Mails: Already analysing next season’s top six…

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Let’s open with some karma
It’s 1979. I’ve been Arsenal-mad for a couple of years now and my two younger brothers want to get in on the act. But, naturally, I don’t want them supporting better teams than mine.

Liverpool are winning everything every year, so they’re out. Man Utd supporters are common. So, I convince Trav that Everton is the best club in Liverpool. Meanwhile, Marsh is persuaded that Man City is much cooler than Man Utd. My guerrilla tactics include (but are certainly not limited to) secretly cutting all Liverpool and Man Utd photos out of my Shoot! magazines, before passing them on to my brothers.

Fast forward 40 years and they’re both still big fans; supporting their clubs through thick and thin. Everton has worked out well. Man City less so.

But, I can’t help feeling ruefully pleased for Marsh, who is loving every second of this. That big old wheel, eh.
Nigel Brackets NZ

How the top six shapes up next season
They said the English league is different. They said it’s a lot tougher here. They said the league is a lot more competitive. They said you can’t succeed without being pragmatic. They said Pep will be found out. Needless to say, Pep has emphatically proved his critics wrong racing to the title in a swashbuckling fashion rarely seen before in the Premier League.

With this season’s title decided, how is the top 6 shaping up for next season:

– Manchester City: The most impressive aspect of City’s achievement is that they haven’t won by investing in proven players at their peak (a la Mourinho style) but Pep has assembled a talented young squad that could remain title challengers for years to come even if the funds dry up (unlikely I know).

– Manchester United: They may well finish second this season and claim to be the best of the rest, but expect another summer of upheaval at United. They have too many question marks on their squad and no matter how much they spend over the summer, I expect they will slide down at least one position come the end of next year.

Ageing fullbacks, at least once central defender, a couple of midfielders; that’s already 5 new players needed. Given Mourinho’s expensive taste, you don’t see United being able to plug all the gaps.

– Liverpool: I wrote in a few months ago that next year Liverpool may well be challenging for the title. With most of the heavyweights knocked out, Liverpool actually stand a good chance of winning the CL this year. Not many would have predicted that at the start of the season and Klopp deserves enormous credit how he has turned the club around.

Their consistency has improved too over the course of the season and the addition of Naby Keita can only strengthen the squad. A couple of tweaks here and there but no other major fixes needed. Their attacking trio is outstanding and they should rightfully be disappointed in they aren’t challenging for the title next year.

– Tottenham: When at their best, this Tottenham side is simply brilliant. Pochettino like Klopp, has assembled a highly impressive squad on a relatively small budget. His ability to identify talent and nurture them is up there with the best. This magnificent squad though, should have won at least one Premier League title by now and the absence of any titles leaves question marks on both the manager and the squad.

Is it due to the manager’s tactics or the mental frailty of his team? The question remains, can they make the step up? Expect them to finish in the Champions League places again next year but top 2 might be a leap too far.

– Chelsea and Arsenal: Both club managers had the backing of the board only a year ago (albeit with a great deal of trepidation in Arsene’s case). This season, both managers have made a brilliant case for why they should be fired rather than retained. For Chelsea, poor recruitment in the past window has been compounded by poor managerial attitude. Arsene on the other hand, it appears is simply not good enough any more.

The board of each of these clubs need to step up and stop the rot. Expect some erratic transfer business in the summer and the clubs to finish outside the CL spots again. Expect at least one if not both managers to be elsewhere next season.
Adeel

Joe Hart cannot go to Russia
‘Huge error from Nick Pope!’. You ever seen this sentence before? I don’t think I have.

How can Joe Hart, on the basis of one performance last week, go to the World Cup when stats suggest Nick Pope has been the second best goalie in the prem this season?

A league which includes the France and Belgium number one. Pundits seem to only remember Joe’s few and far between excellent performances in between a catalogue of incompetence. I was trying to think who this reminds me of and then it clicked- Lieutenant Frank Drebin.

Presumably this makes Nick Pope an up and coming highly dependable officer – say that young looking fella from Line of Duty. Continuing this analogy who would you rather have act as your bodyguard? No contest.
Howard, Bristol

Respect to referees is an education issue
Education is Critical, Enforcement is Paramount.

I read Johnny Nics article yesterday whilst nodding my head in agreement, I have also mailed in on this subject several times. It doesn’t matter what level of football I have refereed at, whether it be junior matches when I first passed the course (the home of the quintessential ‘Fan-Coach’ – where somebody’s son/daughter can do no wrong…) through to combined counties leagues where expectant, talented lads are trying to be picked up, and the odd ex jobbing pro is still getting a hefty whack to wheeze his way through 90 minutes, being shouted at & threatened happens all the time.

The main issue is that nobody ever thinks that they have fouled anyone else, and that everybody always feels hard done by when a decision goes against them, granted its human nature to always think you are right (in the main, obviously) and that “but he was pushing me Ref”!! will mean that what you did, at the same time, or to instigate said pushing, warrants a decision in your favour.

Until we crack down on this at all levels nothing will ever change, as I said in a previous email – when you openly see the idiots on the tv, yes Mr Buffon, Mr Rooney I’m firmly talking about you as examples, screaming into the face of the officials then there is simply no way the grass roots game will change, after all we all learn by example. Again (and, yes I’m starting to sound like a broken record I know) but, as referees, we don’t intentionally try and get things wrong! Every game we try our hardest to interpret the laws to the best of our abilities, using advantage where possible to keep the game running smoothly.

It genuinely gets on my tits when I see a ref surrounded by dickheads who don’t agree with the decision made. You wouldn’t see me having a go at the forward for missing a sitter, or laughing at the centre half with the 50p head (as much as I would love to)…

Education has to start at the earliest possible age, but, critically, it’s the enforcing of that education. When I attend my son’s U11 games it’s great to see the ‘Respect’ Barriers put up, it’s great to see the Club “Liaison Officer” walking the spectator line to try and act as mediator to any form of ‘fan-coach’, and, importantly, the Club have a policy now that if you are spoken to more than twice by said LO then you will be asked to leave and banned from attending the next 2 games as a spectator, imagine the embarrassment of having to drop your child off and not be able to watch them develop!?

Hopefully the next generation will turn out to be more understanding and just get on with it, rather than acting like a spoilt brat when something goes against them.
The Bastard in Black.

Johnny nails the referee issue
I would suggest that John Nicholson is the most reliable journalist on the 365 website (and perhaps in football journalism more generally) to make social comment beyond football after all football is social and about us all whether we like it or not . He raises wider cultural and contextual questions such as; why do we behave in the way that we do to others? His journalism is what I would consider to be an ethical stance. His words circle like a moored boat around an anchor of well-meaning of how we ought to treat others. His words about football is a veneer, but scratch the surface… and it is obviously something more. It is about being a better person.

There are pulls at the anchor for me and for all of us. Frustration. Jealousy. Anger. Hate. Disgust. Sadness. Despair. Love. Hope. Boredom. And repeat. In a way, the technological context of F365 invites more of the worst of us because the internet privileges the disposable, the ephemeral and the ‘click’ provoking sound-bite. This is (deliberately?) acerbated by the shields of anonymity and the following absence of accountability.

I have submitted varying mails to this site which have foregrounded all of these pulls including ‘content’ that sometimes in other more real life situations I would keep to myself because I would want to project the best of me. Football can be a release for the best and worst us. The chance to have a Warhol 5 minutes of fame on F365 is more of the same.

Most of my content has been fuelled by my love of my inherited club Liverpool (ta dad) within the wider social political context of my experience. This can bring the worst out of me (as well as the best). I react to the present but react also and perhaps mostly to the past. You know the usual football ‘jibes’ and still current ‘chants’ about all Scousers being robbers, poor and basically Scum.

Yes every away team’s support still sings this crap at Anfield. To me, these chants are more than being about football. They are about Geoffrey Howe the then Chancellor of the Exchequer urging Margaret Thatcher to ‘manage the decline’ of the city of Liverpool. Basically, let it and its people rot.

Obviously not everyone will have this experience or have the same meaning as me about events. However this was the context for the atrocious and criminal behaviour around Hillsborough (There’s just been an anniversary by the way F365). Let’s remember that women, men and children were dehumanised. How many years did it take to get a semblance of justice?

Switch context to mining and more of the same. I live in Yorkshire and have a season ticket for Liverpool so the post-industrial wasteland and all its consequences are still very visible to me. My work context is more of the same. So I get ‘touchy’ and ‘angry’ around my football club. I can then become the ‘Fan-Coach’ that Nicholson describes.

Anyone still reading? So whilst I support Nicholson highlighting and pointing out the foul abuse of referees or others talking up the damage to the Man City coach, there are some shades of grey. Not in terms of the abuse, but in terms of the meaning and understanding of the context of the abuse.

This isn’t an excuse but I think that when someone occupies a judgement position they should do this with some reverence to the context. This means literally not taking a binary position of ‘ok, or not ok’. It also means paying attention to detail. There is a spectrum of ‘abuse’ to referees. At the one end Nicholson talks about the easier to fathom ‘black and white’ literal abuse.

Then there is the more camouflaged criticism (or abuse?) where with the benefit of hindsight and several slow-motion replays referee decisions are constantly questioned and criticised. Is one way of undermining the referee better than the other? Are the more socially polite calls for VAR or justifying Pep’s blaming the referee for City’s exit to Liverpool in the Champion’s League (Storey et al, 2018) less undermining of referees? Pep was sent to the stands for vociferously criticising (abusing?) the referee yet exonerated on this website. He has form with Wigan. His fine was desultory to him and his club and yet it was probably more than most of us could hope to earn in a year.

Sorry but that grates. My feelings are positively imbued by my passion for Liverpool and that can bring the worst out of me (double-standards, offence to others etc). I am clearly not suggesting answers or solutions because that would be a fool’s errand. In terms of my ‘best’, after going to Anfield to support Liverpool for over 40 years, Jurgen Klopp has helped bring back a much needed sense of vibrancy and pride to me and many others in ourselves and in the place that is Liverpool. We are playing the best football I have ever seen!

I have a spring in my step and have rediscovered my bounce which others will complain about as being arrogance at best or they will add yet another desultory comment to fit with the chilling words of Geoffrey Howe.

Let’s continue the dialogue.
David LFC

Privileged? No thanks
Privileged isn’t the word I’d use to describe my feelings at watching Manchester City. There is no doubt that we’re in the era of one of the all time great club sides from this country, the football is beautiful. This team has a collection of skill, fitness and desire to match the winning mentality of their manager, who is of course one of the all time greats himself. But to say it is a privilege to watch them is akin to saying you’re in awe of a masterful painting by a ruthless criminal.

This site has been a wonderful supporter of promoting a fair and tolerant society, many times have I read a staunch support of the women’s game, in either defence of a female commentator/referee/player or in attempting to attract a new audience to women’s football. It disappoints me then that so little is made of what a thoroughly disgusting ownership Man City are under….and no, I’m afraid you can’t separate football and politics, a point that writers on this site have made themselves.

The club are essentially run by the UAE government, a country still committed to treating women like second class citizens, torturing their rivals, corruption, warmongering and discriminating against anyone from LGBT community, and all that before mentioning dodgy sponsorship deals and tax haven accounts.

The PR and marketing department at City have certainly done a masterful job of promoting the women’s game in order to distance themselves from the medieval values still held by the owners, leaked emails from a City director suggest as much. If this site and its writers truly hold the values and morals of a fair society, when will you do a piece on this and open the eyes of fans who think this club are to celebrated?

Great team – Definitely. Privileged – The owners certainly are, but we as the public should not feel that way about this club
Tanya B, GFC.

Tick off ‘virtue signalling’ on your bingo cards
For a site that virtue signals with the best of them, I find it difficult to stomach that the City Group are not criticised more here for their appalling owners and shady business practices. Pull the tongue from Guardiola’s posterior and delve deeper….
Callum (NCFC)

Previews for relegated clubs
The mailbox entries from Tim on Sunday and from Tom this morning have prompted me to write in with an idea that has been forming in my head this past week or two – why don’t F365 do a series of “preview” articles on what’s likely to become of the squads of the relegated teams?

I suggest this because for clubs where relegation is almost expected, say Huddersfield or Brighton, the answer would be pretty obvious: most of their players will stay, while the remaining PL teams will pick off their best players (without being an expert on either team, I’d say their keepers and centre backs spring to mind, along with Mooy and Groß).

But with all three relegation spots looking like going to fairly established PL teams, the picture is much muddier. Who will get a ticket straight back to the PL? Who will stick around, either through choice or due to lack of other options? What of those with long and fairly illustrious careers behind them, such as GazBaz, Fletcher or Crouch? Will they simply retire, or try for a last hurrah somewhere?

To space the articles out, you could do them when each team’s relegation is confirmed – so, pretty soon for West Brom, then a couple of weeks later for Stoke and Southampton. If you can’t be arsed to do it yourselves, you could always try asking Peter G, I’m sure he’d be up for it.
Lauro (Steve Clarke is God), KFC
(MC – Not a bad idea at all. And the Mailbox can have a go first)

Got to this after an Arsenal fan baiting Tottenham fans, and this makes us happier
In case West Ham United versus Stoke City is a bit of a damp squib, here’s something different to scroll past. After it went reasonably well the other week, I’ve written some more Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division Winners & Losers. I’ve done more winners than losers because I don’t like being unkind about people (NB may not be true).

Winners

Altrincham
The biggest winners of the weekend with a 4-0 victory over Barwell, and they have now mathematically clinched at least a playoff place. A win away at Buxton on Tuesday night combined with Warrington losing to Shaw Lane and Grantham losing to Hednesford will see them seal the title and automatic promotion.

Sutton Coldfield Town
Last weekend their relegation was confirmed. This weekend they beat Hednesford Town 4-1.

Jordan Hulme
Altrincham’s top scorer and star man was crowned Player of the Year at the end of season awards on Sunday night. Hulme and teammate Ben Harrison were both named in the Team of the Season as one of three pairs of clubmates (Jack Higgins and Sean Williams of Warrington, Kieran Preston and Lee Shaw of Grantham) to be honoured.

Fans of end of season chaos
To different degrees, Warrington and Grantham have suffered blips recently, but both recovered this weekend with 2-0 away wins. The final day of the season is Saturday 28 April, before which time Ashton United and Warrington have four games left to play, Altrincham and Grantham have five, and Shaw Lane have six. Muddying the water even more is that the Gingerbreads host Altrincham and Wire in consecutive games.

Losers

Barwell and Witton Albion
Defeats to Altrincham and Stafford Rangers respectively have effectively ended their slim playoff hopes.

Farsley Celtic
Losing to Warrington was unfortunate, but not disastrous as Shaw Lane were held to a goalless draw by Lancaster City. They are four points ahead of the Ducks, but have played three games more. It’s likely to come down to those two teams for the final playoff place. Celtic will have to hold their nerve in their own games and hope the fixture congestion causes fatigue problems for Shaw Lane.
Ed Quoththeraven

Nope, maximum five teams
If Liverpool win the CL, and Arsenal win the UEFA, could we end up with six teams in the Champions League next year?

This might all require Liverpool to come 5th…?
Adam Bishop

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