A hint of glory and our collective noggin has gone again

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What a year it’s been for English football. The national team won last year’s World Cup and this summer’s Nations League, and now Big Cup has started the long journey home as well! Liverpool’s impressive victory away to Bayern Munich means England has four Big Cup quarter-finalists for the first time since the triumphant 2008-09 season, when Barcelona won the competition. Liverpool, Spurs and the two Manchester clubs will be joined in Friday’s draw by Barcelona, Juventus, Porto and Ajax. It’s an exciting time to be a lover of English football … and we can’t help ourselves, can we? A hint of glory, a soupçon of achievement, and our collective noggin has gone again. Big Cup has put a kiss on the end of a text message for the first time and we’ve called it straight back and asked it to marry us.

Down our local, The Black Dog and Gun, one bereft shell used the phrase “era of dominance” to describe a spell in which English clubs have won one of the last 10 Big Cups. When challenged, he said he was being ironic, the same as when he sang “It’s Coming Home” for the entirety of last June and had a picture of Jordan Pickford tattooed on his face. The Fiver grew up thinking there really was something to shout about back in the 1970s and 1980s, when English teams won seven out of eight Big Cups. But then England only had one quarter-finalist in most of those years, so was it really an era of dominance?

This may well be the start of a golden period for English clubs in Europe, and what sporting romantic wouldn’t like to see a competition with almost twice the revenue of every other league in the world hoover up the biggest prize year after year? But it feels a bit premature. Not even Biff Tannen can tell us who wins Big Cup in 2019, 2020 and 2021, although Cristiano Ronaldo has an idea. The prospect of one, two or even all four English clubs in Big Cup final on 1 June may impact England’s Nations League triumph the following week. “It could be a mess,” reckons England boss Gareth Southgate. “Let’s say if two of our teams made it to [Big Cup] final, then we wouldn’t see them, at best, until the Monday before we play on the Thursday. With the emotion of that game, can those players even realistically play on the Thursday night for us?” he concluded, as Roy Keane’s breathing intensified.

Poor old Big Vase hasn’t really had a mention in all this, yet it might still be England’s best chance of an actual trophy to go with all the moral trophies that have already been won this season. Arsenal and Chelsea are among the favourites to win the competition and tonight play the second leg in their round-of-512 ties. Chelsea, who lead 3-0 from the first leg, should breeze through against Dynamo Kyiv despite a dodgy pitch. Arsenal have a stiffer task. The Gunners trail Rennes 3-1 after a first-leg performance that had them rolling in the aisles, but they are superb at Fortress Emirates and a repeat of the 2-0 win over Manchester United at the weekend would put them through. Alexandre Lacazette is available after Uefa reduced his suspension from three matches to two in accordance with Article 48.01 of the playing regulations – the brand experience is heightened when the big clubs get through, innit.

Especially when they’re English.


Join Paul Doyle from 5.55pm for hot MBM coverage of Dynamo Kyiv 1-1 Chelsea (agg: 1-4), while Rob Smyth will be on hand for Arsenal 4-1 Rennes (agg: 5-4).


“I’ve never been one to follow a fad diet. A lot of people have said I’m just following a trend, but a year and a half later I’m still doing it. Now, I wouldn’t say I’ll never go back to eating meat, but I can’t see myself going back to eating meat” – Adrian Mariappa on longevity and the lure of Watford.

Looking good for it, mind.
Looking good for it, mind. Photograph: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian


“Re: yesterday’s last line. I would very much like to thank a journalist, but I don’t know where to find one” – Robert Blanchard.

“Re: Ryan Schofield’s howler against Notts County (yesterday’s Quote of the Day). Shay Given had a similar ground-please-swallow-me-up experience. It was the day he regretted ever turning his back on Dublin” – John Mayr.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is Robert Blanchard.


Football Weekly Extra is in the hizzle.


European big guns may be falling but Barcelona are still there.

Manchester City are five points clear on top of the Women’s Super League after a 4-3 win at Reading.

Nikita Parris doing her thing.
Nikita Parris doing her thing. Photograph: Paul Terry/Rex/Shutterstock

Real Madrid have spa [ahem – Fiver Boris Johnson Ed] splurged €50m on Porto defender Éder Militão.

England manager Gareth Southgate is worried that Big Cup will impact on June’s Nations League showdowns. “It could be a mess,” he sighed.

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri is feeling funky at the state of that Dynamo Kyiv pitch before their Big Vase game. “The pitch is not good,” he fumed. “I think that it’s dangerous, really dangerous.”

Andy Carroll may have played his last game for West Ham after yet another knack setback, this time with his ankle.

And Swansea’s Bersant Celina is looking forward to facing former employers Manchester City in the FA Cup on Saturday. “I want to go and prove to them that I’m very good,” he cheered. Probably best to avoid penalty duties.


Frank de Boer is finding the going tough in MLS with Atlanta United, explains Francisco Navas.

Oh Frank!
Oh Frank! Photograph: Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports

All those Premier League sides in Big Cup’s last eight shouldn’t spark celebration so much as a harrumphing ‘so what took you so long?’ reckons Jonathan Wilson.

And talking of harrumphing, the German media have absolutely piled in on Bayern.

On the other hand, Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk – he the man, cheers Barney Ronay.

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