In the 1966-67 season, Celtic Football Club won five trophies. Five! The Scottish First Division. The Scottish Cup. The Scottish League Cup. Big Cup. The Glasgow Cup. They even registered a couple of notable friendly wins, 4-1 over English champions-elect Manchester United and 1-0 against the new Spanish champs Real Madrid. A quintuple, though! A decent haul. The Fiver dredges up this memory today merely to remind Pep Guardiola that, y’know, these things can be done. “Come on, that isn’t real!” he had scoffed a couple of months back, when asked whether his Manchester City side could win all three domestic trophies plus the big European pot this season. “That is not going to happen! Of course not!” And he’s been proved correct.
Still, these things have a habit of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies. You didn’t catch Big Jock talking himself down. Just have a bit more belief in yourself, Pep, that’s all we’re saying. Dream your dreamy dreams. And next time, you never know, they may come true! Some cynics will get out their apples and oranges, and claim that a Scottish First Division in which Clyde finished third can’t possibly compare to the Premier League of today. They’ll say this having presumably witnessed the levels of resistance put up this season by the likes of Stoke City, Watford, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United.
Others may argue that the modern FA Cup is about as important in the grand scheme of things as the old Glasgow Cup used to be. Well perhaps, if something terrible happened to your soul and there’s no love left in your callous heart. But even if we let that slide, it’s a moot point. Last night proved that folk still care. Still really care, if Pep striding towards Plucky Little Wigan boss Paul Cook with great purpose, Pep striding towards the referee with extreme prejudice, some brave wee ned attempting to engage professional athlete Sergio Agüero in the throwing of hands, and a copper being smacked upside his startled head by a billboard for competitively priced casual sportswear is anything to go by. Which, for all the obvious flaws, it surely is.
Throw in a controversial sending off, an inexplicable lapse by a £50m full-back and a wonder finish by a £1m striker, and it was a great evening for the FA Cup. Pep channelling his inner Begbie in the tunnel has caused consternation in some quarters, but The Fiver admires his passion to succeed at all costs in a much-derided competition, and yes, we would be saying exactly the same thing had José Mourinho been caught on camera pinballing around a corridor looking for someone to clash with, spoilt for choices, his mind blown by a world of infinite possibility. The FA plans to look into the brouhaha, the Kappa slap, and the ned v Agüero Socratic debate.
Wigan may have some questions to answer, but after putting out three top-flight teams so far, there’s no reason why they can’t make it four against Southampton and reach the semis. Poor old City, meanwhile, only have this weekend’s Milk Cup final, a serious tilt at Big Cup, and almost certain Premier League glory to look forward to. Ah well, there’s always next year.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I knew that he would not cause problems given the relationship we had always had. He even said to me that it would p!ss him off if I did not go to Russia” – Olivier Giroud’s portrayal of a World Cup-focused, rival-strengthening, potty-mouthed Arsène Wenger is hard to believe.
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David Squires on West Brom and that night in Barcelona.
“How refreshing to see that referees are paying attention to the views of the managers. Only a week ago Pep Guardiola called on them to protect the players, ‘the artists’, from the crude attentions of some uncultured defenders, and his advice was heeded in fine style at Wigan last night. Well done Pep!” – Tom Gorman.
“Re: a recent pedant having Neville Southall in the buff imprinted on his memory, this reminds me of a holiday in Sardinia. A tattooed bloke was smiling and waving at our toddler whilst showering sand off from the beach. My wife said to me ‘Isn’t that Stan Collymore?’. It was. That evening I trounced him and his mates on the go-kart circuit, so they ganged up and rammed me. Fortunately Tin precluded any whiplash worries, and they bought me a beer as an apology. At the end of the night I shook hands with Stan, while he was mid-flow ‘watering’ a palm tree” – Patrick Wilkinson.
“Re: meeting keepers (Fivers passim). Strolling through a sunny but chilly Mayfair I spied a sartorially elegant figure selecting coins with his gloved right hand for a parking meter in Duke Street. He spilled the lot onto the pavement and into the gutter. Pick that out, Mr Ray Clemence, I muttered. You can always blame the gloves” – Christopher Knighton.
“Not a keeper, but my mate once stood behind John Barnes in the queue at KFC” – Mike Hall [at least he got to the line – Fiver Ed]
“James Nott’s excellent big/small goalkeepers joke in Monday’s letters is spoiled by his lack of knowledge of Tesco nomenclature. The smallest Tesco is an Express, not a Metro. While we’re at it, it’s a Tesco Extra, not a Big Tesco. It’s this sort of devil-may-care attitude to accuracy that’s killing football, or journalism, or shopping. Take your pick” – Richard Morris.
“STOP FOOTBALL QUADRUPLES” – Darren Leathley
Send your letters to email@example.com. And if you’ve nothing better to do you can also tweet The Fiver. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Patrick Wilkinson.
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BITS AND BOBS
Sunderland manager Chris Coleman has risked a one-way trip to destination Do One after publicly questioning owner Ellis Short’s commitment. “Obviously Ellis wants to sell the club and [fans] recognise that maybe his love for the club was yesterday … so until we get someone that wants to turn a corner with it and love it, care for it and look after it, you get the negativity,” he blathered.
Eintracht Frankfurt fans have belatedly jumped on The Fiver’s decade-old Stop Football campaign by bringing a halt to both halves of their match against Energy Drink FC in protest against Monday night football. “As long as they have a few more euros in their pockets, they couldn’t care less how many days’ holiday we need to take to attend an away game,” harrumphed a fans’ statement.
Sevilla manager Vincenzo Montella has smeared faint praise all over José Mourinho before their Big Cup clash with Manchester United. “I’ve read many books. Mourinho was a pioneer when it comes to tactics in football. I think Mourinho is quite a good rival,” he honked.
England Women’s boss Phil Neville has studied hard and come up with a full 23-player squad for the SheBelievesCup, with Chelsea’s Anita Asante earning her first call-up since 2015. “Some exciting young players have caught my eye, and not just those that have been picked for this squad,” cheered Neville.
Independiente have called in the help of parapsychologist El Brujo Manuel before the second leg of the Copa Sudamericana against Grêmio in the hope that he can bring them some Weird Uncle Fiver-style spooky good vibes.
And Philippe Coutinho has had a lively old 24 hours in Barcelona, having seen his car towed on Monday before arriving home in the early hours of Tuesday to discover that some light-fingered types had burgled his fancy pad.
STILL WANT MORE?
Target Jordi Alba, get physical, park the bus, or take the handbrake off. Sid Lowe has four different ways Chelsea can beat Barcelona.
Pedro is taking a different approach, channelling flashbacks of Chelsea’s 2012 semi-final win when he was on the losing side.
A new initiative in London will recruit and train 100 female coaches to improve girls’ football in the capital, writes Suzy Wrack in her weekly blog.
Pep Guardiola made changes for the trip to Wigan and paid the price, tuts Paul Wilson.
Jack Grealish (still available for England duty) is leading Aston Villa’s charge up the table, reckons Martin Laurence.
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