Jack Grealish freed from the shackles of tactical diktats | Soccer

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It was a good evening in the Nations League for Harry Kane, who tripped over his own feet and nudged himself one goal closer to the increasingly meaningless all-time England scoring record. It was an even better evening for Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish, back on the scene again after a year of having his style cramped at Manchester City. Freed from the shackles of tactical diktats, Villa Jack cavorted gaily on the left wing during a 13-minute cameo in which he set up the equaliser and teed up Kane for what surely would have been the winner had the striker not been in the process of tying his legs in knots again. Oh Harry! Oh Pep!

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Grealish has surely done more than enough to warrant a starting place against Italy on Saturday evening. By The Fiver’s reckoning, that means one of two things: he’ll either be left on the bench again, the latest victim of Mason Mount’s sinecure, or will be selected and stink the place out. Nothing personal, it’s just the way these things pan out more often than not. If The Fiver were to put cash money on the outcome, we’d plump for the former, on account of Gareth Southgate spending 90% of his post-match presser eulogising Kane for falling over and scoring from 12 yards, while signally withholding praise for the man who came on and utterly transformed the entire match. “At the start of the game, the challenge to the wide players is to attack, defend, try to score goals, a high tactical level and you’ve got to be spot on,” he harrumphed. “I think that’s an area Jack can get better at.” Game-changing entertainment? Not to be encouraged! Fun? Not allowed!

It should be a hoot on Wednesday night in Cardiff, however. The Welsh are still attempting to process their new reality of no longer being required to bang on about 1958, Joe Jordan and Paul Bodin every five minutes, so Rob Page has given most of his first-choice team the evening off to work out some new World Cup-based conversational gambits. Most of the second string who got a run-out for the defeat in Poland will get another chance, an opportunity of questionable value given Wales are already playing catch-up in Group A4, and they’ve lost all eight of their previous matches against the Netherlands, who in turn are coming off the back of a 4-1 rout of Belgium. A fair chance of Wales being brought back down to earth with an unceremonious bump, then … though should the worst happen, good luck finding a supporter who isn’t still too high on life to care.


“People might take it as a joke but about 45, 50 minutes ago, I spoke to his representative and they have offered him to us” – Gareth Bale might be able to keep his Madrid golf club membership if Getafe chief suit Ángel Torres isn’t on a massive wind-up. Mind you, he was talking at an event to drum up publicity for their new kits.

Gareth Bale, earlier.
Gareth Bale, earlier. Photograph: Gareth Everett/Huw Evans/Rex/Shutterstock


“Re: the hole in Austria’s pitch (yesterday’s Quote of the Day). Not to be a conspiracy theorist or anything, but exactly how far is Vienna from Plymouth?” – Jeremy Foxon.

“Richard Morris mentioning the film Best (yesterday’s Fiver letters) reminded me of a very strange experience I had back in 2003ish. A friend was working on that movie and got me a role as ‘London Cop’ for a laugh (I’m most definitely not an actor). I was driving to a job in Rome and stopped off in the middle of the night at a hotel in Milan for a road break. Turned on the TV, and Best was on, the scene I was in was on, and I saw myself dubbed in Italian” – Jamie Gambell.

“A quick report from the fantasy football leagues. The 1,057 pedants trophy is unclaimed this year as the league only had 808 players – please, for this gag to work, can people make more of an effort. Thanks. The last place was achieved by the amusingly named ‘Change Name’ team, who bagged a Fiver-tastic -2808 points, achieved by making 991 player changes over the 38 rounds – a true act of pedantry to log in week in, week out and waste their time making the same lame gag in the hope that someone is listening (insert gag here)” – Antony Melvin.

Send your letters to [email protected] And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Antony Melvin.


Get your ears around the latest Football Weekly. And while we’re at it, Max, Barry and the pod squad are shortly going back on tour. The last remaining tickets to live shows in June and July are available here.


The trial of Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini over alleged corrupt payments has ground to a halt after the former Fifa president said he was too ill to testify.

Sepp leaving court in Zurich with his lawyer Lorenz Erni.
Sepp leaving court in Zurich with his lawyer Lorenz Erni. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

A Big Website exclusive reveals that serious concerns were raised about Uefa’s safety and security department earlier this year, when an English expert with decades of experience quit his role as a consultant for European football’s governing body.

With Netherlands potentially facing a Wales side consisting of 11 hungover bucket hats, Louis van Gaal has let captain Virgil van Dijk hit the beach early and will get experimental in Cardiff. “Every player wants to play,” he barked. “If I can give them a chance in this match, then I will.”

Liverpool have laughed off a second bid of £30m plus add-ons from Bayern Munich for Sadio Mané, having been told to stump up a club-record 85m fat ones if they want to snaffle goal-guzzling Darwin Núñez from Benfica.

Ben Garner has swapped his manager’s gig at Swindon for one at Charlton. “We are obviously striving for a much better season,” declared Addicks owner Thomas Sandgaard, slightly ominously.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink will not be swapping his manager’s gig at Burton Albion for one at Barnsley. “It’s always flattering to be approached by other clubs and be offered new opportunities,” he cheered, slightly ominously.

And after watching his Socceroos scrape through 2-1 against UAE, Graham Arnold couldn’t give a flying one if critics think they’ll get their flamin’ backsides handed to them in the HRWC playoff against Peru. “The old Aussie DNA was backs-to-the-wall,” he roared. “We liked that. We liked being the underdog. We liked people saying that we have no chance.” He’ll have lots to like this week, then.

Ajdin Hrustic celebrates his late winner.
Ajdin Hrustic celebrates his late winner. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock


Our men’s and women’s transfer interactives are up and running for the summer.

In this week’s edition of Moving the Goalposts, Júlia Belas Trindade hears from the next generation of Brazilian women’s football.

Which team has played the most games in a row at different stadiums? The Knowledge knows.

Some pure, ongoing joy as Elis James looks back at Wales’s HRWC qualification.

It’s the Adams and Erics 2022, aka Ligue 1’s review of the season.

Some Ligue 1 composite action for you, there.
Some Ligue 1 composite action for you, there. Composite: AFP, Getty, Shutterstock

And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!


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