The beautiful game can be rather ugly when it wants: Corruption; Exploitation; A disregard for human rights; Racist abuse after every game; Even referees fighting players. What are we doing? Maybe the world is too busy tearing itself apart or perhaps there are too many fixtures for anyone to notice. When football came back, it didn’t just forget the humans in the stadium. It left the humanity outside with us.

It has been hurtful watching the coverage surrounding Jurgen Klopp and his stuttering Liverpool. Pundits, fans, ex-players and journalists have been contemptible. Social media has been awash with fans who can’t remember the start of this season, let alone the last three. I’ve seen questioning of his ability, doubts about his character, suggestions he doesn’t even care and even reports that he was set to resign after the Leicester game. Before Tuesday’s victory against RB Leipzig, I watched four ex-player’s discuss all of the above and give him the vote of confidence. Yet, one thing was missing. Not one mention of the death of his mother.

We have all experienced some form of grief, loss or adversity. It hurts. It’s life’s greatest test. The pain never leaves us. We just have to learn how to deal with it. And this takes time. Years. Now, imagine trying to manage one of the biggest football clubs in the world, without your star centre back (amongst a host of other players) and then giving live interview after live interview, in a second language, immediately after you just lost a game you deserved more from. Do you still want to be judged like a statistic on a page?

There is a theory used in Media Studies by Stuart Hall named Representation Theory. Hall suggests that there is no true representation within a text, instead the idea or person is RE-presented to us with a fixed meaning to suit the creator. Why then, in football, do we have to RE-present everything with such negativity? 

The male, pale and stale have dictated our mood for too long. At the start of this week the idea of two returning competitions on top of the already insane football fatigue was too much. How can I deal with more scrutiny, more criticism, more, “For me, he’s got to do better there.”? But a lyric from a little-known band from Liverpool changed my outlook. So, next time the cycle is getting me down, I’m going to remember the lyrics that helped this time and simply think, ‘All you need is love.’

Sharing Torches

‘One in the hand, one in the bag, bubblin’.’ Anderson .Paak is an artist on the verge of superstardom who rarely puts a foot wrong. Asked who they would like to see headline Glastonbury in the future, most fellow artists answered with the Oxnard native. It seems, one day, he will fulfil his destiny. Somehow .Paak’s infectious smile, immense level of coolness and inexplicable talent just reminds me of Kylian Mbappe. Against Barcelona, Mbappe didn’t need to be given the torch by Messi, he just snatched it and used it to set the Nou Camp ablaze. 

Of course, social media went into meltdown to proclaim the new king of football. G.O.A.T. culture really has a short memory. Messi is still doing his thing. He’s still scored 763 goals and has 304 assists. You cannot take those away. It was only the weekend prior to this game that he was having fun with Barca’s new crop: Making dreams come true for youngsters who have grown up idolising him. 

Europa League 

Thursday nights used to feel like a bit of an outcast. The little sibling you’ve been told you have to bring along to kickaround in the park, but can’t quite keep up with everyone else and moans it’s cold.. Except this year, they’re not tagging along. They’re belonging. This round sees a feast of hugely exciting clubs from around Europe all playing in a competition that feels more prestigious each go around. 

Italy is bringing the Zlatan led AC Milan and the babes of Roma. The underdogs of Real Sociedad and Granada are packed into the yellow submarine. Gerrard’s ‘Gers are poised for trophies. Europe’s prime talent factories of Ajax and Lille will be showing off their latest and greatest. PSV with Ihattaren, Malen and Sangare all looking tasty. Leverkusen are like the football equivalent of Superbad: Stocked with future superstars combining to make something special. Not to mention the four English clubs. Thursdays may not be the place to be, but they’re not a bad afterparty.

Gareth’s Lovely Headache

It turns out wondering if there will ever be a boy born who can swim faster than a shark isn’t the only thing troubling Gareths. Selecting an England squad of just 23 players from the current pool is going to be very difficult indeed. We all know there’s 57 right backs that all deserve a starting place! 

Here’s a list of names: Bellingham, Sancho, Saka, Maddison, Foden, Tomori, James, Smith-Rowe, Rashford, Greenwood, Wan-Bissaka, Lamptey, Maitland-Niles, Musiala (maybe), Dele Alli, Mount, Abraham, Trent, Curtis Jones, Joe Gomez, Barnes, Hudson-Odoi, Declan Rice, Calvert-Lewin, Phillips, Harrison and Saucy Jack. 

All English. All 25 or under. All the best, Mr Southgate.

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