THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Once London’s fashionable hangout for what seemed like every pigeon on the planet until some killjoy introduced a ban on breadcrumbs, Trafalgar Square is bracing for an influx of Magpies. Traveling to London for their first cup final since 1999, tens of thousands of Newcastle United fans are expected to flock and – depending on how much Newkie Broon they kiss and the police presence – possibly in the famous fountain, ahead of their big day at Wembley on Sunday. It’s at this point that the previous incarnation of this daily email would make a predictable joke about the fans of their opponents Manchester United sitting indoors in the London suburbs watching Casualty or Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, but we’re all grown up nowadays and much better than that.
The equivalent of Deera Square in Riyadh, where Saudi Arabia’s benevolent landlords used to stage their public beheadings, Trafalgar Square must be a much more convivial place, with upbeat fans desperate for their team to avenge their team’s loss to Manchester United. in the FA Cup final for almost a quarter of a century. And while they despair over losing Nick Pope to Naughty Step, they might be somewhat relieved by the news that Miggy Almirón has just signed a new long-term contract. At just 1.70 m tall and with no previous goalkeeping experience, the midfielder may even be the preferred choice of some Geordies to play between the posts, rather than Loris Karius, who has spent the week preparing to complete his arc. of redemption almost five years later what Great Cup final horror show with Liverpool.
While Manchester United fans were delighted to see their team sweep past Barcelona at the Big Vase on Thursday to draw against Real Betis in the Round of 16, the sight of Marcus Rashford limping off with two minutes to go will have been a source of in consternation as they try to win their first trinket in six years. Asked whether his striker would be fit for Sunday’s final, Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag said: “I don’t know.” The Dutchman had a lot more to say about Newcastle, describing Eddie Howe’s team as an “irritating” waste of time, in a way that may have been intended to sound complimentary but actually sounded like nothing. “They do very well,” he blurted out. “They are a boring team to play against, so we have to find a way to win. They try to piss you off. We have to make sure we play our game and focus on our game.”
Should their team lose Sunday’s Milk Cup final, Newcastle fans can at least take pride in the fact that they would have at least matched their neighbors Sunderland’s heroics in 2014 by reaching Wembley for the first Cup final of the season, just to be defeated by a team from Manchester. It might have to do, as many would be unable to drown their sorrows following the imposition of an alcohol ban on LNER trains heading back to the northeast – a measure that seems discriminatory and unfair, but one that would almost certainly be approved by the famous teetotal club owners who many of them admire so much.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I have never seen anything like it. I’ll keep my mouth shut so I don’t say what I’d really like to do at that moment” – Sevilla goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic responds after a pitch invader attacks him during PSV’s 2-0 victory at Vaso Grande, with the Spaniards advancing by 3 -2 on aggregate. “He was probably angry with the result and already a little crazy,” added Dmitrovic. “He tried to hit me and I managed to grab him and wait for security to arrive.”
A special report, with voices from football in Ukraine after a year of war.
Re: the late John Motson (Yesterday’s Football Daily). At Bisham Abbey, then England headquarters, my team of working journalists played a charity match against the show’s ponies who were the television commentators, including Alan Parry, Martin Tyler and the man himself. Motty was hilarious, attacking without his glasses, head down and throwing himself into tackles. Contrary to the broadcast version, this Motty cursed and cursed, not against the opposition, but against what he considered his own ineptitude. The commentators won comfortably, with lanky goalkeeper Tyler scoring a hat-trick. After that, Motty was the first to the bar, wallet in hand, buying all of us mere mortals a drink. Excellent gentleman” – Jon Buss.
Re: delivering mail to footballers (yesterday’s Football Daily letters). My son Harry was a postman in Bournemouth some years ago and one of the houses around him was then manager Eddie Howe. He regularly delivered what he considered training videos, and when the team gained promotion to the Premier League, he placed a card congratulating Eddie on the achievement in his mailbox. Gentleman Eddie kindly responded with a handwritten note” – Andy Sherwood.
I only stayed a week as a postman, but I delivered milk to John Aldridge on many occasions during his Oxford United days. I’ve never met him, but I think 6 am is a little early for casual conversation with most people (including me)” – Richard O’Hagan.
I didn’t deliver mail, but I delivered a lot of paperwork and cleaned a lot of cars. Growing up on classic Birds-of-a-Feather Chigwell, our garden leaned on Geoff Hurst’s post-hat-trick harpoon. Not only did that make it prime ‘please sir, can we have our ball back’ territory (we always could), but it also put it at the center of my Boy Scout bob-a-job empire. A Mrs. Hurst of public spirit had me cleaning the Escort Mexico in the driveway (registration plate GWC 10, apparently for the ‘Great World Cup’) and a bountiful selection of boots in the garage, donating at least a shilling and sixpence to the cause. I delivered the morning paper in my regular routine and, as an occasional extra, often to the Moores as well (GWC 6). Bobby’s order was the classic case of ‘newspaper on the outside, tabloid on the inside’, but given that both M*il and Expr*ss came in a spy-friendly format at the time, it was an unusually ineffective defensive tactic” – Tim Lawler.
When I was a kid in the early 1970s I had a round of afternoon papers for the Liverpool Echo. I was lucky to have about half the Liverpool squad in my round, including Emlyn Hughes and John Toshack. Almost everyone looked forward to reading the 48-hour ‘school report card’ before: no internet in those days. Confidentiality forbids me to reveal who the worst Christmas tips were. On a similar note, my mum’s car broke down outside newsstands in Formby. Howard Kendall popped the hood and fixed it in a minute” – Mark Gillett.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And today’s winner of our no-prize letter of the day is… Jon Buss.