A BRIDGE TOO FAR?
Once the fall of Chelsea’s Roman empire was announced, Plain Old John Terry had to have his say. “The Best,” he roared on Social Media Disgrace Twitter, captioning a photo of him and the wannabe erstwhile Chelsea owner wrapped around the Premier League trophy. POJT was presumably referring to Roman but admittedly has previous in associating himself with others’ success. The wider Chelsea family is also reeling from the news that it’s actually all over. Probably. The end of the affair was announced just before the actual football team, requiring more than £150m worth of misfiring strikers, squeezed past Luton Town. “He has a genuine love for the game,” sniffed Tactics Tommy of Abramovich after the match, also admitting: “It’s very hard for me. It did not sink in yet.”
So what next? “The sale of the club will not be fast-tracked but will follow due process,” roared Abramovich’s statement, dampening down any idea he might cut and run in the style of Frank Butcher after the latest blaze on Albert Square’s car lot. “I hope that I will be able to visit Stamford Bridge one last time to say goodbye to all of you in person,” he sobbed. Why might that due process be possible? Over to Big Website: “Boris Johnson is under growing pressure from the EU to go further and faster in imposing sanctions on Russian oligarchs over fears that assets are being swept out of the UK … A government official [said] it would take ‘weeks and months’ to enforce sanctions on the same level as the EU due to a lack of legal and investigative capacity.”
Should Chelsea find a willing buyer then business may be able to carry on as usual, with Abramovich’s £1.5bn of loans waived and net proceeds of the sale to be used, opaquely, “for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine”. Blues fans can forevermore sing lustily of the man who paid for the realisation of their dreams but then had to make that unfortunate sharp exit. Elsewhere, Roman can be remembered as a pioneer of the fans-overlooking-bad-stuff phenomenon, just as long as there are gleaming baubles to gawp at come the season’s end.
Doubles all round then, though another team in blue may not escape so lightly. Back to Big Website: “Alisher Usmanov, who has sponsorship links to [Frank Lampard’s] Everton, has had his assets frozen as part of sanctions imposed by the European Union.” Usmanov, remember, has a close business relationship with FLE owner Farhad Moshiri. Before Thursday night’s FA Cup fifth-round meeting with plucky Boreham Wood, workers at Goodison have been taking down branding that associated the club with suspended sponsors and Russian companies USM, Megafon and Yota, with logos also ripped from the team’s shirts. “As a club [we’re] doing the right thing,” parped FLE manager Frank Lampard.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
Join Simon Burnton from 8.15pm GMT for hot FA Cup fifth-round MBM coverage of FLE 3-0 Boreham Wood.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We would like to issue an apology to Mr Goodwillie. A little earlier this evening, in error, we reported that he had been ruled to be a racist in a civil case in 2017. The ruling in question was actually that Goodwillie was ruled to be a rapist in that case. We apologise for the error in reporting” – The Fiver isn’t one to preach about accuracy. But Sky Sports News had this in reference to David Goodwillie. Speaking of which, Clyde Ladies no longer wish to play for the club after their former player returned on loan from Raith Rovers.
It’s the latest Football Weekly Extra podcast.
“Wow, what an impressive selection of letters in yesterday’s Fiver! Today’s letters are bound to be a massive disappointment” – Sholem Lenkiewicz.
“I have noticed the same email-cropping behaviour as Tom Dowler highlighted (yesterday’s letters). Based on the latest missive, I don’t expect to see any of The Fiver tomorrow. Oh well” – Brendan Mac Carron (and 1,056 others).
“As a Big Paper-reading Spurs fan, I was doing the crossword with the family. We agreed the answer was ‘lackadaisical’ but had several spellings. A quick check of the dictionary brought this definition: ‘a lackadaisical defence left Spurs adrift in the second half’” – Ian Neale.
“I’ll take Nigel Walter’s joke (yesterday’s letters) and raise you. There are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, those who don’t, and those who didn’t expect a base 3 joke” – Joe Pearson.
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 … Joe Pearson.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
The €uropean $uper £eague is raising its ugly head again, sparking a funk in Uefa supremo Aleksander Ceferin. “I am sick and tired of speaking of this non-football project,” he fumed. “Look, first they launched this nonsense of an idea in the middle of a pandemic. Now we are reading articles every day they are planning to launch another idea in the middle of war. They obviously live in a parallel world.”
Fifa is being urged to reopen the transfer window so players in Russia who want out can do so.
Shutting the stable door after leaving it open for decades and once its horses may as well have gone the way of Khartoum, the Premier League is considering adding a human rights aspect to its new owners’ test.
Occasional Manchester United player Edinson Cavani will leave Old Trafford
as soon as he possibly can in the summer, and hopes to get a move to Spain – ideally somewhere scenic, so that he can pursue his career as a rambler.
And Roberto Carlos is set to get a taste of Sunday league with Shrewsbury side Bull in the Barne United, who won him in a publicity-seeking raffle. “It should be a right laugh for him to come see what we’re made of, with some tense free-kicks and hopefully no dodgy tackles,” tooted manager and goalkeeper, Ed Speller.
STILL WANT MORE?
Though he still absolutely adores the soccer, Roman Abramovich is selling Chelsea. Here’s Barney Ronay with some thoughts on what it all means. Tim Rolls offers a fan’s eye view, while there’s also a pictorial trawl over the past 19 years.
Napoli and Milan, who meet this weekend, are level on points at the top of Serie A – just as they were in 1988. Emmet Gates looks back at a momentous, controversial encounter.
Will it be Burnley, Norwich or Leeds, you’ll have to wait and see. The Premier League’s relegation battle is intensifying, so Karen Carney has taken a look at its key factors.
“It was pure euphoria” – Mark Ricketts’ goal earned Boreham Wood a trip to FLE and, more importantly, the elusive respect of his daughter’s reception class. He gets his chat on with David Hytner.
Ashleigh Neville opens up to Suzanne Wrack about the challenges changing position and combining professional football with being a new mum.
And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!