Hello everyone. While we await words of wisdom from the eight Premier League managers not on holiday, here’s a fun activity to get us through the afternoon. We’ll call it lame claims to footballing fame. This is not the place to tell us that your great uncle once scored a brace in an FA Cup final. Nope, that’s far too impressive. We’re looking for tales of woe, mishaps, something more Woody Allen than Tottenham double winner Les Allen. Let’s play…
While John goes for a power yomp around the block, Dave Tindall will guide you through the afternoon.
After the transfer deadline was rolled back to September 1 by the Premier League, the EFL looks set to do the same in the Championship, though that needs to be ratified at a meeting.
For the last two summers, the window has closed for clubs in the top two divisions on the Thursday before the start of the Premier League season. Clubs in League One and Two already have the longer window, but second-tier sides must decide at an EFL meeting at the end of the month whether to come into line with the Premier League, something they are expected to do.
A statement from the EFL read: “The EFL notes the decision taken by Premier League clubs to change the closure date for its summer transfer window. EFL clubs discuss the matter on an annual basis and will do so at a meeting later this month where a determination will be made as to whether there is to be any change moving forwards.”
The Copa del Rey semi-finals have been drawn and an all-Basque final is on.
Athletic Bilbao v Granada
Real Sociedad v Mirandés
- Over two legs
- First legs: February 11 or 12
- Second legs: March 3 or 4
The final will be played at the Estadio de La Cartuja in Seville, which will host the event up until 2023. And for the first time since 2010, neither Real nor Barcelona will be in the final.
As we await the Copa del Rey draw, a look back to that 2008 FA Cup semi-final quartet: West Brom v Cardiff, and Portsmouth v Barnsley.
Barnsley were in the Mirandés role, and had beaten Liverpool *and* Chelsea on their way there.
This was the Chelsea team from the quarter-final: Cudicini; Belletti (Pizarro 5), Carvalho, Terry, Bridge; Wright-Phillips, Essien , Ballack, Malouda (Kalou); J Cole, Anelka
That team, pretty much, reached the final of that year’s Champions League.
And Liverpool’s from the fifth round: Itandje, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Benayoun, Lucas (Gerrard 75), Alonso, Babel (Kewell 69), Kuyt, Crouch.
That team is not too far off a team that challenged for the title the following season.
Simon Burnton, expert on all things Watford, spoke to Adam Masina, someone who has been through more than most.
Here’s a quiz from earlier in the week. The score to beat is my 16, and I should have done better.
And we wondered why has Simeone remained at Atléti.
This half-measures winter break has not stopped clubs jetting across the world. Or not, as the case may be.
Key quote from Ralph Hasenhüttl. “Next year football must rethink this winter break. You ask me about a winter break? For us there is no winter break.”
Important development on safe standing from Paul MacInnes.
The previews are rolling in. All four of them.
Troy Parrott, a player my Irish pals says is their best forward talent since Robbie Keane has signed a contract with Tottenham. Now, will José Mourinho actually give him some minutes on the field. Parrott celebrated his 18th birthday this week.
Tottenham Hotspur corner: Jan Verthongen is happy at the club, says his agent, despite his body language during the FA Cup game with Southampton looking to the contrary.
In a chat with Kristof Terreur of Het Laatste Nieuws, Tom De Mul, though, played down suggestions his client was unhappy.
Jan still wants to achieve great things with Spurs. He wants to qualify for the Europa or Champions League, to win the FA Cup. He is 32, but still very ambitious. He is focused. He still has so many targets. The Euros are a super important goal too. It’s what I admire in Jan. He wants to play at the top level as long as possible. We haven’t reached an agreement (on a contract extension) as yet, but we don’t rule out anything. There is interest in him as a free agent, but Spurs is a very interesting option for us. The door’s still open.
Real Madrid also exited the Copa on Thursday night, and also to a Basque club, meaning that the final four is Mirandés of the Segunda División, Athletic, La Real and Granada. Very much a 2008 FA Cup vibe to this year’s competition. The draw takes place at 12pm UK time.
Barcelona don’t play until Sunday night, when they travel to Real Betis but the vultures are circling, and with even more vigour after last night’s Copa del Rey defeat to Athletic Bilbao.
North of the border, the hype machine is fully operational on Ianis Hagi after his goal against Hibs on Wednesday.
Per PA Media.
Steven Gerrard admits he is struggling to contain the hype around Ianis Hagi after seeing the new Rangers midfielder open his Ibrox account. The Light Blues boss has pleaded for the Rangers support to show Hagi – son of Romania great Gheorghe – patience. But the fans’ excitement has gone into overdrive after seeing the 21-year-old fire a late winner against Hibernian, and Gerrard said: “He hasn’t helped me there has he?“It was a fantastic finish. Looking back on the game you can see him coming to terms with the physicality up here in Scotland and getting used to the speed and the pace of the first half. But he grew and grew and grew as the game went on. I’m sure people are going to get carried away now because he’s scored the winner on his first start. But he will still take time to adapt to all the different venues and teams we come against. He’s certainly a talent.”
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to link up is the ultimate football rumour. It simply has to happen.
With Manchester City’s title chances ground to dust, the Champions League is the big target, but there has been bad news on that score ahead of the Real Madrid match.
Brighton v Watford on Saturday is the truncated weekend’s relegation six-pointer. Paul Doyle examines the differences between Brighton under Graham Potter and his predecessor Chris Hughton.
Suzanne Wrack profiles the Canada women’s international whose record will surely never be beaten.
A letter to the editor here.
So, here it is, after entire continents of column inches and enough hot air to send a Zeppelin to Jupiter over many, many years, the fabled winter break comes to the Premier League. What does that mean? It’s not like the winter breaks we looked at the Bundesliga and Ligue 1 and wondered how they did without football for an entire month.
Thus, a fudge was cooked up so not everybody gets a rest since the Premier League is a content provider like no other, and so there will be four matches this weekend to taper off the dependency.
Saturday: Everton v Crystal Palace
Brighton v Watford
Sunday: Sheffield United v Bournemouth
Manchester City v West Ham
Somewhat slim pickings but titter not, lest you be tittered, as there is a full run of EFL matches and plenty of storylines to pick up in Europe.