WEDNESDAY’S BIG STORY*
*Because there’s only one, let’s face it
What punishment for Premier League’s ‘big six’?
Leicester defender Fofana confirms leg break
Rome wasn't built in a day, but the European Super League just crumbled in two.
A whirlwind 48 hours started on Sunday evening, as the owners of 12 "leading" clubs sought to build an empire that would supposedly "save football", and more importantly line their own pockets, but come Monday night that breakaway plan, displayed using WordArt on a tinpot website, was left in ruins after all six Premier League clubs backtracked and announced their intentions to withdraw.
It is a “welcome back”, of sorts. Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin is certainly pleased, and wants to now “rebuild the unity”, but half of the clubs are still standing, there is some talk it could be reshaped, and so Wednesday will bring with it a turn of the screw on whether Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Inter, Milan and Juventus still want in.
That’s to come, so let’s focus on the Premier League clubs, where we’ll start with the fans.
They descended on Stamford Bridge, they gathered outside Elland Road, they "ratioed" every single Twitter post when their clubs dared to press send, and they played a major role in one of the quickest U-turns football has ever witnessed. They got their ball back. They played a massive hand, made their anger felt, and so did the players.
Privately, the disapproval would have been vast, but a brave selection of players made their feelings public on Tuesday, following on from James Milner's Monday Night Honesty. Luke Shaw produced a statement at around 6.40pm at a time when there was no rumblings Manchester United would leave, while as one – at around 9pm – Liverpool’s squad posted out the same message. A tip of the cap to Jordan Henderson, who will have been as instrumental as he was when setting up a coronavirus fund for the NHS last year.
And so, now they’re back, thoughts have switched to punishment. How do you punish clubs who intended to join a league devoid of proper competition? Kick them out? Deduct points? Prevent them from qualifying for Europe? The issue here is you are punishing the players, managers and fans who never wanted this to happen, but then again, this may be the only way to truly sanction the masterminds behind this shower – the owners.
There is a real anger among supporter bases of these six clubs. Ed Woodward may have fast-forwarded his departure from United, but calls for the Glazers to sell up are as strong as the desire for Arsenal fans to see Stan Kroenke out, so too John W Henry at Liverpool, Daniel Levy at Spurs, Bruce Buck at Chelsea. City’s disdain for Sheikh Mansour appears less strong, but still, #MansourOut is a thing even if Twitter is currently dominated by #KroenkeOut, #FSGOut and #LevyOut.
Something needs to happen. Liverpool and United were behind the short-lived Project Big Picture last year, and then once more during a pandemic where fans have been absent from grounds, they had the guile to join ESL plans, which - and it can't be reiterated enough times - launched without the reigning European champions, Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund, three spots left to fill, and intentions to kindly offer out five more spaces to clubs lucky enough to grace the same turf.
The owners have attempted beneficial reforms before, they have done so these past few days, and they’ll try something again if they aren’t stopped. Punish the owners.
IN OTHER NEWS
There was some football last night
Chelsea played Brighton apparently, and given the Blues’ confirmed their plans to leave at around 1am last night, and with UEFA unlikely to remove them from next year’s Champions League, their 0-0 draw means the fight for fourth is looking lively again with six games remaining.
The majority of fans, the Warm-Up supposes, are rooting for West Ham.
And a nod to Ryan Mason
Amid the chaos (remember Jose Mourinho was sacked on Monday?), it’s worth remembering 29-year-old Ryan Mason is taking interim charge of Tottenham, with his first game – before a date at Wembley against Manchester City on Sunday – at home to Southampton tonight.
He may only have a couple months in charge, but it is some moment for the former midfielder who was forced to quit from playing four years ago after suffering a fractured skull. It’s the feel-good story at a time of so much rage.
"I thought I'd still be playing football,” he said.
I'm probably in my prime to be honest of footballing ability. But football is a crazy, crazy sport.
That it is.
IN THE CHANNELS
It was a wild ride, and there is probably nothing here that can be shared that the majority of Football Twitter have not seen already, but we’ll give a shout out to the clubs across Europe who Had A Bit Of Fun.
More European Super League news, obviously, given it is still hanging by a thread. There’s also a Premier League double tonight, with artists formerly known as “ESL sides” Tottenham and Manchester City in action. City can take one step closer to the title, we think, when travelling to Aston Villa, while Tottenham will try to revive their top-four aspirations, maybe, at home to Southampton.
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