The Fiver | Steve Barnes's author ego could be facing his toughest job yet
17 July 2019 14:56
During his second stint in management as boss of Huddersfield Town, Steve Bruce somehow found time to author three crime thrillers entitled Striker! Sweeper! and Defender! Read by few at the time but now increasingly expensive and difficult to find as collectors’ items, they have become the The Gutenberg Bibles of noir football fiction. “I looked around the stadium and sighed,” whispers crime-fighting Leddersfield Town manager Steve Barnes, looking around the stadium and sighing, in one of them. “Football is a business, and a tough one at that, but the green playing area, well, that really is the field of dreams.” Well, if Barnes thought solving the murder of his club’s groundsman was tricky and full of pitfalls, his author ego has now been tasked with the much more difficult job of dealing with what is increasingly viewed as a field of nightmares by those who sit on all four sides of it.
Picked by Mike Ashley to stumble around in the size 19s recently vacated by Rafa Benítez, it was announced early on Wednesday that Bruce is the new manager of Newcastle United. An appointment that has been greeted with no great surprise but a huge amount of disappointment, it was certainly not the exciting new dawn fans were hoping for a couple of months ago, when excitable chatter on Tyneside centred on an Arab takeover that turned out to be even less plausible than the preposterous plots of Bruce’s trilogy of books. “I’m delighted and incredibly proud to be appointed,” trousered Bruce, fresh from lending his name to yet another ream of paper in the form of a three-year contract. “This is my boyhood club and it was my dad’s club, so this is a very special moment for me and my family. There is a huge challenge ahead of us, but it’s one that my staff and I are ready for. We’ll roll our sleeves up and we’ll be giving it everything from the off to ensure supporters have a successful team that they can be proud of.”
Describing their new manager as Ashley’s “latest stooge”, Newcastle fan website True Faith was predictably enthused by his arrival from Sheffield Wednesday for compensation believed to be in the region of £4m, not that the Owls are best pleased. “Bruce’s imminent appointment will not set the pulses racing, instil any confidence or more importantly get the punters through the turnstiles,” it groaned. “A line appears to have been crossed now.” If so, it is the latest in a long line of them to have been traversed during what passes for Ashley’s stewardship. The multi-billionaire continues to step over them with impunity because those who want him gone evidently don’t desire his departure badly enough to do anything that might actually hasten it.
“Steve knows what this club means to supporters and to the region and he will put his heart and soul into leading our talented group of players with the full support of our staff,” cheered senior suit Lee Charnley, with a commendably straight face. “The hard work for Steve and his team starts immediately and we will be fully prepared for the challenge of a new Premier League season.” Another line, this time drawn, albeit a very blurred one between half-truth and fiction.
“This is the respect that people have for women’s football in Brazil. Goodnight to everyone who’s going to sleep quietly in their own beds before working the next day” – Santos manager Emily Lima rips into the Brazilian Football Confederation after her players were forced to spend part of the night in a hotel lobby as they prepared for a crucial league match against Iranduba.
“Bury FC update: despite the departure of the entire promotion-winning squad from last season, fears of a failure to field a team in the opening pre-season fixture at Nantwich Town over the weekend were unfounded. Perhaps Bury-born Danny Boyle can set his next film in a world where nobody remembers the fit and proper person test?” – Darrien Bold.
“Delighted to see that popular hit comedy, Newcastle United, has been renewed for another season. With cuddly Bernard Cribbins all set to roll over and have his belly rubbed in the Premier League again, you can be sure the ratings will go through the roof. Hats off to the Magpies for upping the ante on fellow north-east sitcom, Sunderland FC, after their critically acclaimed slapstick ending to last season. How the Black Cats will respond is anyone’s guess. Perhaps an elaborate plot twist with a not-dead Jimmy Nail coming out of the shower at the end?” – Johnny Connelly.
“Googling HHAGTFABM (yesterday’s Fiver letters) now results in two links to The Fiver. One for the original reference and one for yesterday’s reference, which kindly highlighted the single search result phenomenon, but in doing so rendered the letter pointless” – David Harwood [make that three, etc and so on – Fiver Ed].
Send your letters to [email protected] And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’the day prize is … Darrien Bold, who wins a copy of Here We Go: Everton in the 1980s – the players’ stories.
Fleetwood boss Joey Barton has been charged with causing actual bodily harm after Barnsley manager Daniel Stendel was left with facial injuries following a tunnel fracas at Oakwell.
Stevenage have been fined £5,000 after admitting an FA charge of sexist chanting towards a female official during a home game in March. “We will impose significant bans on any supporters found guilty of such behaviour,” said chief suit Phil Wallace.
West Ham are £45m lighter in the pocket after signing Eintracht Frankfurt striker Sébastien Haller, which seems like a lot of beans. “[The] Premier League ain’t ready,” tweeted the Bundesliga, which could mean absolutely anything.
Danny Rose has been left out of Tottenham’s pre-season schlep around Asia so he can “explore prospective opportunities” to do one. Meanwhile, Kieran Trippier looks set to get an up close and personal look at Diego Simeone grabbing his cojones on the touchline after Atlético Madrid agreed a fee of around £20m for the right-back.
And Unai Emery reckons Arsenal fans need to chill because “three or four players” will be added to the squad eventually – and, by the sounds of it, they’ll be overpriced giants. “We are first speaking about the possibility to sign very big, very expensive players,” he whooped.
When Weird Uncle Fiver went viral … well, you probably don’t want to know. Here’s Simon Meehan on what clubs can learn from social media atrocities.
Jimmy Greaves had the right idea: football broadcasting should be fun, declares John Brewin.
“Che Guevara was in the news around the time that I was born.” New Southampton striker Che Adams tells David Hytner how he got his name and what it was like getting kicked up in the air by non-league bruisers for £75 a week.
Which clubs have replaced players with signings of the same name? The Knowledge tackles one of the big questions of our time.
Having crossed city divides more times than that stranded gang in The Warriors, Bernard Cribbins is used to fun and games, writes Paul Wilson.
Niall McVeigh invites you to forget the Premier League for a moment, and take a look at the key transfer window deals in Europe.
A decision by Christen Press is a slap in the face for everything the USWNT stands for, writes Shireen Ahmed.
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!