Better than the manager who spent his time worrying about ketchup

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It goes without saying that modern football is as irredeemably and hilariously jiggered as that CNN show in which an anthropomorphic potato with a British accent attempted to smug his way into the hearts and minds of Americans. The Fiver gets it. We resigned ourselves to this current sorry state of affairs a long time ago. The Fiver's not naïve – not any more at least. We learned our lesson when the big boys on the bus home asked us for the time and then nicked our watch, trousers, shoes and loose change. Eye contact in public, it turned out, was a bad idea. Never again.

Hopefully that goes some way towards explaining our cynical outlook on the world today. But just because it's jiggered, it doesn't mean that football still can't be fun every once in a while, as supporters of Sunderland will tell you. They've had to put up with some abject filth this season – and, to be honest, in almost every season since Kevin Phillips won the Golden Boot in 1999-2000 – and they are in grave danger of being relegated. But you can bet the 17p you stole from the Fiver that they'll take a third relegation since 2003 in exchange for beating Manchester City in Sunday's Milk Cup final. The game, after all, is about glory, not spreadsheets.

It is a philosophy heartily embraced by their motormouth manager, Gus Poyet. "It's going to be special," he jabbered. "This is my first season here and everything was very, very dark and sad when I arrived. Here and now we are 90 minutes, or 120, away from being the happiest people in England." Poyet is an energetic man and it is not a surprise that he has breathed new life into Sunderland since his arrival last winter. When he was appointed manager, Poyet was compared to his predecessor, Paolo Di Canio, largely on account of also being Not English, but that description of the Uruguayan has turned out to be bunkum. Who could have predicted that a manager who did so well with Brighton & Hove Albion in the Championship would be better than the one who spent most of his time worrying about Ketchup.

So, powered by Heinz [other brands of condiment are available – Fiver Lawyers], saucy Sunderland put the hurt on Chelsea and Manchester United to reach the final. How exciting! It's their first chance to win some major silverware since Richard Keys invented football. "The feeling of winning something is far beyond going down, spending two years in the Championship," Poyet said. And he's right: cup finals for clubs like Sunderland don't come along that often. The problem, though, is that they do for super-clubs like City. Once they've scored their seventh goal, you'll understand.


"When she died, I couldn't go to her funeral but months later I got a parcel. She had bequeathed her belt to me. Her nephew sent it with a letter saying 'You'll know more about this belt than anyone'. It's in my study now. My grandchildren are terrified of it" – Lord Ferg reveals that his grandchildren fear far more than the hairdryer after saying the secret to his success was being bent over the knee of his old teacher, Mrs Thomson, and receiving six lashes.


"Re: yesterday's Fiver. So on a day when Chelsea announce a collaboration with The Simpsons including the 'Simpson-isation' of five players, none of whom are David Luiz, the Fiver chooses to eke out a riff on old news relating to their strikers. Was it too obvious, or do you really know nothing?" – Steve Laurie.

"Re: Dan McSweeney (yesterday's Fiver letters). You do it on purpose don't you? You put in a letter about Scottish football and, even though it was a snidey and derogatory one, I didn't mind too much. Any exposure is good (as Weird Uncle Fiver no doubt says). But then by the time I'd finished the letter I was so angry I'd been put right off my battered Mars Bar. If Dan had bothered to listen to what teams are actually playing instead of laughing up his sleeve he'd have realised that the advert he was referring to was promoting a match between Hibernian and Dundee United. Not Dundee. Dundee are in the league below Hibs. And while Scottish football is, admittedly, often pretty poor fare, Dundee United are actually really worth watching this season. In fairness to Dan though maybe he didn't hear the word 'United' because he was spending his time much more productively and studiously writing down the script for a TV promotion word for word. Or maybe the Fiver incompetently omitted the final word from his missive. But that could never happen. Could it?" – Chris Cruickshank [nothing more than, er, a rare subbing mistake – Fiver Ed].

"Presumably it was pure happenstance that the invitation to the Fiver and Glenn Leete from Phillipa Suarez (without the accent), appeared just above the regular Guardian Soulmates ad (yesterday's letters). 'Come down and count the seats with me'? Never heard it called that before" – Martyn Wilson.

• 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: Steve Laurie.


We keep trying to point out the utter futility of advertising an online dating service "for interesting people" in the Fiver to the naive folk who run Guardian Soulmates, but they still aren't having any of it. So here you go – sign up here to view profiles of the kind of erudite, sociable and friendly romantics who would never dream of going out with you.


Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny has – and you'll like this – donated €600,000 to help save an accordion factory in his home town of Tulle.

Vincent Tan's latest charm offensive, featuring more of the latter and less of the former, includes such highlights as Malky Mackay being lucky to get Cardiff City promoted, that the Bluebirds' colours will remain red, and that the British media are 'a little bit racist'. He was also upset about being painted 'like a villain'. "I wear sunglasses because of the glare of the spotlights. I wear gloves because it is very cold in the UK. Frankly, sometimes I think they are nuts making all these comments," he cackled from his hollowed-out volcano.

Manuel Pellegrini has been banned for two Big Cup games after saying naughty things about the referee after Manchester City's 2-0 defeat to Barcelona.

Juan Mata's tiki-taka patter will not flatter the Spain side hoping to batter Italy in Wednesday's friendly. Nor will Fernando Torres's, but that's harder to rhyme.

Phil Jones is gurning his way through full training at Manchester United for the first time since being concussed against Stoke City.

And a German anti-doping doctor has resigned after a picture of Schalke's Kevin-Prince Boateng drinking beer and smoking a fag while being tested for drugs appeared in a newspaper.


Ten things to look out for this weekend – other than drinking your bodyweight in Tin, obviously.

Mr Roy said that people should not look at the England squad to face Denmark and leap to World Cup conclusions. So that's definitely not what's happened here.

Luton's prodigal son Sean Ingle heads home to find out why the Hatters are back on the up.

The Fiver's (temporary) new colleague Niall Quinn on why Sunderland and Manchester City's shared agonies link them.

And proper journalist David Conn takes a look at the Nicolas Anelka ruling, and scratches his head.

Oh, and if it's your thing, you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace.


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