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TERRIBLE SUMMER

Hello readers. It’s Monday June 13th, the sun is shining, the bees are buzzing, the sound of leather on willow trees echoes through the local parks and *Fiver checks schedule* the football season is far from over! Yes, if you are reading this Kazakhstan vs Slovakia in a C3 Nations League doubles game will seamlessly transition into Azerbaijan vs Belarus whose main purpose seems to be to help us fill our word count. There are other games later on too, but to be honest we’re about as eager to review them as the England and Italy players seemed to be entertaining a crowd of 2,000 school children at Molineux on Saturday. That tired and tepid clash ended predictably 0-0, culminating in the shrill booing at full-time – proof that the next generation of English fans with an entitlement mindset is safe and sound.

“It lacked a bit of sharpness [attacking] Areas across the three games,” Gareth sniffed after Southgate as his players groaned and crawled back into their beds to prepare Another Game against Hungary. To be fair to Southgate and other sane managers across Europe, some overworked squad members have not been force-fed the overcooked four-course Nations League meal. But in a year when the domestic European season starts early to make way for a controversial World Cup set to only last seven long years as a winter edition, Uefa may have thought more carefully about how to schedule their most pointless tournament [yeah, we’re actually digging Tin Pot – Fiver Ed]. Mind you, some of their bigwigs tend to get lost when they have important matters to sort out.

“It’s crazy,” fumed Wales manager Rob Page when asked about the schedule. “A lot of our players are also from the Championship, which is a tough division [don’t tell Gareth Bale – Fiver Ed]. It caught up with us so no surprises we took a few bumps,” he added, while Joe Allen’s hamstring continued to twitch at training camp in Wales. Page then proposed an idea for Qatar that will help ease players’ workloads and promote their well-being… so expect Fifa to shrug. “I would like to have a 26-strong squad,” he said. With average temperatures expected to be a sizzling 29 degrees in Qatar, he should have suggested 10-minute ice pop breaks as well.

At least Scotland got it right. Despite using the Nations League as a sneaky goal into Euro Not 2020, they appear to have mentally packed their bags and gone on holiday over the past week and Steve Clarke has not missed any of the criticism his players have faced at the 3-0 defeat to Republic O’Ireland. “I stand behind these players 100% – they’ve been fantastic for the country,” roared Clarke as he rubbed on sunscreen and placed a knotted handkerchief on his bonce. STOP FOOTBALL. BEGIN YOUR HOLIDAY.

LIVE ON BIG SITE

Join Will Magee at 19:45 CEST for goal updates from today’s Nations League games, including big World Cup 98 spirit as France host Croatia.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“A lot of people have said, ‘If you quit football, it will be difficult. You’re going to be depressed.” But actually, I’m happier than ever. I am free. I’m not in this box. I can do anything. When I want to be serious, when I want to be a clown, when I want to motivate people. This is life. I can be who I am” – Patrice Evra talks to Shanti Das about life after football, sexual abuse as a child and his work to protect children from harm.

Patrice Eva.
Photo: Ash Donelon/Manchester United/Getty Images

FIVE LETTERS

“While the late Billy Bingham is best remembered for his exploits in Everton and Northern Ireland, he both lived for many years and died in Southport. As manager for us Sandgrounders, his greatest achievement was taking the team to the Third Division as champions in 1966-67” – Lynda Caines.

“I remember Billy Bingham spending Boxing Day 1966 guarding the club’s safe after the old wooden grandstand on Haig Avenue burned down” – Chris Hale.

“In response to John Gregory [Friday’s letters], here’s Hobson’s Choice: a gambling company or the sponsor on the Ipswich Town shirt? Just think out loud” – Anthony Train.

“How fitting that the next phase in Liverpool’s development should be written by Darwin” – Mark McFadden.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our award letter of the day is… Lynda Caines.

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Listen to the latest Football Weekly. Speaking of which, Max, Barry and the Pod team will be back on the road very soon. The last remaining tickets for live shows in June and July are available here.

Football Week Guest List.
But what formation will they play?

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Cardiff City may need a bigger boat to import next season’s replica shirts after Gareth Bale said he wouldn’t rule out playing for a second tier club. “I don’t know if the standard makes too much of a difference,” he winked.

Bad news for Thomas Grønnemark: Ifab Suits have agreed to authorize attempts to use kick-ins instead of throw-ins, with the Dutch second division side the likely guinea pigs. The football legislature has also stipulated five substitutions.

Erik ten Hag’s first Loss Match officials at Old Trafford will be a friendly against Rayo Vallecano from the league on July 31, a day after Manchester United take on Atlético Madrid in Oslo.

Gareth Southgate gave a scathing response when asked if England can capitalize on the lack of Big Cup football from United players next season. “We only have one with us,” he shot back. “[The others have] a lot to do to get back into the squad.”

Erling Haaland has completed his £51.5million move to Manchester City. “I think I’m in the right place to achieve my ambitions,” said the goal-oriented Norwegian striker. “I want to score goals, win titles and improve myself.”

Erling Haaland
Finally a replacement for the great Niall Quinn. Photo Credit: Lynne Cameron/Manchester City/Manchester City FC/Getty Images

The average age of league players in the US! UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!! UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!! has risen sharply after Giorgio Chiellini, 78, signed for MLS side LAFC.

Marcelo shed hot, salty tears of pride as he retired from Real Madrid. “It’s really hard to leave the club you’ve played for your whole life,” he sobbed. “My family is very proud of me … I’m looking forward to what’s next.”

And Son Heung-min is not the Fine – just ask his father. “He’s not world class yet,” murmured Son Woong-jung, a former South Korea B international. “I always want him to be 10% better.”

WANT MORE?

Tragedy and triumph: the remarkable story of Croatia’s first football steps. By Donald McRae.

Forget the thrill of the hunt. Rarely do the biggest transfers in football work. Jonathan Wilson with a smack to the transfer window hype heads.

Although 50,000 turned up for Dick, Kerr Ladies against St Helens in 1920, Dummkopf banned women’s football at the FA. In an excerpt from her new book, Suzanne Wrack recalls a ridiculous decision that had a “devastating” impact on women’s football.

Andy Brassell reckons Darwin Núñez will be a “raging bull” who will give his all for Liverpool “mentally and physically”. So no Bruno Cheyrou.

And if it’s your thing… you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT TOO!

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