The Warm-Up: International breaking point, Pique plays the hero
Massive England fan Jack Lang previews the game against Slovenia. Kind of.
THURSDAY’S BIG STORIES
They’re tears of joy, honest
Regular readers of this column (Hi mum!) will know that if there is one thing The Warm-Up loves, that thing is the international break. It always seems to come along at just the right time, doesn’t it? Just when the Premier League and the Champions League are really getting boring.
Still, it’s all very well to throw snark from the comfort of our own cell at Eurosport Towers horrendously early in the morning. The people The Warm-Up really feels sorry for are the reporters out there on the England beat, desperately trying to conjure interest in the latest outing non-perilous, non-interesting outing for the Three Lions.
Gareth Southgate might try out John Stones in midfieldPA Sport
It’s Slovenia tonight and the stakes could barely be lower. Win and England are through to Russia 2018. Draw and England are through to Russia 2018. Lose and, yep, England are still probably going to get through to Russia 2018. It’s like a video game with infinite lives.
Such is the tedium, the biggest England story of the week involves Harry Kane’s diet. It’s better now, apparently, although it was also good before. So that’s good to know.
Beyond that, the only thing to get vaguely excited about is the fact that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is going to be starting. That’s the same Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain whose main contribution to the season so far has been playing so badly in a League Cup game that someone felt compelled to make a compilation of his errors. The Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain whose £35 million transfer fee was either some elaborate joke or history’s most expensive typo.
You know what? He’ll probably score now. Then Kane will do some food-themed goal celebration for the ages and everyone will go home happy, thankful for another vintage international break. And evil will continue consolidating in the shadows.
It was another nightmare debut in Manchester for Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-ChamberlainPA Sport
You’ll never leave
Quick experiment: what springs to your mind upon reading the phrase, “out-of-town Baltic sea hotel”?
The Warm-Up instantly assumed it was the setting for the latest Walter Presents bleak-a-thon on Channel 4. But no, we were way off: it’s actually the setting for the latest Gareth Southgate bleak-a-thon next summer.
England manager Gareth Southgate (left) believes Harry Kane will not be drained for the World Cup, should the Three Lions qualifyPA Sport
Looking at those retirement-home-chic bedrooms, it’s tempting to wonder whether this isn’t an attempt on the FA’s part to institute a system of delayed rewards and punishments in the accommodation realm. “Sure, lads, flop at the Euros if you want, but don’t come crying to us when your hotel suite doesn’t have hot water in two years’ time.” All it needs now is for the players to discover that all of the rooms have been booked out under the name MR ICELAND.
Still, at least there’s a lovely, expensive-looking white piano in the lobby. Although that could just a be a metaphor. Or a murder weapon. Join us next summer to find out.
Jupp, up and away
Few coaches know their way around the Allianz Arena than the 72-year-old, of course, but it’s hard to avoid the feeling that, just a couple of months into the campaign, Bayern are already stuck in a holding pattern, waiting to see what next season brings.
IN OTHER NEWS
As a rule, The Warm-Up avoids any production bearing the paw prints of James Corden (Hahahaha! They’re singing! In a car! Hahahaha, brilliant) like a nuclear plague. But this video crash-landed in our collective Twitter feed yesterday and probably does need addressing.
So that’s Pizzagate cleared up at last, then, although two further questions do present themselves. (1) Are Fabregas’ new teeth a possible solution for when the sun burns itself out? And (2), is there some kind of mute filter I can apply to my actual eyes to ensure I never watch even a second of this television programme again?
HEROES AND ZEROES
Hero: Gerard Pique
To wit: “Politics is a drag, but why shouldn’t I express myself? I understand those players who don’t want to say anything. We’re footballers but we’re people too. Why can a journalist or a mechanic express themselves but not a footballer?”
Lovely stuff, and The Warm-Up was also pleased to see Pique test drive his very own version of the old Michael Jordan “Republicans buy sneakers too” straight bat when asked which side he was rooting for in the independence argument.
“I can’t give an answer on that,” said the 33-year-old. “I can’t back one side or the other: I would lose half of my supporters.” Liquid politics.
Zero: Leicester’s internet connection
Can 14 seconds change a club’s season? Almost certainly. Just ask Leicester City: that was how long after the transfer deadline they submitted the paperwork for the transfer of Adrien Silva in a £22m deal from Sporting.
The Portuguese has been ineligible to play since and there was further bad news on Wednesday when FIFA turned down the Foxes’ appeal. “We cannot hide our disappointment,” read a Leicester statement, although you imagine it’s poor old Silva, who has been dropped by his national team, who is really suffering here.
" Shelvey might be the most typically British player in the Premier League. This is a footballing nation that traditionally shuns No. 10s, believes holding midfielders don’t offer enough going forward and gets frustrated by players who only pass sideways. British football is about energetic, up-and-down players. Positional responsibilities are considered secondary to running."
Gareth Southgate, right, believes Raheem Sterling, left, can turn around his England fortunesPA Sport
If you’re a boring person, you’re probably going to fall asleep during the second half of England 2-0 Slovenia, which kicks off at 7.45pm. Those with slightly more edge might go for a bit of Northern Ireland vs Germany or Scotland vs Slovakia.
The real cognoscenti, though, will be loading up on coffee and catching the next illegal stream to South America for the penultimate set of World Cup qualifiers. Bolivia vs Brazil (9pm) should get you warmed up for the main event, Argentina vs Peru (12.30am), which pits together the two sides in direct competition for the final automatic qualifying spot. Ay caramba.