A steel-jacketed dose of perspective right up its elite pathway

Rob Smyth
Photograph: Suki Dhanda/The Observer

KICKING OFF

The Fiver has a dream. In it, the death of almost 400,000 people during a global pandemic leaves all survivors the gift of epiphany, after which they vow to give up public displays of vainglory. Oh, Fiver! Oh, Fiver! If anything, Covid-19 has increased participation in the nation’s favourite sport, the self. The lack of physical contact has created a blizzard of new opportunities to demonstrate the essential irrelevance of every other living thing. You don’t even have to wait for your turn to speak, or for your brain to boot up, like you did before lockdown. Alehouse inanity at digital speed!

Related: Macclesfield at risk of points deduction and relegation after new EFL charges

All of which brings us onto the nation’s other favourite sport. And having spent the last two months of lockdown exploring every possible permutation, the Fiver can confirm that there is no combination of words in the English language that adequately convey how prodigiously bored we are of the everyday egotism, entitlement and avarice in English football.

Yesterday, the EFL announced that the Championship would provisionally restart on 20 June, with the play-off final on or around 30 July. The schedule – 12 games in 41 days for those who make the final – isn’t ideal, but on the Fiver’s Patented Post-Covid Scale O’ Inconvenience™, it falls marginally below death, redundancy and having to watch another repeat of EFL Hits: Barnsley v Luton.

It seems, alas, that this start date might be optimistic. QPR were the first team to kick up a fuss, and they say that a number of other clubs are unhappy with the idea. “I have made our feelings known to the EFL and, having spoken with a number of CEOs at other Championship clubs, I am not a lone voice on this matter,” chirruped the QPR chief executive Lee Hoos. “We are absolutely appalled. Incredibly there has been absolutely no consultation with individual clubs nor with the Championship doctors’ working group by the divisional representatives – or anyone else in the Football League – regarding this matter. On top of that, we were only made aware of the statement 40 minutes before it was made public. Having spoken with [Sir] Les [Ferdinand, director of football] and Mark [Warburton, manager], they share my views. We are vehemently opposed to this schedule.”

QPR might have a point. Your super soaraway Fiver, which last broke a news story when Didier Baptiste signed for Liverpool in 1999, doesn’t have a clue about the rights and wrongs of the situation. Nor do we have any idea who said what behind closed doors, because the only private conversations we hear are through the bottom of a glass. 

This isn’t about QPR or the EFL; it’s about the fact the Fiver gave up the gaspers on Sunday morning and we’re starting to feel a wee bit irascibl- sorry, it’s about the relentless self-interest, which will be ramped up as the summer progresses. And it’s about the fact that, in the last 28 years, English football has developed a value system that Donald Trump would regard as a great, great value system.

In other news, Charlton will be without three players if the Championship resumes. That includes the top scorer Lyle Taylor, who is out of contract at the end of June, has decided he doesn’t want to risk jeopardising a “life-changing move” by getting injured. What an absolute pragmatist! At least he’s honest about it, which puts him 1-0 up on plenty of others in a sport that urgently needs a steel-jacketed dose of perspective right up its elite pathway.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“There’ll only be one Haaland and there’ll only be one Patson. I just want to become the best vision of myself” – RB Salzburg striker Patson Daka, who is clearly far too young to have heard of Alf-Inge, bats away the suggestion that he could be the next Erling Haaland in Nick Ames’ interview, despite plenty of European clubs’ interest in the 21-year-old.

Erling Braut Haaland, right, celebrates with his now former teammate Patson Daka during RB Salzburg’s Champions League campaign this season. Photograph: Kerstin Joensson/AP

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Listen to Football Weekly? Listen to Football Weekly! This week the pod discuss Project Restart (oh, it’s here), Bundesliga and revisit the 1999 Big Cup final.

FIVER LETTERS

“With the easing of lockdown restrictions, I have been visited today by 2 of my grandchildren who have creatively devised an up to date form of garden football featuring “The Covid ‘20 Cup”; the rules provide for 10 minutes each way, followed - if the scores are level - by extra time, and then, if required, sudden death. The dilemma, of course, is should I participate?” – Adrian Brodkin.

“Fiver, you are my first kiss [uh oh – Fiver Ed]. My first beer. My first hot, crispy onion ring from Spurger Bing (others are available, cr4p, but available). I have been chasing that dragon since, like, forever. That first time you made me laugh out loud. I remember, I threw my head back and waved my locks in mirthful abandon, at the pure footballyfunniness of it all … I think it was 2009. It’s been 11 years of hope and heartache. But, by God (again, others are available), you’ve only just gone and done it! This time I nearly choked on a biscuit and my specs fell backwards off the top of my slap head as I imagined Deputy somebody or other nee-nawing out the copper news. Bravo Fiver [still no idea – Fiver Ed]. Bravo” – Darren Pritchard. 

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sportToday’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Darren Pritchard, why not.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Manchester United have solved one headache by securing the services of on-loan striker Odion Oghalo until the end of January.

Macclesfield Town suffered their latest round of turmoil after being charged with failing to pay several players their March wages. If proven guilty, they would suffer a further points deduction, sending them to the bottom of the league and almost certain relegation. The Silkmen have announced they will appeal the decision.

Philippe Coutinho’s agent has proclaimed that his client is “definitely” interested in a return to the Premier League, which will prick up the ears of chequebook enthusiasts. 

The shadow minister for sport, Alison McGovern, has criticised the FA’s decision to cancel the Women’s Super League season without any sort of plan for the future. “Is there a road to equality? Women players and supporters deserve answers,” roared McGovern.

STILL WANT MORE?

The good ship Schalke is sinking fast, and David Wagner is sailing it. Andy Brassell puts Die Königsblauen under the microscope.

Jürgen Klopp talks to Ed Aarons about Tony Yeboah’s impact on German society, his love of Jay-Jay Okocha’s magic and his respect for Mo Salah in an extract from the Big Paper man’s fantastic new book on African players.

Anthony Yeboah, esq. Photograph: Ullstein Bild/Getty Images

In 1950 England were presented as certain to win the World Cup but the adventure turned to calamity. Neil Duncanson explains how hubris reigned for the “kings of football”.

Andrine Hegerberg’s little sister might be a Ballon d’Or winner but the Roma midfielder tells Suzanne Wrack the pair still vie for bragging rights when they play football with their dad.

The Bundesliga is at the tactical forefront of the game, so says floating-football-brain-in-a-jar Jonathan Wilson.

Crystal Palace had not one but two great escapes in the 2009-10 season. Richard Foster has the story.

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

TAKE THAT, 34444.