CHEERIO AND GOODBYE
Norn Iron went two goals down within 20 minutes against Kosovo yesterday, and, well, they weren’t going to turn that around, were they. This latest fiasco led to the 500-strong traveling Green and White Army chanting “cheerio” at manager Ian Baraclough, who has won just three of 19 competitive games in charge. “Let’s not be negative,” retorted Baraclough, who went on to make the claim that Paddy McNair, injured on the morning of the match, would have made some sort of difference, before adding gnomically: “I understand the fans’ frustration but there are ways to lose a game of football and that’s it.” No, we’re none the wiser either, and we’ve even held it up to the light and looked at it from various angles.
Norn Iron have now played 13 Nations League matches and won a grand total of none of them, with ten defeats. If nothing else, they’re taking a brave and principled stance of Irish unity, with the Republic’s record in Uefa’s fledgling waste of time just as bad: no wins in 12 for Stephen Kenny’s confused rabble. But in and of itself, Norn Iron’s record isn’t great, and having gone into group K22 (subs, please check) as top seeds (this surely can’t be right either), they find themselves eight points off the pace set by Greece, and five shy of the second-placed Kosovans. Victory at Windsor Park over Cyprus on Sunday is now essential, though while Baraclough still believes the home crowd will be “all in behind the team, not a problem”, what can anyone realistically expect when you’re going into battle without Middlesbrough’s defensive linchpin ? Get well soon, Paddy.
But while Norn Iron’s current plight is something of a downer, it at least illustrates, by way of sheer contrast, how great the achievements of Billy Bingham were in the 1980s. Snapping everything into perspective, it was announced this morning that the brilliant Bingham has passed away at the grand old age of 90. He lived a life less ordinary, playing for Norn Iron at the 1958 World Cup and Luton in the 1959 FA Cup final, winning the league with Everton in 1963, and leading Linfield to a quadruple in 1971 before moving on to manage Greece, Everton, PAOK, Mansfield Town and Saudi side Al-Nassr.
It’s his time in charge of Norn Iron that’s really seared on the memory, though. Bingham led his country to the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, the high point being that Gerry Armstrong-inspired defeat of Spain at their own finals (although there’s a strange sort of dignity in granting a worldie to Josimar as well). All the while with a pipe on. A master tactician and a gentlemen, here’s hoping he has a quick glance down at Windsor on Sunday to inspire his countrymen one last time.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
Join Scott Murray at 7.45pm (BST) for goal updates from all the evening’s Nations League matches.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“What are you doing here? It’s Series D! Do you need money, man? Did you lose all your money? Are you poor? – former Manchester City midfielder Elano gets his chat on with Thiago Rabelo and reveals the colorful reception he got from fans when he popped up as a coach in Brazil’s lowest division. Oh, and how he loved playing for the “real lord” Sven-Göran Eriksson.
“How dare you make me tear up reading your usually emotionless missive. Yesterday’s letter o’ the day from Brian Robson made me sniffle into my teatime cuppa. If you succeed in your STOP FOOTBALL campaign then beautiful moments like this will disappear” – Tracey Stomenov.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of cozying up to online gambling firms clubs felt able to, oh, I don’t know, maybe … give over their shirt sponsorship to some kind of social action initiative aimed at reducing poverty?” – John Gregory (not that one).
“Noble Francis’s comment (yesterday’s letters) about managers being ‘foolishly’ awarded contract extensions after a big win highlighted something I’ve always found very odd about football. The reward for doing a good job is to get a longer contract. Yet the reward for being rubbish is to get sacked with an immediate payout on your remaining contract. José Mourinho has apparently had over £90m in payouts from Man Utd, Chelsea (twice for goodness sake!), Spurs and Real Madrid. Perhaps The Fiver should be looking to football management for its next job?” – Paul Dixon
“’Find someone who looks at you the way Sachin Nakrani looks at Divock Origi” (yesterday’s Still Want More?). really? After all this time, do you still not fully understand who your readers are? Never gonna happen. By the way, excellent article about a club legend” – Mike Wilner.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … John Gregory.
Get your ears around the latest Football Weekly Extra. And while we’re at it, Max, Barry and the pod squad are shortly going back on tour. The last remaining tickets to live shows in June and July are available here.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Uefa has defended the decision of its two most senior executives to leave Paris early a day after the Stade de France chaos to watch the Championship playoff final at Wembley.
The Derby takeover has met with another delay. Chris Kirchner, the latest prospective buyer, has been given until Friday afternoon to prove he is in a position to finalize a deal. The EFL are “incredibly disappointed”, apparently. Still, at least there’s another savior waiting in the wings in the form of … Mike Ashley. Ah well, disaster averted in that case.
The Premier League transfer window is officially open, its swirling vortex sucking unsuspecting souls into a nightmarish parallel dimension of exit doors, war chests and come-and-get-me pleas. The latest is that Aston Villa, Leeds and Tottenham are all after Sonny Perkins, with West Ham reluctant to meet the youngster’s wage demands, while Arsenal have won the race for Marquinhos.
Chelsea have completed the signing of Kadeisha Buchanan from Lyon. She’s won Women’s Big Cup and Division 1 Féminine five times each, so it’s fair to say Emma Hayes has done some good business there.
The PFA awards have been and gone, with Mohamed Salah scooping men’s player of the year gong and Sam Kerr collecting the women’s accolade.
And Danny Drinkwater has left Chelsea.
STILL WANT MORE?
Our men’s and women’s transfer interactives are up and running for the summer.
With Euro 2022 kicking off next month, Suzanne Wrack has recounted her experiences growing up as a football fan and how the ongoing revolution in the women’s game has changed her life.
And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!