THE FIVE-DOLLAR BILL REPORTS …
The Fiver is of course your natural one-stop shop for all things gridiron, and so we report that Matt Rhule of the Carolina Panthers has become the first NFL coach to lose his job this season. To be honest, the news didn’t come as too much of a surprise: the Panthers had lost 27 of 38 games played under Rhule’s yoke, ending last season on a seven-game losing streak, then starting this one with four defeats out of five. After Sunday’s latest pounding, at the merciless hands of the 49ers, the few fans who still bother to travel from miles around the Carolinas booed and called for Rhule to bhugger off – and when catcalls echoing around half-populated stadiums start to get louder than the ringing of tills in concession stands, billionaire owners tend to sit up and take notice. So Rhule was sent bouncing down Interstate 85 on the well-upholstered seat of his pants (and that’s not a sizeist quip, he’s got a guaranteed $62m contract stuffed in his back pocket).
Aston Villa, then, and The Fiver couldn’t help thinking of Rhule while watching them limply prod at Nottingham Forest on Monday night. The primary reason for Rhule’s struggles with the Panthers was an offence impotent beyond Viagra, statistically one of the worst in the NFL since his arrival, not least because his quarterback of choice kept giving the ball to the other team. As we watched John McGinn launch himself at a diving header in a manner which reminded us of the time we surreptitiously flytipped a roll of carpet out of the back of a van trundling as quietly as possible down a dark country lane, and witnessed playmaker supreme Philippe Coutinho sling the ball around in a style that would make Baker Mayfield look like Tom Brady, our mind began to wander. Oh Stevie! There’ll be no guaranteed $62m (£62m) pay-off for you!
Villa’s statistics don’t make good reading for Gerrard, who is suddenly on the hot seat. They’ve won just two games so far this season, their meagre haul of nine points even worse than Liverpool’s, and they’ve only scored seven goals, the second-lowest total in the league. This time last year, Dean Smith’s side had amassed one more win, one more point and six more goals than Gerrard’s current shower, and Smith would cop the sack two games down the line. Perhaps most damningly of all, Gerrard’s current win ratio as Villa boss is nearly 10% worse than Steve Bruce’s. We’ll just leave that hanging at the end of the paragraph.
Ten per cent worse than Steve Bruce, though! No wonder Villa’s fans booed Gerrard’s side off at the City Ground, shades of the Panthers faithful after that 49ers debacle, a worrying sign if you’re following the Rule of Rhule. And no wonder that Gerrard betrayed a little desperation in his post-match presser, admitting: “I need these players to step up and provide big moments and go and be headline writers.” The Fiver has no idea of their sub-editing skills, but we’re pretty sure they could lay out a P45 for him pretty darn quick.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“The aim of the trial, the first globally of this nature, would be to explore whether [their] use improves participant behaviour, while providing additional safety for match officials in the adult grassroots game” – in the latest dismal note of where we all are, an FA spokesperson confirms that it is planning to help referees by rolling out the use of bodycams in men’s football. Grown adult men’s football.
All around the world, you’ve gotta spread the word, tell them what you heard … it’s David Squires on Arsenal (and plenty more). You can also get your own copy here.
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“All of the recent references to the old Fiver Wiki contain links to extremely old web pages. Full of out-of-date references and poor attempts at humour that barely make any sense anymore, The Fiver is an email sent by the Guardian every weekday afternoon” – Mike Slattery.
“Having unsuccessfully managed Birmingham City, Aston Villa and West Brom, surely Steve Bruce must be given the opportunity to fail at Wolves. It’s much too soon to quit now” – Gordon Dent.
“Thanks for reminding me of my teaching days with the references to two Roald Dahl stories (Fiver passim). Many happy hours (for me anyway – not so sure about the students) were spent on those stories. Perhaps readers might come up with a suggestion inspired by The Man from the South, another Dahl classic. It features a gambler who accepts his winnings in chopped-off fingers. Any footballers or managers come to mind?” – Anna Gray.
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 … Anna Gray.