IT’S BIG VASE FINAL, BABY
The idea of the Pope’s O’Rangers playing in a Big Vase final seemed utterly absurd as recently as five years ago. Having just seen his team knocked out of the qualifiers by Progrès Niederkorn, the fourth best team in Luxembourg, the then-O’Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha was subsequently seen remonstrating with angry fans while standing in a bush, a state of affairs that correctly suggested his reign was doomed a month before the fitba season proper had even started. How things change.
On Wednesday night in Seville, O’Rangers will line up against Eintracht Frankfurt for the final of this season’s competition, one in which they’ve already knocked out two much better Bundesliga teams. And in the sizzling heat of Andalusia, upwards of 150,000 Gers fans are seeking sanctuary in the shade of the local orange trees before what is arguably the biggest game in what some cynics view as the club’s proud nine-year history. But The Fiver has long been of the view that if it looks like O’Rangers, sounds like O’Rangers and plays like O’Rangers, then it’s definitely O’Rangers and there’s little to separate them and their opponents going into this decider. “A Scottish club getting to [Big Vase] final?” mused veteran keeper Allan McGregor. “It shouldn’t really happen, should it? Let’s be honest.”
Speaking on the wireless from Seville, O’Rangers royalty and Scottish national treasure Ally McCoist could barely contain his giddiness, promising the bevvies would be on him should his former club win at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán Stadium. “I am going to throw my wallet to the crowd if we win tonight,” he promised. “I am going to throw credit cards about. It will be deep joy.” If the scenes of carousing being beamed into Fiver Towers from Spain are anything to go by, Ally could be bankrupt by this time on Thursday.
It is heartwarming to see then that, thus far, all who have travelled from Scotland are enjoying themselves while keeping tomfoolery to a bare minimum. With around 50,000 Frankfurt supporters also in Seville, not to mention the handful of Queen’s Celtic fans who still haven’t made it home from their final against Porto in 2003, the local constabulary are on high alert. “I know we have a lot travelling with us,” said O’Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst. “We have to enjoy the occasion, but make sure we are not causing any problems. Half the people will go home really happy and half will not, but we should respect the whole city and people working hard to accommodate us and not leave anything negative behind.” Anything, that is, apart from Coisty’s credit cards, which could end up behind several different bars.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Hashmin Musah decided to score two own goals and, for me, it happens in football and I don’t have any issue with that because Harry Maguire – who is a top player – has been scoring own goals” – Ashanti Gold midfielder Seth Osei highlights the travails of the Manchester United captain when pleading innocence on Ghana’s Pure FM, after being banned for 30 months for his alleged involvement in a match-fixing scandal that has resulted in both his team and opponents Inter Allies – who lost the game 7-0 – being demoted to the third tier of Ghanaian football.
“It is, I’m afraid, entirely possible to dad a millennial while being a millennial (yesterday’s Fiver letters). Or a dad. The opposite would be impossible though; you can’t dad a millennial as a millennial without actually being a millennial. Then you’re just dadding” – Brian James.
“I notice the pod squad have added a Dublin date for the Football Weekly team on tour. That’s great and all, but is there any possibility of a date somewhere us culchies can go see them? We don’t get up to the big smoke too often so maybe Limerick might be an option? If that’s too far, then there’s always the petrol station in Moneygall. I’m sure they could sell out the Obama museum thing on the first floor” – Eoin Balfe.
Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Rollover.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Nottinghamshire police have arrested a man after Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp appeared to be butted by a fan at the end of the Championship playoff semi-final, which Forest won in a penalty shootout. “As an ex-Forest player I will not let one scumbag ruin my respect for the Forest fans,” said Sharp.
Blackpool defender Marvin Ekpiteta has apologised for historical homophobic social media posts that have come to light in the wake of teammate Jake Daniels coming out. “What you said 10 years ago at 17 years old doesn’t define the man you are today,” said Daniels. “I am proud to be your teammate.”
USA! USA!! USA!!! The men’s and women’s national teams will share prize money from their respective World Cups equally in an historic agreement.
Jürgen Klopp reckons his second-string Liverpool team that beat Southampton 2-1 to keep the title race alive are like “Ferraris in the garage”. “Wow, these boys,” he gushed, while giving Takumi Minamino a good waxing. “I am so happy about the performance. It was a bit touching.”
Manchester City could try and sign Brighton’s Marc Cucurella for a cool £35m this summer, just to sate Pep Guardiola’s full-back fix.
Thomas Tuchel thinks Andreas Christensen may have played his last game for Chelsea, what with the Dane making himself unavailable for the FA Cup final and all that. “He had his reasons, they stay private and confidential,” sighed Tuchel of the Barcelona-bound defender. “But it was not the first time as you can see over the last weeks that we had some of the same situations.”
And the “teamwork, togetherness and team spirit” that Eddie Howe credited for Newcastle’s improvement was also given a Saudi-style cash injection of £168m, the club’s latest financial figures reveal.
STILL WANT MORE?
The Pope’s O’Rangers v Frankfurt has captured the imagination like few finals before it, writes floating football brain in a jar Jonathan Wilson.
For this week’s Moving the Goalposts newsletter, Norway’s Lisa Naalsund speaks to Sophie Downey about the importance of players asking for help to support their mental wellbeing and why so few teams invest in it.
James Milner is the “muddy pair of wellies Klopp keeps in the boot of his car” to win games like the one at St Mary’s, writes Barney Ronay.
Who should Chelsea sign if their key defenders do one? Ben McAleer does the Blues’ scouting for them.
Here’s Adrian Chiles having a pop at “lanyard-swinging, dad-dancing day-trippers” who get corporate tickets before proper fans for big finals.
And don’t forget to have a look at the Knowledge, on centurions at four or more clubs, unwanted FA Cup history, second-tier goalscoring greats and more.
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