Tuesday’s big stories

The magic of the FA Cup means nothing to Jose Mourinho but it remains

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Mourinho lauds 'magnificent' Ndombele following Tottenham win
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Marine Association Football Club against Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. Ah, the Magic of the FA Cup™. Premier League leaders against mid-table eighth-tier Marine. It could only happen in the Football Association Cup. It is wonderful that the Northern Premier League Division One North West outfit made it to the third round of the World's Oldest Football Competition™. Wonderful. But perhaps not so wonderful for magic aficionados that they are playing Spurs.

The Mariners have been making news prior to the draw against Tottenham, most notably when their goalkeeper went to the off licence to get himself some cans following their win against Havant & Waterlooville in round two. He was in full kit which added to the - what's that word used to describe the FA Cup other than magic? Ah yes - romance of the occasion.

Alas, for magic and romance spotters, Tottenham are morphing into a brutal, relentless bunch of intelligent – you know the rest – who have no respect for the magic or romance of an occasion. Jose Mourinho is enjoying a renaissance of sorts at Spurs. However, Mourinho-ball is a fairly joyless affair. They get the job done, as pragmatically as possible. Therefore, Marine FC's reward for the seven wins that took them to the third round is a workmanlike Tottenham taking a two-goal lead early doors and then sitting back for 80 minutes. The Magic of the FA Cup™, indeed.

Hold on, is the below legitimate?

If so, forget the above cynicism. The FA Cup is back and is absolutely magic, will remain magic and there is nothing Mourinho can do about that.

Put the protractors away or it will be the death of football

Look. The beauty of football lies in its capacity for fleeting, mind-numbing escapism. The escapism associated with a team that nabs a last-minute equaliser is unique to football. Further, football has the ability to transport that elation from one end of a ground to the other – from the home fans to the away fans, and vice versa – in the blink of an eye. And, actually, that is the true magic of the game and that sense is only magnified in the randomness of cup competition - hence, why the Magic of the FA Cup™ moniker continues to stick. It is pure, unadulterated theatre.

Or it was. VAR has taken that to the cleaners as evidenced again in Aston Villa's match with West Ham on Monday night. Villa thought they had nicked a draw late on, through Ollie Watkins, who had earlier missed a penalty. Nope; out came the protractors and it was ruled out for a dubious offside by VAR. A game that built its popularity on theatre appears to be doing its level best to rid itself of its unique selling point. Dynasties are cyclical and football has begun its own descent into obscurity with its obsession with VAR. It does not work. Move on otherwise it will lead to the death of the game.

West Ham won by the way.

Eden Hazard injured again

Eden Hazard is again injured. Again. Here is Real Madrid's fairly terse statement:

Following tests carried out today on our player, Eden Hazard, by Real Madrid Medical Services, he has been diagnosed with an injury in the rectus femoris muscle of his right leg. His recovery will continue to be assessed.

Hazard is yet to play more than four games for Real Madrid in a row due to injury. Plagued. The latest injury will reportedly sideline him for three weeks. In isolation, three weeks does not seem insurmountable but set alongside the context of previous injuries it is a worrying theme. Hazard was fairly resilient during his time in England but perhaps that was a problem and the wear and tear of that resiliency is bearing rotten fruit now. He got whacked and hacked for a full seven years and that will take its toll.

Here is Jose Mourinho calling it out in 2015.

“People are in love with football in this country, so people must be in love with Eden Hazard,” Mourinho said.

The way, match after match, he’s being punished by opponents and he’s not being protected by referees, maybe one day we won’t have Eden Hazard. It’s one, two, three, four, five, 10 aggressive fouls against him. They kick and kick and kick, and the kid resists. He’s a very honest guy in the way he plays, but that’s another problem.

Perhaps Hazard is paying the price of being an honest kid, and needed to be more of an intelligent - you know the rest.

The manager who does not understand the most basic facets of a player

This has been doing the rounds for a few days, and with each passing day it gets more perplexing. How could anyone watch even a second of Tanguy Ndombele and draw the following conclusion?

Now throw in the added layer of context that the person who drew the above abomination of a conclusion was more than once in gainful employment as a manager; a role that required him to make judgements on players' attributes on a daily basis. The mind truly boggles. How many careers fell by the wayside because of Sherwood's inadequacies?

HEROES & ZEROS

HERO

Football players get lots of unfair stick for not contributing to society, looking squarely at you, Health Secretary. It is patently not true.

Yet, despite all their contributions, lots of footballers go a step further and contribute some more, like Jack Grealish.

ZERO

The 'Wenger Out' mob. Turns out the grass isn't always greener. Turns out the manager who constructed a team who went a whole season without a loss was, indeed, not a fraud. Turns out the banners, the marches and the abuse wasn't worth it.

Retro corner

Magic of the FA Cup, you say? Come this way.

Coming up

The Champions League. Oh yes. Follow all the action with us here.

Tomorrow, one Ben Snowball, loves a protractor, hates magic, will be here extolling the virtues of watching a 90-minute game over the course of 90 days one freeze frame at a time.

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