CHEERIO AND GOODBYE
Norn Iron lost two goals in 20 minutes against Kosovo yesterday, and, well, they weren’t going to turn the tide, were they. This latest fiasco led the 500 members of the traveling Green and White Army to chant ‘cheerio’ at manager Ian Baraclough, who won just three of 19 competitive games in charge. “Let’s not be negative,” retorted Baraclough, who went on to claim that Paddy McNair, injured on the morning of the match, would have made some sort of difference, before adding gnomically: “I understand the frustration of the fans but there are ways to lose a football game and that’s it. No, we’re not wiser either, and we’ve even held it up to the light and looked at it from different angles.
Norn Iron have now made 13 Nations League appearances and won none, losing ten. If nothing else, they take a brave and principled stance of Irish unity, with the Republic’s record in UEFA’s incipient time-waster equally bad: no wins in 12 for Stephen’s confused mob Kenny. But by itself, Norn Iron’s record isn’t great, and having entered the K22 group (subs, please check) as the top seed (surely that can’t be true either), they find themselves eight points behind the pace set by Greece, and five behind the Kosovars, second. Victory at Windsor Park against Cyprus on Sunday is now key, although Baraclough still thinks the home crowd will be ‘all behind the team, that’s no problem’ what can reasonably be expected when you beat without Middlesbrough’s defensive linchpin. ? Get well soon, Paddy.
But if the current fate of Norn Iron is somewhat depressing, it at least illustrates, in stark contrast, just how significant Billy Bingham’s achievements were in the 1980s. Putting everything into perspective, it was announced this morning that the brilliant Bingham died at the age of 90. He lived a less ordinary life, playing for Norn Iron in 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 to the management of Greece, Everton, PAOK, Mansfield Town and the Saudi team of Al-Nassr.
It’s his time in charge of Norn Iron that is truly etched in memory, however. Bingham led his country to the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, the highlight being this Gerry Armstrong-inspired Spain defeat in their own final (although there is a kind of strange dignity in also conceding a World Cup to Josimar). All the time with a pipe. A master tactician and a gentleman, I hope he takes a look back at Windsor on Sunday to inspire his countrymen one last time.
LIVE ON A GREAT WEBSITE
Join Scott Murray at 7.45pm (BST) for goal updates from all the Nations League matches on the evening.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“What are you doing here? It’s Series D! Do you need the money, man? Have you lost all your money? Are you poor?” – Former Manchester City midfielder Elano chats with Thiago Rabelo and reveals the colorful reception he received from fans when he emerged as manager in Brazil’s lowest division. Oh, and how he loved playing for the “true lord” Sven-Göran Eriksson.
“How dare you make me cry reading your usually emotionless missive. Yesterday’s letter from Brian Robson made me sniffle in my cup of tea. If you succeed in your STOP FOOTBALL campaign, beautiful moments like this will disappear” – Tracey Stomenov.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of approaching online gaming companies, clubs felt able to, oh, I don’t know, maybe… hand over their shirt sponsorship to some kind of initiative of social action aimed at reducing poverty? – John Gregory (not that one).
“Noble Francis’ comment (yesterday’s letters) about managers being ‘foolishly’ given contract extensions after a big win highlighted something that I have always found very strange about football. The reward for doing a good job is getting a longer contract. Yet the reward for being rubbish is being sacked with an immediate payment on your remaining contract. José Mourinho has apparently been awarded over £90m payments from Man Utd, Chelsea (twice for God’s sake!), Spurs and Real Madrid.Perhaps The Fiver should look to football management for their next job?-Paul Dixon
“’Find someone who looks at you like Sachin Nakrani looks at Divock Origi’ (Yesterday’s Still Want More?). Oh good? After all this time, do you still not fully understand who your readers are? That will never happen. By the way, great article on 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 invaluable letter of the day is… John Gregory.
Get your ears around for the latest Football Weekly Extra. And while we’re at it, Max, Barry and the pod crew are heading back on tour soon. The last remaining tickets for the live shows in June and July are available here.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
UEFA have defended the decision of its two most senior managers to leave Paris early a day after chaos at the Stade de France to attend the Championship qualifying final at Wembley.
The Derby takeover met with another delay. Chris Kirchner, the latest potential buyer, has until Friday afternoon to prove he can 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 calls ahead. 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 the Women’s Big Cup and Women’s Division 1 five times, so it’s fair to say that Emma Hayes has done some good business there.
The PFA awards have been and gone, with Mohamed Salah winning the Male Player of the Year gong and Sam Kerr picking up the Women’s honour.
And Danny Drinkwater left Chelsea.
WANT EVEN MORE?
Our interactive transfers for men and women are operational for the summer.
With Euro 2022 kicking off next month, Suzanne Wrack has opened up about her experiences as a football fan and how the ongoing revolution in women’s football has changed her life.
And if that’s your thing…you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT TOO!