Leaving The Fiver's pluck-o-meter in a smoking, short-circuited mess

Barry Glendenning on 19 February 2018


Former football coach Barry Bennell has been branded a “monster” by one of his victims in court as he was sentenced to 31 years in prison. The catalogue of sexual abuse revealed during his trial has prompted another 86 people to make complaints against the former Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra youth-team coach. Jailing Bennell for 30 years with one year on licence, judge Clement Goldstone said he was “sheer evil”. He said: “To those boys you appeared as a god … in reality you were the devil incarnate. You stole their childhood and their innocence to satisfy your own perversions.” Read Daniel Taylor’s full report from court here.

SOUR 16?

Having failed to spark into life during the course of several matches it monitored over the weekend, The Fiver’s patented FA Cup pluck-o-meter seemed so out of sorts we felt compelled to check its batteries were working properly. Turns out they were fine – licking the ends reassured us of that – but it’s just that the level of pluck on show during Chelsea’s routine smiting of Hull City, Manchester United’s straightforward win at Huddersfield, Southampton’s fairly fortuitous victory over a West Brom side that numbers an as yet unidentified part-time taxi-driver among its ranks and various games involving assorted teams from Sheffield generated pluck of such infinitesimal levels that our flatlining machine was unable to detect it.

Praise be to Rochdale, then, the third-tier team whose late, late equaliser shocked said patented pluck-o-meter into the kind of frenzy of squiggly lines not seen since the previous day, when referee Neil Swarbrick’s afternoon was ruined by the kind of brouhaha that VAR was specifically designed to eradicate. It seems the “squiggly line” image, which resembled a line drawn freehand by The Fiver after a night on the pop, was not used to disallow Juan Mata’s goal in United’s win. “A technical error led to an incorrect graphic being provided,” chirped Hawk-Eye representatives, who didn’t elaborate on what the squiggly yellow line that prompted so much amusement and outrage was used for, or indeed explain why it was even there at all.

Still, in the ongoing, increasingly tedious debate about the pros and cons of VAR, it’s heartwarming to learn that we have the technology, it’s just nobody seems to know how to use it. A replay against Tottenham at Wembley is Rochdale’s reward for their late heroics, a 434-mile round trip that will give the club’s supporters plenty of time to ponder how a team capable of playing such good football happen to be swirling ominously around the plughole of League One.

Having already left The Fiver’s pluck-o-meter in a smoking, short-circuited mess with their late winner against Manchester City in the 2013 FA Cup final, Plucky Little Wigan will attempt to repeat their heroics when they entertain the Premier League leaders on Monday. Of course nobody gives them a prayer, much like nobody gave them one five years ago, a state of affairs reflected by their odds of 20-1 or thereabouts against winning in 90 minutes. “No disrespect to Coventry or anyone but we wouldn’t have minded a team we felt we had a chance of beating,” sniffed PLW midfielder Max Power. With a name like a superhero’s alter ego, these are not the levels of pluck you want before such a game. Hopefully mild-mannered Max is simply hoping to lure City into a false sense of security, before unleashing the Mighty Max our patented pluck-o-meter can sense lurks within.


Join Jacob Steinberg from 7.55pm GMT for hot MBM coverage of Wigan Athletic 1-3 Manchester City in the FA Cup.


“I knew I was taking a hot potato when I accepted the Milan job. I knew I would get old, but faith is faith, I like suffering. I will give everything to myself until the last day. I know that many of the boys give me dirty looks and snort, but I will be their nightmare until the end” – motivation, the Gennaro Gattuso way.

It’s your boy.
It’s your boy. Photograph: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images


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Football Weekly, with added Barney Ronay and Priya Ramesh, is or will be in this general direction.


“As a sign of how The Fiver has infected my brain with its inanity, while listening to the Black Panther soundtrack all I could hear during the excellent ‘X’ by Schoolboy Q, 2 Chainz, and Saudi was ‘are you on Tin yet?’ rather than the actual lyric ‘are you on ten yet?’ It also might be the source of The Fiver’s new motto ‘I live on Tin’. Sadly no mention of being in the gutter, so I don’t think Kendrick Lamar and his collaborators are secret Fiver fans” – Sean Atkins.

“Until recently I thought the most dismal phrase in the English language was either ‘we need to talk’ or ‘will the referee use VAR to review this’, but I see this has recently been surpassed by ‘the club was perfectly placed to reinvent the financial and fan engagement model of English football teams’. Shame on you, Leyton Orient” – Noble Francis.

“Re: meeting keepers (Fiver letters passim). Back in the early-1960s my parents and I were staying in the same Aberdeen hotel as St Mirren’s team, and I managed to get most of their autographs. Their goalie, D1ck Beattie, was a big friendly man, who insisted on having a page to himself; telling his colleagues he was going to be famous some day, and telling me it would come in useful if I ever found myself short of toilet paper. He did became famous about a year later. He made the front pages when he was convicted in the football bribes scandal” – Arthur Moir.

“Re: Ian Martindale’s letter about seeing ‘massive’ John Lukic in a big Tesco. On that basis, can we assume we’d only see Jorge Campos in a Tesco Metro?” – James Nott.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.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 … Arthur Moir.


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Fun and games in South America dept: Brazil’s sporting court will decide what action to take after Vitória’s game with Bahia – known locally as the “Peace Derby” – had to be abandoned with 11 minutes left after nine players were sent off in a game marked by a mass punch-up.

A full and frank discussion there.
A full and frank discussion there. Photograph: Twitter/ @gols_HTE

Lucas Moura reckons Spurs, fresh off that draw with Rochdale, are good enough to win Big Cup this season. “Every player wants to win trophies, to make history and I am here to make history with my new friends,” he parped.

Ipswich boss Mick McCarthy has apologised for effing and jeffing after his team scored in the East Anglian derby draw at Norwich. “To be honest I forgot the cameras were there and can capture every word now,” he tooted.

Casey Stoney is now a member of Phil Neville’s England backroom after retiring with 130 caps. “I was lucky to have played in a successful era of women’s football; now it is time for me to give back,” she cheered.

And holders Manchester City needed extra-time to beat Birmingham City and progress to the Women’s FA Cup quarter-finals.


Anna Kessel on an intriguing new exhibition at the National Football Museum.

Well worth a read and look.
Well worth a read and look. Composite: National Football Museum

Proper Journalism’s David Conn on the TV rights company pouring millions into English football that won’t reveal its owners.

Greg Clarke’s FA charm offensive in Qatar: what could possibly go right, wonders Barry Glendenning.

FA Cup talking points: 10 of them.

Sid Lowe on another Alavés miracle-in-waiting.

Andy Brassell on Stuttgart’s Bundesliga revival.

If there’s a radar, Cengiz Under is flying over it, reports Paolo Bandini.

PSG continue to boss Ligue 1, but defensive shamblings remain their achilles heel.

Hakan Sukur, the man who lost his country.

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