An added opportunity to cruelly dash their fans’ hopes

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Speaking about the Nations League a few days ago, Jürgen Klopp described it as “the most senseless competition in world football”. The Liverpool manager said he didn’t “know what you can win with it”, but he knew there was some final next summer … “or something”. Whether Klopp was being deliberately obtuse as he grumbled about his players not getting a rest is open to debate, although it didn’t go unnoticed that he singled out Jordan Henderson as one player who only had a fortnight’s holiday this year. Luckily, the arrival of Fabinho and the excellent form of Gini Wijnaldum may ensure the Liverpool captain gets to kick back and put his feet up whether he likes it or not for the foreseeable future.

But The Fiver digresses. What Klopp failed to address was the fact that the Nations League actually serves several very useful purposes. At the business end of the competition, there’s a shiny trophy up for grabs. At the sharp end, it pits minnow nations against each other, allowing them to improve and giving them genuine hope of actually qualifying for a major tournament. In between, it provides countries like Wales, the Republic O’Ireland, Norn Iron and Scotland with an added opportunity to cruelly dash their fans’ hopes of a fun summer in two years’ time by losing not one, but two crunch games at home against somebody like Georgia or Macedonia. What’s not to like about that, Jürgen?!? Eh?? Eh???

Having got off to a flyer by winning a tricky game against Albania, Scotland get a chance to revert to type when they face an Israel side most people are expecting them to beat in their third tier encounter on Thursday. As is customary where fitba is concerned, the buildup to the game has been less than serene. Queen’s Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths has withdrawn from the squad to “concentrate on his fitness”, a pursuit you could be forgiven for thinking might be better served by jogging around a training pitch with a group of 21 other like-minded individuals and then possibly getting a 20-minute run-out against somebody like … say, Israel.

In a state of affairs, the absurdity of which you can only fully understand if you had to try explain them to say, an elderly relative or somebody like Lord Ferg, Griffiths has also denied “liking” a tweet posted by a fan on social media, describing McLeish as a [Snip! – Fiver Lawyers] and Hearts striker Steven Naismith, who was picked ahead of Griffiths against Albania, as “a dirty git”. An unnamed source “close” to the player declared: “He gets bombarded with stuff online all the time and has absolutely no recollection of ever seeing this tweet never mind pressing the like button.” For his part, McLeish seemed reasonably relaxed about the absence of Griffiths, suggesting that “everyone has issues, in their personal life and I have to respect Lee’s decision. I’m not going to throw him under the bus.” While The Fiver has never been one for taking cheap potshots at the standard of Scottish fitba, we can’t help but feel that a 28-year-old who has played 16 times for his club already this season, probably has enough fitness to sit in a dugout for 90 minutes watching 11 compatriots take on Israel in the most senseless competition in the world.


Join Simon Burnton for hot MBM coverage of Wales 1-3 Spain in the Nations League from 7.45pm BST.


“There’s no question that Sir Doug dedicated his life to Aston Villa. Our condolences go out to family and friends at this very sad time” – a club statement following the death of former chairman Doug Ellis at the age of 94.


It’s this year’s Next Generation global edition, 60 of the best young talents born in … 2001.

2001! Composite: Frank Hulley-Jones


Here’s the latest Football Weekly Extra, with everything from Lionesses to chess.


Producing the Guardian’s thoughtful, in-depth journalism [the stuff not normally found in this email, obviously – Fiver Ed] is expensive, but supporting us isn’t. If you value our journalism, please support us. In return we can hopefully arm you with the kind of knowledge that makes you sound slightly less uninformed during those hot reactive gegenpress chats you so enjoy. And if you think what we do is enjoyable [again, etc and so on – Fiver Ed], please help us keep coming back here to give you more of the same.


“Like many Fiver readers, I don’t read the email every day, sometimes reading on the day, sometimes allowing a backlog to build up. But for some obsessive reason I don’t delete the unread emails but hoard them. Today I’ve gone for the cathartic option of clearing out 100 old Fivers that have lain around unread for too long – everything from ‘Poor, poor Stewart Downing’ through the Ethics World Cup and on to something about FH Hafnarfjaradar’s formation. If you too suffer from obsessively Fivering yourself, perhaps this will help you out of this self-destructive habit” – Antony Melvin.

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“If Manuel Pellegrini now has a roundabout named after him (yesterday’s Bits and Bobs) surely there must be a revolving door somewhere with Davide Ballardini’s name on it?” – Mike Hollis.

Send your letters to And if you’ve nothing better to do you can also tweet The Fiver. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is Antony Melvin.


Chelsea want to send racist supporters on trips to Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz instead of imposing banning orders.

Mired in Ligue 1’s relegation zone, Monaco have binned off Leonardo Jardim. “His passage will remain as one of the most beautiful pages in the history of the club,” cheered chief suit Vadim Vasilyev.

Mutual consent, earlier.
Mutual consent, earlier. Photograph: Eric Gaillard/Reuters

Aston Villa’s new dream team comprises manager Dean Smith, assistant Plain Old John Terry and sporting director Jesús García Pitarch.

Uefa is in talks with the English and Spanish FAs about recent Eleven Sports breaches of the traditional Saturday afternoon broadcast blackout in Britain.

Eden Hazard. Chelsea. Real Madrid. Same old.

And despite the game against Croatia in Rijeka being played behind closed doors, a number of England fans are trying to find a way of attending. “If years down the line, you can say to people ‘it was played behind closed doors but I still went and I saw the game from a hill’, then what a story that would be,” whooped Frickley’s Chad Thomas.


Ten things to look out for in the Nations League games.

Paul Wilson on Doug Ellis. And our obituary.

Doug Ellis.
Doug Ellis. Photograph: Bob Thomas/Getty Images

Eric Devin on the state of Monaco.

And a year on, USA! USA!! USA!!! still have an interim coach. Why, wonders Tom Dart.

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