Unfinished business with the play-offs

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DERBY DAYS

The prospect of Plain Old John Terry making his way down to Wembley for the Championship play-off final later this month raises a few burning questions. Ever the fashionista, The Fiver can’t help but wonder about POJT’s plans for his outfit on the big day. Will there be shinpads lurking beneath the Aston Villa club suit? Will he play one of the classics and roll a captain’s armband up his left bicep? Heck, with a potential promotion party to think about, will he go the whole hog and turn up in full kit in readiness for the post-match celebrations? The Fiver will be keeping a close eye on the situation, especially as Villa’s assistant manager has unfinished business with the play-offs. He might not have demanded to take a penalty as Dean Smith’s side edged a shootout against West Brom on Tuesday night, but POJT does have a score to settle here given that he retired after Villa lost last year’s final to Fulham. We’ll say this much: don’t rule anything out on the sartorial front.

After all, the buildup to the Fulham game was dominated by speculation that POJT had apparently insisted on a clause in his contract precluding him from playing against Chelsea if Villa had secured a Premier League return, news which brought a tear to The Fiver’s eye. They don’t make captains or leaders or legends like that any more. In the aftermath of Villa’s defeat to Fulham, however, POJT ended up hanging up his armband and it seemed he’d never have to worry about facing Chelsea again. But wait! Now that he’s a coach, there’s a chance he could have a very good view of Sarriball on a couple of occasions next season. What to do? Try to help his current employers beat his former employers? Hmm. Interesting thought. But it might be too much to ask. A real conundrum. With respect, class and dignity at stake, it would be no surprise to see POJT request to sit those games out.

Maybe he’ll take a leaf out of an old chum’s book, though. Frank Lampard, manager of Frank Lampard’s Derby County, had no problem facing Chelsea in the Milk Cup earlier this season and would relish the chance to take them on in the league. The only problem with that, mind you, is that Lampard’s hopes of meeting POJT at Wembley look slim. On reflection, the suspiciously foreign and intellectual Marcelo Bielsa, who clashed with Lampard during that farcical Spygate episode in January, seems unlikely to let Derby sneak into the final just because it would set up a juicy narrative. Bielsa’s Nasty Leeds take a 1-0 lead into Wednesday’s second leg at Elland Road and, having walloped Derby twice in the league, will expect to seal their place in the final. Bah! We’ll just have spend the next two weeks discussing POJT’s wardrobe instead.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I couldn’t be happier that despite taking so long, ruminating over this decision for so many years and being entirely unsure about myself, I can finally come out and say it. I’m gay. It’s incredible saying that now; it feels amazing. And weirdly, it doesn’t feel like a big deal. Really in 2019, it shouldn’t be” – all power to Andy Brennan.

Andy Brennan in flamin’ A-League action, earlier.
Andy Brennan in flamin’ A-League action, earlier. Photograph: Ashley Feder/Getty Images

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FIVER LETTERS

“So, Neil Warnock is going to stay at Cardiff and help them find a successor? I’m looking forward to the last home game of the season, when he takes the microphone, strides on to the pitch … and introduces David Moyes” – Matt Dony.

“I do hope the Vatican’s new women’s football team (yesterday’s Bits and Bobs) will be called The Pope’s Rangers, if only to confuse The Fiver” – John Myles.

“When Noble Francis was trying to think of something that ‘seemed good at the time but ends up flawed with an end result that no one seems happy with’ (yesterday’s Fiver letters), was he just too polite to compare that to The Fiver?” – Nick Jeffery.

“Re: idiotic football rules, Noble could look a lot closer to home. North of the border, the SPL’s failed experiment of ‘the split’ is roundly criticised for: a) producing an imbalance in home/away fixtures (although MLS does that so much better); but more laughably: b) the team normally finishing seventh having more points than the team finishing sixth. With one game to go, St Johnstone in seventh ‘lead’ Hearts in sixth by one point” – Paul Dixon.

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 John Myles.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Manchester City say that any suggestion a chant apparently sung by some of their players and backroom staff as they celebrated winning the Premier League mocks Sean Cox or the Hillsborough disaster “is entirely without foundation”.

West Brom plan to meet Chris Hughton next week for talks over their managerial vacancy after they lost on penalties to Aston Villa in the Championship play-offs. Meanwhile, Kick It Out has issued an unreserved apology to Brighton over comments by head of development Troy Townsend concerning Hughton’s sacking.

As mentioned, Neil Warnock is going to remain at Cardiff, which feels a bit off-brand, but hey. “I just feel it’s not the time to change with the squad I’ve got and the players I want to bring in,” he declared selflessly.

Hebei China Fortune have given manager Chris Coleman the boot, which will be pleasing news for the fans who unfurled a banner in their recent 3-2 home defeat by Henan Jianye reading: “Hello Mr Coleman, please go home! You’re fired!”

A happy day for these Hebei China Fortune fans, then.
A happy day for these Hebei China Fortune fans, then. Photograph: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Brazil may be in the midst of their worst ever run, but midfielder Erika is still confident of Women’s World Cup success. “Nine defeats in a row for a Brazilian team that always wants to win is not normal but we are working hard,” she cheered. “When we get there it will be 0-0 for everyone.”

And former Derby and Croatia defender Igor Stimac is the new head coach of India. “Igor is the right candidate to coach the Blue Tigers,” roared Indian FA president Praful Patel. “I am confident his vast experience will guide us to higher echelons.”

STILL WANT MORE?

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Marina Hyde on why Uefa’s derisory ‘parking ticket’ fines will not deter the likes of Manchester City.

What we got right and wrong in our pre-season predictions.

Has a goal of the season ever been scored on the opening day? Don’t ask us, ask The Knowledge.

Suzanne Wrack’s player-by-player guide to Scotland’s World Cup 2019 squad.

Scotland’s Joanne Love, Lee Alexander, Nicola Docherty and manager Shelley Kerr.
Scotland’s Joanne Love, Lee Alexander, Nicola Docherty and manager Shelley Kerr. Photograph: Alan Harvey/SNS Group

Chaos off the pitch but better times on it: Ben Fisher on Charlton’s revival under Lee Bowyer.

What’s it like to work in the press box? Here’s Amy Lawrence.

“I wish I could remember them all.” USA! USA!! USA!!!’s Kristine Lilly on her 354 international caps.

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

HEAD IT CLEAR, HEAD IT CLEAR, HEAD IT CLEAR, HEAD … OH