THE BIG KICK-OFF (TAKE TWO)
Down in Albion, after an unscheduled delay, top-level football returns. Mostly. Due to events in Westminster, and a length of queue The Fiver would only consider to land tickets to see a double bill of Toyah Willcox and Owen Paul, Chelsea v Liverpool is OFF on Sunday. Thus, the soccer world is denied the opportunity to see the increasingly agitated Jürgen Klopp pacing the Stamford Bridge sideline as his lads take on Todd Boehly’s 1970s CBS sports-jacket all-stars. Manchester United v Leeds has also been tinned, for reasons of policing 200 miles away (!) but, considering the summer we all had, top billing really, truly ought to be offered to the return of England’s glorious Lionesses to their day jobs in the Women’s Super League.
And after being delayed by a week, the stars of the WSL are raring to go. “We just want it more and more,” roared Manchester United’s Alessia Russo, scorer of that goal. “We want to put on performances and make sure the fans come back.” Jonas Eidevall, whose Arsenal team kick off the season against Brighton in front of a sold out Meadow Parkon Friday night, recognised the need to take on the summer’s momentum. “In the end, it’s about creating a product that means so much to people that you go there and you watch the game even if it’s a snowstorm,” he cheered.
Stadiums are a significant question before this new campaign, with Meadow Park way out in Borehamwood, the home of non-league Boreham Wood in deepest Hertfordshire. Perhaps small is beautiful for Eidevall’s Arsenal, as it can be for champions Chelsea at Kingsmeadow. Both grounds ripple with atmosphere on the big nights but the hope is the women’s teams can regularly play in the same stadiums as the men. Last week’s decision by the FA to stop football, from pub-level upwards, denied the WSL the chance for its big kick-off to take place at Stamford Bridge, where Emma Hayes’s champions were taking on West Ham, Reading’s Madejski Stadium and Brighton’s Amex. Russo’s United were due to play at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
This Sunday, Villa Park and Leicester’s King Power will host WSL matches but a big moment has been lost. Various Lionesses will trot out at Leigh Sports Village on the fringes of Greater Manchester, Chigwell Construction Stadium in deepest Essex and Prenton Park in, er, Tranmere, instead of Old Trafford, the London Stadium and Anfield. The women’s game has come through far greater challenges to take its place in the national consciousness, but perhaps its decision-making suits can find a way to repair the damage, inadvertent or not.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
Join Luke McLaughlin at 7.30pm (UK time) for a Friday night football clockwatch, featuring Arsenal 3-0 Brighton in the WSL and and Aston Villa 1-1 Southampton and Nottingham Forest 3-3 Fulham in the Premier League.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Mister, with this team we will surely go smoothly!” – Spain’s official Twitter feed responds to Luis Enrique’s squad announcement, which he revealed while riding his bike. Oh Gareth, you missed a trick.
“Todd Boehly should bring more back from the 1970s than just his newscaster jacket. How about the razzmatazz of Superstars, assuming players will be given a weekend off at some point in their career in the ever-expanding calendar of club and international matches. Of course, more fans would attend matches if they received the same treatment from authorities as Ajax fans did at Anfield” – Mike McNally.
“Regarding Boehly and his Premier League ‘All-Star Game’ idea – if it’s North v South then does that mean it would be Newcastle United v Everybody Else? Americans are often not very good at geography but surely even he can’t believe the myth that Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool are in the north, can he? Look at the map people, look at the map!” – Tim Readman (and no others).
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 … Mike McNally. The Fiver is off on Monday but prizes are back from Tuesday next week – with the winning letter receiving a copy Jonathan Wilson’s Two Brothers, which is also available to buy here.
Get your listening gear around the latest Football Weekly Extra podcast.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Uefa have opened finger-wagging proceedings involving Celtic over a “[SNIIIIIIIIIIIP] the Crown” banner that some fans held up during the win over Shakhtar Donetsk.
Pucking hell, something something something cherries and fruit machines … ice hockey’s Bill Foley is frontman of a Las Vegas-led consortium eyeing Bournemouth.
In the least surprising news you will hear all day, Erling Haaland scooped the Premier League Player of the Month gong for August with Mikel Arteta winning the manager’s award.
Callum Wilson can still make it into Gareth Southgate’s Qatar thoughts, reckons Eddie Howe. “I think there’s time,” he said of Newcastle’s knack-magnet striker.
Ecuador’s World Cup place looks safe after Fifa’s appeals committee dismissed Chile’s claim of ineligibility against Byron Castillo, who played in eight of 18 qualifying games.
And Cristiano Ronaldo has done a goal.
STILL WANT MORE?
Know what to expect from the new WSL season? You do now, thanks to Suzy Wrack’s video explainer.
Kit Holden on Union Berlin’s fight to retain their identity as their popularity boom ends up not being to every fan’s taste – an extract from Scheisse! We’re Going Up!
Just seven games in the Premier League await but we’ve still padded things out to offer you 10 things to look out for this weekend.
And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!