotland is hard enough, and two basket-case teams would probably send him over the edge.


Join Scott Murray from 7.45pm BST for hot MBM coverage of Tottenham 1-0 Brighton.


“Whilst this is a very sad time and we know our privacy will be respected, our father always made time for the supporters so please tell his stories, sing his songs and help us celebrate his life” – a statement from the family of Billy McNeill, who has died aged 79. McNeill was the first British player to lift the European Cup as captain of the Celtic side that won the trophy in 1967.

Billy McNeill with the European Cup in 1967, after Celtic’s victory over Internazionale in Lisbon.

Billy McNeill with the European Cup in 1967, after Celtic’s victory over Internazionale in Lisbon. Photograph: VI-Images via Getty Images


It’s David Squires on … Wayne Hennessey and the Nazis.


Here’s the latest instalment of Football Weekly.


A first look at the new Diego Maradona documentary.


“Can I suggest that the currently unemployed Mr Mourinho apply for a job at Winterfell? They could do with some park-the-bus defence right now, perhaps with two banks of five. Thousand. Their current plan of sticking Bran next to a tree seems a bit too Tim Sherwood. Leather gilets, anyone?” – Neale Redington.

“I heard Gary Neville say again this weekend that choosing who he’d prefer won the league this season is like having to decide who you’d rather slept with your wife – your brother or your best mate. Surely if you were Gary you’d prefer your wife to sleep with Phil Neville, as I suspect she’d enjoy getting intimate with David Beckham? Anyway, Gary is also very good friends with [Snip – Fiver Lawyers]” – Tom Mann.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is Neale Redington.


A police horse has died after falling on a metal pole while responding to reports of crowd trouble at Blackpool v Fleetwood.

The FA will assess referee Kevin Friend’s match report before deciding whether to investigate claims lodged by Chelsea that Maurizio Sarri was repeatedly called “a $hit Italian” by Burnley backroom staff amid some tunnel shenanigans.

Maurizio Sarri is sent off in the 2-2 draw with Burnley.

Maurizio Sarri is sent off in the 2-2 draw with Burnley. Photograph: Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

A record number of clubs in Britain will take part in Amnesty’s Football Welcomes this weekend to celebrate the contribution refugees make to the game.

Pep Guardiola thinks it’s not such a scary prospect playing at Old Trafford these days. “The players Manchester City had in the last decade have made this game a little bit more equal,” he tooted as Wednesday’s derby loomed large.

Mauricio Pochettino says his Spurs players are focused on Premier League Seagulls not Big Cup Dutch tyros. “We’re not thinking about Ajax,” he snapped. “Now our energy is on Brighton. We have two alternatives – one is to be in the top four at the end of the season. You know very well I don’t need to tell them.”

Despite having been on the end of a controversial refereeing decision that may have scuppered Nasty Leeds’s automatic promotion hopes, Marcelo Bielsa refused to give refs a kicking. “The most difficult task in football is the referees’ job,” he barked, while loading up a 102-page spreadsheet to prove why.

Robbie Fowler has only gone and been appointed as manager of Brisbane Roar in the flamin’ A-League. “I wanted people to take me seriously,” honked the reformed Liverpool prankster.

And Sutton United boss Paul Doswell has resigned after 11 years in charge due to the commute from Winchester. “I’ve taken the hardest decision in my life,” he sighed. “Ultimately after 11 years of travelling two hours there and back, sometimes four times a week, it’s become impossible for me to keep going.”


Paul Wilson on Billy McNeill, plus the Lisbon Lion’s life in pictures.

Where do PSG go from here, ponder our Ligue 1 experts.

Paolo Bandini on the day Juve won the title and everyone shrugged like a non-plussed French concert-goer.

Joy for Juventus.

Joy for Juventus. Photograph: Daniele Badolato/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Sid Lowe on the day Huesca and Rayo dragged each other to hell.

Andy Brassell on the day Stuttgart sacked their manager and the players gulped because they they couldn’t hide behind him anymore.

The state of WSL play, courtesy of Rachel Brown-Finnis.

Who do Manchester United fans prefer for the title: City or Liverpool? Jamie Jackson speaks to five of them about their WORST SCENARIO EVER!

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