One ridiculous question asked of Gareth Southgate ensures Harry Maguire dominates the back page, even amid a Manchester United coaching blow.
Spill the guarantee
It is March 31. The first game of the World Cup is scheduled for November 21. There are 235 days in the interim, during which any number of things can happen. Yet Gareth Southgate still has to field questions about whether any of his England players are guaranteed to start at a tournament that is still eight months away.
That does, at least, give us some stories that strive to pretend their very basis is not preposterous.
The Daily Mirror go for ‘Harry Maguire offered no England World Cup guarantees despite Gareth Southgate support’ as the headline to a John Cross piece, which adds that: ‘Gareth Southgate has given his full support to Harry Maguire – but warned he cannot guarantee him a World Cup place.’
Well yes. That is not a ‘warning’. It is a statement of obvious fact.
‘But even though Southgate was keen to stress his support, there was still an underlying message that every player must earn their place in the squad.’
That ‘underlying message’ from Southgate?
“I’m not going to give any of them that because they’ve got competition for places. I’m not going to say to anybody in the middle of March that they are a guaranteed starter in the World Cup team.”
It really is hiding between the lines.
Over at the MailOnline, their Caps Lock remains in good nick.
‘Gareth Southgate WON’T give Harry Maguire assurances over a spot in England’s World Cup starting XI… with the Three Lions boss keen to harness ‘competition for places’ ahead of Qatar’
Again: obviously. This is all very evident stuff packaged as groundbreaking news. Of course he WON’T give Harry Maguire assurances over a spot in England’s World Cup starting XI. He won’t – sorry, WON’T – give anyone assurances over a spot in England’s World Cup starting XI. That would be bizarre.
And then there’s the Daily Express website, who heard Southgate’s answer to a question about whether Maguire would be in the starting XI in Qatar, but seemingly lost something in translation.
‘Gareth Southgate refuses to guarantee Harry Maguire will be in England’s World Cup squad’
Perhaps the sarcastic sod won’t be on the plane after all.
Just for a second imagine how absurd and farcical it would have been for Southgate to say, “Actually, yeah, Harry is definitely in the squad and will start the first game at the World Cup, no matter what”. No manager has ever promised to select a player eight months out from an international tournament. But back pages need to be compiled during a break in the Premier League season.
‘More heat’ on Maguire? More unhelpful bollocks from the press, more like.
There is more than a little artistic license used by The Sun website in their coverage of Ruud van Nistelrooy’s appointment as PSV manager this summer. Just take a look at the headline to Jake Lambourne’s article:
‘Van Nistelrooy confirmed as PSV head coach and ruled out of running for Utd job’
Now to be ‘ruled out of running for Utd job’, one must have been in the running at some point to begin with. And Mediawatch has seen nary a mention of Van Nistelrooy alongside Erik ten Hag and Mauricio Pochettino. Mainly because that would be ludicrous.
But a click and a few paragraphs later, the situation becomes a little clearer:
‘Recent reports suggested that Van Nistelrooy could have been heading back to Old Trafford – 16 years after departing for Real Madrid.
‘It had been claimed that United’s potential next manager Erik ten Hag wants a Dutch coach with United connections to work with him at the Theatre of Dreams.
‘And it was said that Robin van Persie, Jaap Stam and Van Nistelrooy were being considered by Ten Hag.’
Those ‘recent reports’ emanated more than a week ago from Paul Hirst of The Times, whose only three lines possibly pertaining to the above read as follows:
‘It is also likely that he would bring in a Dutch coach who has a bond with United.
‘That will inevitably bring links to Robin van Persie, who played for United from 2012 to 2015 and is represented by the same agent as Ten Hag.
‘Other potential candidates could include Jaap Stam, the former United defender and Ruud van Nistelrooy, the former United striker.’
So Ten Hag, not currently the Manchester United manager, would ‘likely’ want to bring a Dutch coach with club connections on board, and Van Nistelrooy ‘could’ have been a ‘potential candidate’. It was hardly concrete. But now he is ‘ruled out of running for Utd job’ (which isn’t the Utd job the headline implies).
Cool hand spook
On Wednesday, Luis Suarez scored in a 2-0 win over Chile that secured Uruguay a place at the World Cup. The Atletico Madrid striker scored three goals in his country’s last four qualifiers to help them to Qatar, playing a predictably key role.
It turns out that Suarez himself foresaw such a scenario in November, as shared by his agent.
| Luis Suárez’s agent after Uruguay played 5 games, lost 4 and drew 1: “Your son is close to not going to a World Cup.”
| Luis Suárez: “No, because we’re entering the Suarez Zone. Calm down.”
Suárez went on to score 3 goals in 4 games to send Uruguay to the World Cup. pic.twitter.com/3ZFKo8V4mw
— Atletico Universe (@atletiuniverse) March 30, 2022
The Sun website revels in this development, describing it as ‘spooky’ in their headline and saying the forward ‘eerily predicted’ what would happen.
Very good footballer backs himself to be very good at football. How ‘spooky’. How ‘eery’. Just like any reference to yourself in the third person.
Thunder only happens when it’s raining
‘Sadio Mane insists he was just ‘luckier’ to beat Liverpool team-mate Mo Salah AGAIN after helping Senegal to overcome Egypt in both the Africa Cup of Nations final and to a place at the World Cup – as he insists it’s a ‘dream’ to qualify’ – MailOnline.
Someone get them a thesaurus. Especially for that last one. The dictionary definition of ‘insist’ is to ‘demand something forcefully, not accepting refusal’. Mediawatch is entertained by the idea that Mane kicked off and got physical when someone suggested World Cup qualification was meaningless.
David Maddock of the Daily Mirror is not alone in expressing the sentiment at the end of this paragraph:
‘Salah makes no secret of his desire to win the Ballon d’Or, his seventh place finish last year behind the undeserving Lionel Messi not just a personal insult, but almost an expression of football’s inherent racism against the African continent.’
It is absolutely something worth exploring and highlighting. But you can’t add this to back up the argument…
‘And he knows without a World Cup to base next year’s challenge on, he will have to do something remarkable to break the glass ceiling which has stopped any African player in history from reaching the number one spot.’
…when it specifically isn’t true. Poor George Weah.
On the subject of Mo Salah, the Liverpool Echo has a quite incredible scoop:
‘What Mohamed Salah told Egypt squad about his future after World Cup heartbreak’
Click, click, click.
‘Mohamed Salah has appeared to provide a hint over his future with the Egypt national team.’
‘In quotes sent to the ECHO by Egyptian journalist Ismael Mahmoud, Salah has appeared to hint at his days on the international stage possibly coming to an end in the future. However, the quotes do not provide a clear indication either way.
‘”I am honoured that I played with you and I am very proud to play with you, whether I am with you or not in the future,” said Salah, to his Egypt team-mates after Tuesday’s World Cup exit.’
Good lord. So the Echo tease an update from Salah on his future, except there are two problems: 1) It’s nothing to do with his Liverpool future, which is why most readers of a Liverpool-based website would have been tempting to read, and 2) ‘the quotes do not provide a clear indication either way’.
Other than that, spot on.
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