Hello everyone. I hope you are well.
I want to be completely honest with you this week.
I came incredibly close to ignoring the elephant in the room and just writing an unrelated, whimsical introduction on something trivial that happened over the last seven days, but it just didn’t feel genuine or appropriate.
A sad day for football
At the end of the day, I can’t sit here with any integrity and write on blindly as though Manchester United vs Liverpool wasn’t cancelled because of a mass protest that erupted in a security breach of Old Trafford.
It’s as unprecedented as it is unignorable, so forgive me for ditching Cuthbert the Caterpillar jokes and Suez Canal memes for a topic far, far closer to the heart of the sporting week.
The moral of the story is simple: yesterday, from every angle you look, was a sad day for football.
Above all else, it’s a desperate situation because the English game, just two weeks after the gross declaration of the European Super League, has devolved into such a state that these protests were even necessary.
The fact that fans have needed to take to the streets in the first place to recoup any ownership and connection with their club is a wholesale indictment of how bloodless the upper echelons of the sport have become.
Perhaps there’s some optimistic poetry to be found in fans reclaiming the Old Trafford pitch, I don’t know, but whatever football was, it’s not what football is and that’s a tough pill to swallow.
But it’s also a sad day for football because those seeds of discontent led to what the Premier League described as “acts of violence, criminal damage and trespass, especially given the associated COVID-19 breaches.”
It’s important that fans uphold their right to freely protest and make their feelings clear, but it’s also important for them not to deign to reported criminal activity in the process, particularly amidst a pandemic that has bereaved millions.
Say what you will about the composition of the peaceful majority and violent minority – I don’t profess to know any numbers – but what a confusing thought that the Old Trafford protest witnessed a cocktail of both the worst and best of football fans.
It’s not an enviable Martini glass from which to drink, it must be said, but it made the task of finding this week’s 16 winners for the GIVEMSPORT Awards feel both earnest and futile in equal measure.
We’ll let you decide whether rewarding s***housery and sexual innuendos is either blissful in its ‘keep calm and carry on’ attitude or hopelessly positive in the way a child might jam their fingers in its ears, chanting ‘la la la la’.
Frankly, I can sleep easy with either because as football rages and riles into revolution, for better or for worse, perhaps a moment’s peace and distraction won’t do any harm.
Goal of the week
Carlos Soler vs Barcelona
Special shoutout to just about every goal Harry Wilson scored against Birmingham City, as well as Lionel Messi‘s free-kick at the Mestalla, but sometimes there’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned screamer.
Besides, Soler’s rip-roaring strike against Barcelona was more ‘sweet spot’ than sugar-coated acne, flying off his right boot, zipping past Marc-André ter Stegen and somehow not tearing the net into a thousand pieces.
Player of the week
There were a lot – and I mean, a lot – of contenders for this week’s prize, so let’s get the honourable mentions out of the way for Gareth Bale, Marquinhos, Kai Havertz, Joaquin Correa, Eder Militao and Wilson.
However, call me a romantic, but my heart really did go out to Kike scoring Eibar’s first-ever La Liga hat-trick during the 3-0 win over Hercules, even if their hopes of the greatest of great escapes look to be dwindling.
Manager of the week
Go on, call me cliché, I dare you, but it’s long overdue that we reward the coaching mastermind who could inspire Manchester City to an astonishing treble, securing two crucial wins this week.
A superb 2-1 win at Paris Saint-Germain and considered 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace has teed up the Citizens for both a Champions League final and third Premier League title, which makes for quite the seven days.
However, we’d be remiss not to tip our hats to Erik ten Hag and Antonio Conte for winning their respective league titles, while Steven Gerrard also deserves a nod for leading Rangers to a thrilling 4-1 win over Celtic.
Game of the week
Peterborough United 3-3 Lincoln City
A stunning late comeback from 3-0 is mind-blowing at the best of times, never mind when it secures promotion in the dying seconds, but that’s exactly what happened at London Road in League One this week.
Siriki Dembélé made the first dent in Lincoln’s 3-0 lead on 65 minutes, before Jonson Clarke-Harris ramped up the pressure with a second and eventually bagged the equaliser with a stoppage-time penalty that we’ll revisit later…
Outrageous skill of the week
Eden Hazard vs Osasuna
It had to take something special to beat Jadon Sancho flattening a Holstein Kiel player with nothing more than a body feint, but when you’re competing with the magic of Hazard, then you’re always on a hiding to nothing.
And when the Real Madrid star decided to whip out a back-heel through ball during the win over Osasuna, there was no debating this week’s winner. I mean, seriously, does he have human wing mirrors installed?!
Bukayo Saka vs Villarreal
If you’re wondering where a certain League One incident might be hiding, then hold your horses for a second, but even as an Arsenal fan, I couldn’t look past the terribly soft penalty that we won at Villarreal.
While only Saka himself truly knows what was going on here, you’d be forgiven for thinking that he was deliberately angling for a penalty when replays showed him moving his leg towards Manu Trigueros. Suspicious…
Strangest punditry of the week
Eric Cantona on Crystal Palace incident
Speaking in The United Way documentary, Cantona openly declared that he wished he had kicked the Crystal Palace fan – an incident which earned him a nine-month ban, lest we forget – even harder because, well, it’s Cantona.
Take it away, Eric: “I have one regret. I would have loved to have kicked him even harder. I was banned for nine months. They wanted me to be an example.” We have no words…
Disasterclass of the week
Now, make no mistake, Dutch prodigy Brobbey has bundles of talent and by no means dropped a disasterclass across the board, but to say that his penalty miss for Jong Ajax was abysmal would be the mother of all understatements.
Besides, not only did Brobbey get underneath the ball so much that he skied his spot-kick against Almere City over the bar, but it proved to be such a scuffed effort that it exited the stadium and probably landed on Mars.
T̶w̶e̶e̶t̶ Social media post of the week
In a week where countless professionals and organisations took a stand against abuse and discrimination, it was heartwarming to see arguably the greatest footballer of all time joining his colleagues in taking a stand.
It felt particularly poignant that Messi had just reached 200 million followers on Instagram, only to take the opportunity to help ‘stop online abuse on social media’ as opposed to celebrating the feat.
Craziest bet of the week
‘Biggest racing bet ever’
Here we go again, yet another dry week for betting shenanigans in football. Can’t someone just dust off their gran’s time machine and put down a bonkers 255-fold accumulator, so I can write about it next Monday?!
But anyhow, at least Jim ‘Mattress Mack’ McIngvale – not to be confused with Duvet Debra or Pillow Pat – put down what could be the ‘biggest racing bet ever’ with a casual £1.7 million punt on the Kentucky Derby to give us something.
There’s only one problem – he lost. Sorry, Mack.
Sunday League award
Huracan FC London
This is a break away from what we usually go for in the Sunday League award, it must be said, but the story of Huracan FC London – as highlighted by the Daily Mail – was simply too charming for us to ignore.
Besides, we’re talking about a Sunday League team who formed a special bond with the Argentinean club they’re named after, even flying to South America to play in their 48,000-capacity stadium twice. Class.
Bobby Reid vs Chelsea
Riyad Mahrez winding up Mitchel Bakker and Thibaut Courtois belittling Timo Werner were two really strong shouts, but Fulham’s Reid has earned himself a place in the s***housery for this remarkable effort.
That’s because he invented a fascinating new tactic for winding up goalkeepers from corners, swapping simple jostling for trying to remove the shot-stopper’s gloves much to Edouard Mendy’s confusion.
Roy Keane award
Peterborough’s penalty vs Lincoln
In Keane’s football fantasies, players could be mown down by four two-footed, knee-high slide tackles at the same time and they wouldn’t even bat an eyelid, never mind think about appealing for a penalty.
So, I think it’s fair to say that seeing The Posh secure promotion to the Championship by winning a spot-kick from Sammie Szmodics going down under little to no contact would be his idea of a nightmare.
Urban Dictionary of the week
Word: Ronaldo (adjective)
Definition: Someone who will always bail you out at the last minute when it seems impossible
In a sentence(sss): Gonzalez from down the road is one of the most ronaldo people I’ve met. I had a complete disaster last week when I drove my car into a reservoir having gotten distracted with the revelation that I’d left the gas on and put the dog in the dishwasher.
But there he was, good old Gonzalez, single-handedly hauling the car out of the water mere seconds before it became a write-off, before nipping to my house to turn off the gas just before it caught fire and completing CPR on Mittens for a heroic resuscitation. What a guy.
Managerial innuendo of the week
“We want to see more of him. He showed a lot of drive here which is what we wanted to see more of and I’m really pleased with his performance.”
I can see why you wanted to see more of him, Dean, I really can.
TV Burp award
Most damning Catchphrase stock footage for ‘rubbing salt in the wound’ of the week
Oooo, I know this one. Ah. Ummm. Stretcher red card? Hospital dismissal? Ah, gosh, no. Salt in the — Umm. Capoue goes Caput?
What is football nowadays, really?
Thanks for reading everyone. I hope my introduction, nor subsequent conclusion, sounds righteous or condescending.
I’m by no means intending to act as a blind and arrogant army general 500 miles behind the frontline, soapboxing about what to do next because, frankly, I don’t proclaim to have any of the answers or solutions.
But above all else – in spite of the details, root causes and minutae of the whole rotten situation – let’s step back for a minute and wonder just how football in this country came to this point.
How did the humble saplings of a working-class pastime became the corporate meat-grinder upon which oligarchs bill their caviar? How did the swinging scarves of partisan cheer attach to the puppet strings of corporate enterprise?
Or to put things simply: how did the beautiful game merely become a bountiful one?
After all, what a sorry situation we find ourselves in where holding up football as simply an idyllic distraction from one’s worries on a Saturday afternoon, sat next to loved ones with a Chicken Balti pie and Bovril makes me sound like a dreamer.
Damn football for making romantics into idealists.