It is difficult to imagine fans of England’s more successful clubs getting quite as hands-on in the face of extreme adversity as those of their poorer relations. A prospective partnership with an official Global Mattress and Pillow Partner falls through? Tumbleweed, there’ll be another one along soon. The spectre of a ban as punishment for allegedly creative accounting? A collective shoulder-shrug accompanied by some minor grumbling about media-driven conspiracies. Your team tries to fight back from a goal down against some previously hapless opposition in only their second home game after a most unlikely Big Cup final appearance? Stony silence from the occupants of a stand designed and built with the help of “acousticians” in the laughable hope of emulating Dortmund’s famous “Yellow Wall”.
On Tuesday morning, by contrast, more than 400 volunteers converged on Bury FC’s Gigg Lane to whip the 134-year-old ground into shape before what they hoped would be their club’s first game of the season on Saturday. Armed with buckets, sponges and rubber gloves these die-hard fans – both Shakers and from other clubs too – have spent the day scrubbing, sweeping, painting and mending, in the process investing far more in the well-being and upkeep of their club in a couple of hours than their cavalier owner, Steve Dale, has done since buying them for a quid last year.
Whether or not anyone gets to enjoy the benefits of this deep clean remains to be seen, but the prospects could scarcely be more bleak. Unless Dale concludes a sale of the club by 5pm BST, the club can expect to be expelled from the Football League. Less than 90 minutes before that deadline, the only potential buyers, C&N Sporting Risk announced it was “unable to proceed” with a takeover bid that was apparently a sporting risk too far, meaning the end for the League One club could scarcely look more nigh.
It is, of course, a disgraceful turn of events for which the English Football League overlords should feel thoroughly ashamed but clearly don’t. “Following a period of due diligence, C&N have opted not to progress matters,” the League said in a statement that would never have been needed if it had done some sort of due diligence of its own. Meanwhile, a few miles up the road at Bolton Wanderers, the Trotters face the same deadline to prove a takeover is done or provide reasons why they require an extension to avoid joining their fellow third-tier outfit in potential oblivion. “The current situation cannot continue,” said the EFL in another statement oozing its trademark sanctimony. It can continue and it will continue at other clubs and we all know whose fault that is.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We have a group chat as a family and a lot of the talk, especially from us two, has always been football, in different parts of the country and the world and all of sudden those chats are purely Forest Green. It saves one [of our parents] missing out and driving to a different ground [to watch]. They can both drive to the same ground and watch us together” – Matt Mills talks about life with brother Joseph at Rovers.
“While the use of ‘pub football’ as a shorthand for poor play is understandable, for reasons I’ve not been able to work out, the byword for the quintessential pub football team is ‘The Dog and Duck’, despite there only being 14 pubs with that name (or a variation thereof) out of almost 36,000 in the UK. That’s 0.000042%, or roughly how much chance people thought Crystal Palace had of winning on Saturday. I discovered that this particular moniker is actually a reference to the rather barbaric ‘sport’ of duck baiting, with bets placed on how long it would take a dog to catch the duck in question. How these two contexts for ‘The Dog and Duck’ conflate has never been clear before now, though perhaps nothing quite sums up the image of a hapless creature flapping about in desperation before being put out of its misery by a ruthless foe quite like David Luiz trying to defend against Mo Salah” – Ed Taylor.
“With respect (well, as much respect as The Fiver deserves), had Rafa Benítez indeed ‘merrily boarded the next 737 to China’ (Friday’s Fiver), he would probably have needed to change to a different, long-range aircraft before too long – unless his 737 (maximum range up to about 3,400 miles) were to make the journey via series of undignified and uncomfortable hops, with repeated refuelling breaks and several changes of aircrew. Or he could, conceivably, have boarded a 737 Max, in which case he would probably still be on the ground at some airport or other, without taking off” – Chris Weaver (and 1,056 others).
“I can assure Jim Hearson (Thursday’s Fiver letters) that as both a Southampton fan and a Presbyterian minister, my father lived more or less in a perpetual crisis of faith, mainly caused by the former. And I reckon reading The Fiver for all eternity sounds a lot more fun than some of the Saints games I’ve endured” – Bettina Vine.
BITS AND BOBS
Red Star Belgrade fans are preparing for their Big Cup play-off second leg against Young Boys by parking a decommissioned, Soviet-made, T-55 Yugoslav army tank outside the Marakana. The stunt has triggered a strong reaction from neighbouring Croatia, which said the tank is “a clear provocation” and “a scandal”, suggesting that Uefa must act.
Norn Iron striker Kyle Lafferty will be rocking up in the Norwegian top flight after joining Sarpsborg 08. “Lafferty is a right-footed tough guy who puts his head on the line in both boxes,” roared sporting director Thomas Berntsen. “There will be some yellow cards, but also many goals. We think this will be very good.”
Everton midfielder Jean-Philippe Gbamin is facing eight weeks on the knack step with thigh-gah, and Manchester United’s Luke Shaw faces at least five weeks out with hamstring-owch.
Aaron Ramsey has pulled out of the Wales squad for next month’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Azerbaijan and the friendly with Belarus.
Scotland manager Steve Clarke feels it is too early for Leigh Griffiths to return to the international fold. “I just look at him just now and he’s come a long way in a short space of time after a very difficult spell in his life,” said Clarke.
And from the newly-opened Fun and Games in Bulgaria dept: this.
STILL WANT MORE?
The shocking case of Danish footballer Jens Stage having his flat set on fire.
Jordi Cruyff on Johan: the dad who became Barcelona’s spiritual father. By Sid Lowe.
Unpredictability stalks the Premier League – except at the very top, writes Stuart James.
Nicky Bandini on Serie A’s big return.
Sid Lowe sees Antoine Griezmann make his first Barcelona impact.
The Bundesliga could be a three-horse race this year. Honest. Andy Brassell tries to explain why.
Get your Ligue 1 latest: this week on Monaco.
Adam White and Eric Devin on how Monaco have lost their way in League Uh-n
And Eni Aluko gets her chat on with Simon Hattenstone.
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