WHEN HARRY MET WALLIES
While The Fiver is happy to concede that it is invariably “a small minority” of England fans who tend to behave like strutting, entitled numbskulls, unfortunately it is they who tend to leave the most lasting impression. Just as the loudest, most stupid voices tend to get the most attention on social media disgraces, it is the loudest, most stupid Ingerland fans who tend to sing about German bombers, stick fireworks up their nether regions and “occupy” foreign city squares.
Last night, they were at it again. As the England team was read out over the Wembley Tannoy, a loud chorus of boos greeted the name of Harry Maguire, prompting no end of post-match handwringing from those who considered it despicable that a player who has done little or nothing wrong for his country should be booed by his own team’s fans, while wondering what possible good could come of jeering a player before a ball has been kicked.
“I thought the reception was a joke,” said England manager Gareth Southgate, sounding uncharacteristically spiky. “An absolute joke. I don’t get it. What he has done for us is phenomenal. We’re either all in this together or we’re not.” We have been here before. Maguire is simply the latest in a long line of completely inoffensive England players to have been inexplicably booed by their own in recent years.
Of course, the Manchester United defender is a big boy who is unlikely to let a minority of no-mark bullies get him down, but he will have felt mightily heartened – if slightly patronised – to see his manager and so many teammates rush to his defence. While the sight of fans criticising their own players is not uncommon we rarely see the shoe go on the other foot. However, Declan Rice, Jordan Henderson and Harry Kane were among those who felt confident enough to cut loose on Twitter without worrying about their tirades having an adverse effect on those all important fan sentiment graphs.
“To hear @HarryMaguire93 booed at Wembley before kick-off was just not right,” tweeted Kane. Rather strangely, his employers were also quick to voice their solidarity with Maguire, tweeting: “No player deserves abuse. We stand with you @HarryMaguire93”. Having set this weird precedent, those in charge of the Tottenham social media account are likely to be kept busy in the coming weeks should their own players’ performances dip during the Premier League run-in.
Curiously, despite their own astonishing devotion to their various social media channels, Manchester United’s much ridiculed Twitter team didn’t see fit to mention or condemn the abuse heaped upon their club captain until 50 minutes after Spurs had beaten them to it. “It goes without saying that everybody at Manchester United is behind our club captain and we look forward to showing him our support at Old Trafford on Saturday, in the Premier League match against his former club Leicester City,” stated the article to which their particular tweet linked. As a group of fans who might actually feel some justification in booing Maguire given his current run of club form, we look forward to seeing the Stretford End rise above their basic urges should he revert to type and accidentally slice the ball into his own net.
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Join John Brewin at 5.45pm (BST) for live updates of the Women’s Big Cup quarter-final second leg between Barcelona and Real Madrid, with 85,000 fans expected at the Camp Nou.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It’s not the final chapter, it’s just the beginning of the football career that continues. It was a bit of a break for a few months, now it’s getting the football back on track. It was the first time being captain and walking out here, I’ve been captain before, but not here. To walk out at the national stadium as captain for the first time was special. To lead the lads out was very emotional and something I can be proud of. It was a lovely feeling” – Christian Eriksen capped a remarkable return to the Parken Stadium by scoring for Denmark only nine months after his on-pitch cardiac arrest there.
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“I remember when Aki Riihilahti wrote a rather wry and amusing newspaper column every Saturday. I was impressed at his command of the English language, but judging from the amount of twaddle he’s been spouting [about a revamped Big Cup] this week he must just have had an exceptional subeditor. I feel even more disillusioned than usual” – Richard O’Hagan.
“Re: Jerry Sadowitz losing the Canadian audience (Monday’s letters) – I always thought his opening line was ‘Good evening moose [eff]ers.’ I would imagine the line about speaking French might have got lost in the booing” – Darren Leathley.
“I presume anyone who played in the laser-fest, otherwise known as Senegal v Egypt, no longer needs to wear glasses” – Mark McFadden.
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 … Richard O’Hagan.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
A 19-year-old man has been jailed for six weeks for racially abusing Marcus Rashford on Twitter after the Euro 2020 final.
In a club statement for the ages, the Isthmian League’s Staines Town have accused their landlord of breaching the modern slavery act among many other alleged abuses. Downing LLP deny the “wild allegations” against them.
Egypt have lodged a formal complaint after saying they were subjected to racism and intimidation during their World Cup playoff defeat by Senegal, with Mohamed Salah – who was swarmed with lasers when he missed in the penalty shootout – named as being particularly targeted.
It’s a small price to pay for the rampant success of their on-pitch comedy arm, but Everton have lost in excess of £100m – for the third consecutive season. They did, though, avoid sanctions for their behaviour.
Portugal have reached the Human Rights World Cup thanks to the uncoachable and tactically anarchic Bruno Fernandes, whose two fine finishes saw off North Macedonia – but the Twitter experts remain undefeated.
Steph Houghton, England captain for the last three major tournaments, faces a race against time to get fit for this summer’s Euros though, on the plus side, should she make it she’ll no longer have to take orders off Phil Neville.
Robert Lewandowski and Piotr Zielinski scored the goals that took Poland past Sweden and on to Qatar.
And they might be better than they’ve been for a while but Scotland remain as comfortingly Scotland as ever, tossing a two-goal lead to draw with Austria.
MOVING THE GOALPOSTS
The Fiver has a new sister email, folks! It’s a weekly roundup of the wonderful world of women’s football called Moving the Goalposts. You don’t need to be told that it’s going to be smarter and wittier than us – so sign up here. The first edition was sent whistling into inboxes today but you can read the online version here.
STILL WANT MORE?
Laser pens, last-gasp goals and more: Ed Aarons on a wild night of World Cup qualifying in Africa.
Barney Ronay hails Raheem Sterling’s excellence and centrality to England after the win over Ivory Coast.
Steven Pye relives Liverpool’s trophy treble of 1984.
Niall McVeigh on the rise and rise of Bury AFC since the 2019 demise of the original club.
This week’s Knowledge looks at footballers to have played the highest percentage of all their country’s matches, more neighbours across borders and more.
And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!