THEY’RE ON THEIR WAY, THEY ARE GARETH’S 26
All the waiting and speculation is over. Gareth Southgate held a press conference on Thursday afternoon, and now we know the names of the 26 lucky young men in with a chance of being scapegoated in the press, lampooned on television, ridiculed on podcasts, and abused on various social media disgraces when England get knocked out in the last 16 of the 2022 Human Rights World Cup. It’s an appalling ecosystem when you think about it. Unconscionable. The Fiver doesn’t know how much longer it can countenance being a part of it. Oh but for how much longer?!? Only time will tell.
The announcement wasn’t particularly dramatic, truth be told. Almost the entire make-up of the squad was pretty much as expected, predictable to the point that Sky Sports News, desperate to fire up its fun yellow ticker, desperately tried to convince their viewer that the thunderingly obvious inclusion of the in-form James Maddison was some sort of 48pt scrolling sensation. There were no jaw-dropping omissions – unless you count Ivan Toney, Tammy Abraham and Jadon Sancho, whose absences are hardly likely to cause a run on the pound – and no stories of any Gazzaesque feng shui improv-sessions in response to being left at home. All that was left were Southgate’s musings. Sigh.
He’s tried to get the balance right. The squad is more important than ever with five subs allowed. A party of 26 allows for a couple of risks you couldn’t take with 23. Maddison was happy. That sort of stuff. But he did add that England “stand for inclusivity” and “understand the challenges that this tournament brings” to the LGBTQ+ community. “If it wasn’t for [their] strength … we wouldn’t be women’s European champions.” He also predicted that swerving political chat during the next month, as per Fifa request-cum-diktat, will be “highly unlikely … we have always spoken about issues we feel should be talked about. But we would like to concentrate primarily on the carnival of football.” We’d like to wish Gareth all the best with that, something that from this remove, and with history as our guide, looks even more of a pipe dream than winning the whole damn thing.
The squad in full: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Newcastle), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal); Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Conor Coady (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Ben White (Arsenal); Jude Bellingham (Dortmund), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), $exually Repressed Morris Dancing Fiver (Fiver Towers), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (West Ham); Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Knackered Old Harry Kane (Tottenham), James Maddison (Leicester), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Chelsea), Callum Wilson (Newcastle).
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Our efforts were betrayed by a player with an unprofessional attitude. Mistakes are part of the game; footballers know they can mess up. But I don’t like unprofessional attitudes. I had 16 players on the pitch: I liked the attitude of 15. The other one, not so much” – yes, José Mourinho has reached the scapegoat stage of his Roma tenure, singling out an unnamed member of the team after a 1-1 draw at Sassuolo. Nicky Bandini has the skinny.
25 October: “We are extremely delighted to announce the renewal of Leam Richardson’s contract for the next three years” – Wigan Athletic chairman Talal al-Hammad rewards his manager, who helped lead the Latics back to the Championship last season.
10 November: “Having looked at the recent run of form that is challenging the team’s status, the board have made the decision to make a change” – Wigan give Richardson the boot … and surely a needlessly impressive pay-off.
David Squires’s latest HR World Cup special features the story of an invisible man.
The latest Football Weekly Extra podcast is right here, right now.
There are still a handful of tickets available to attend Football Weekly Live on 17 November in that London, plus plenty more if you’d rather stream it remotely.
“Can I be the 1,057th person to say that Nathan Jones is the first Premier League manager to share their name with a Supremes single (younger readers may recall the later Bananarama version)? It’s too early to know if Morecambe’s Donald Love will go into management as 50% of Baby Love” – Dave Sage (and no others).
“I have recently watched the tedious Netflix doc, The Figo Affair, which promised much and delivered very little. How could something which stretches minimal new or interesting content into a long and laboured riff on the state of modern football actually get issued out to the public as entertainment? Oh well, thankfully it’s a one-off and not something I’ll have to suffer through on a daily basis or anything” – Ian Potter.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winners of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Ian Potter.