The Agenda: Manchester City women eye double and the 3am title defence

American TV dictates the start of Michael Bisping’s fight, Bolton and Blackpool have an unlikely cup final rerun 63 years on in the Checkatrade Trophy and Jamie Vardy’s autobiography tells you how to get the party started


Seven days after winning the league, Manchester City’s women will aim for the double in the FA WSL Continental Tyres Cup final against Birmingham on Sunday. The final (kick-off 3pm) takes place at City’s Academy Stadium after a tender process in the summer to find a venue before the finalists were known. “It will be the most un-neutral final you’ll see in football,” Birmingham’s manager, David Parker, told the BBC. “Everything is against us, like walking into the lion’s den.” Jennifer Beattie’s late goal against Arsenal put City into the final while Birmingham cruised past London Bees 4-0. It is the Birmingham’s third final in six years, after losing to Arsenal in 2011 and 2012. City lifted the cup in 2014, beating Arsenal 1-0, while the Gunners have won the four other finals.


The British UFC middleweight world champion, Michael Bisping, makes the first defence of his title against Dan Henderson late on Saturday night. So late that it will be 3am on Sunday by the time they lock horns to accommodate American pay-per-view television. Bisping returns to the UK after stepping in at two weeks’ notice to knock out Luke Rockhold to claim the world title in the first round in June.


The 1953 FA Cup final between Bolton and Blackpool is the stuff of legend – Stanley Matthews’s display and Stan Mortenson’s hat-trick lighting up a seven-goal thriller won 4-3 by Blackpool – and 63 years on, the two sides meet again on Tuesday. It is a sign of the lowly positions currently occupied by these two clubs that the rematch comes in the Checkatrade Trophy, kick-off 7pm at the Macron Stadium.


You know it’s October when the bookshelves are lined with sporting volumes ready for the Christmas market. After the publication of autobiographies by Damon Hill, Joey Barton, Ian Wright, Jonathan Trott and Ben Stokes, Jamie Vardy joins the book-rush on Thursday with the release of his own story. Advance publicity suggests he is prone to getting the party started – often with port or “Skittles vodka”.


Four years after jump racing abandoned Hereford the racecourse opens its doors again on Thursday with the first of four National Hunt days’ racing in the tail end of 2016. The closure of Hereford, a grassroots jumping track that played a part in the early career of many future big-race winners, caused widespread anger and dismay when it was announced in July 2012. It is a fitting time to reopen, soon after the Hereford-born Richard Johnson finally became champion jockey at the 17th time of asking.


The Maltese are coming? They are. Saturday’s World Cup qualifier looked like a gift of a Wembley debut for Sam Allardyce. Instead he’ll spend it in disgrace at Big Sam’s Villa in Costa Blanca with his reported £1m pay-off. It has added some spice to Malta’s visit, though. It is the fourth time the two nations have met.

What’s the story so far? Three England wins. They met twice in 1971 during qualifying for the 1972 European Championship – the first, a 1-0 win in Valletta, was won with a Martin Peters goal. It was Alan Mullery’s only match as captain, with Bobby Moore suspended from football by West Ham for drinking in Blackpool the night before an FA Cup match.

This fixture attracts controversy, then? It can do. England, with Moore back in the side, cruised to a 5-0 win at Wembley in the return but the Guardian’s match report, headlined “Five goals still not enough”, described the 41,000 crowd as “decidedly tetchy” that England didn’t score more. In 2000, Kevin Keegan’s England secured a nervy 2-1 away win in a Euro 2000 warm-up with Martin Keown and Emile Heskey on the scoresheet.

So what are the visitors’ chances this time? On paper, not great. They are ranked No176, have won one competitive game since October 2006 (against Armenia in 2013) and ended their opening qualifier, a 5-1 home defeat to Scotland, with nine men. Before the game coach Pietro Ghedin, who assisted the Italy managers Cesare Maldini, Dino Zoff and Giovanni Trapattoni in between his two spells in charge of Malta, described Scotland as being in a different league. “They are up and down, up and down, quick players, good wingers, good full-backs, good strikers. Perfect.”

Any big names? Striker Michael Mifsud - formerly of Coventry and Barnsley and the Maltese Sports Person of 2001 and 2003 - started on the bench against Scotland.

Will there be jokes about Maltesers? Yes, but there shouldn’t be. Dictionaries are clear that England’s opponents and their fans should be described as “Maltese people”. Only malt honeycomb chocolates in spherical form can be described as Maltesers.

And what’s going to happen to the 4,000 Big Sam T-shirts the FA had printed? All binned, apparently. The motto – “The journey starts with us all pulling together” – just didn’t feel quite right in the circumstances. £25,000 well spent.