SHAKE IT OFF
“Mr Topsy Turvy was a funny sort of a fellow. Everything about him was either upside down, or inside out, or back to front – topsy turvy in fact. It was all very extraordinary!”
So begins Roger Hargreaves’ children’s classic. Mr Topsy Turvy causes consternation wherever he goes. He walks into a hotel. “I’d room a like!” he announces. You see, Mr Topsy Turvy sometimes gets things the wrong way round. He turns all the paintings in a gallery upside down. He goes to a shop, demands “a sock of pairs” and then puts them on his hands. He marches down an up escalator, causing everyone else to fall down it, all over themselves, into a great bundle of bruised humanity. “It was a terrible topsy turvy jumble!” The book was published in 1972, since when the children of Britain have thankfully, in their formative years, learned about the terrible dangers of doing things the wrong way round. Nobody wants to cause a terrible topsy turvy jumble, after all. But, it seems, some people might need an occasional reminder.
And so to St George’s Park, scene on Monday of what the FA called “a disturbance in a private team area” involving Joe Gomez and Raheem Sterling, as a result of which the Manchester City forward will play no part in England’s game against Montenegro. One report suggests Gomez “offered a handshake from behind leading to a verbal altercation”. Who offers a handshake from behind? Being in front of the intended handshakee is an important, some would say intrinsic, part of the offering.
Gomez has gone full Topsy Turvy here, with inevitable consequences. A handshake from behind isn’t a greeting. In some cultures the handshake has been replaced in recent years by the fist bump, which is an even clearer example. In fact, every popular non-verbal form of greeting The Fiver can think of becomes, at best, extremely suspicious when you attempt to do it to someone from behind – most remarkably that French favourite, the kiss on both cheeks.
So Gomez offers Sterling a handshake from behind, and what happens? A terrible topsy turvy jumble, that’s what. Sterling is reported to have asked Gomez if he was “still the big man” – possibly confusing him with another Hargreaves character, Mr Tall – before a brief tussle broke out. “It was a 5-10 second thing, it’s done, we move forward,” said Sterling, in a statement issued on Instachat a little later. It was no big thing. Another thing that isn’t big is the superficial scratch that recently appeared on Gomez’s cheek. Perhaps the FA will look at all this rumpus and consider that it might have waited a little before issuing sanctions and statements. Rio Ferdinand suggests it “could and should have been handled better to support the player and not hang him out to dry”, and maybe when the dust settles Gomez isn’t the only one who will look back at the incident and conclude they got things the wrong way round.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Things happen. [Knack] and other things happen … behind the scenes … and your head’s not quite there. You’re still trying to do your best but things are not quite right and it’s an awful place to be. That was what it was like last season” – Kieran Trippier gets his chat on with Sid Lowe about what went wrong at Tottenham, his Atlético Madrid nickname and missing the darts.
Football Weekly is right here.
Tickets are still available for the Football Weekly Christmas Special [on 27 November! – Fiver Grinch Ed], live in London. Get them here.
“Have Jo Swinson and the Lib Dems been taking their lead from The Fiver?” – Jack Mignall.
“Tired of the confusion and cliches around handballs in football, I decided maybe it’s time to follow a sport where handballs are not an issue: handball. Not familiar with the sport, I decided to look up the most current tournament, which led me to the European Handball Federation’s Big Cup site. To my dismay, I realised that sometimes there’s simply no escaping cliches: Barcelona are leading PSG in their group. With more than a little hand-wringing, I decided to get back to reading the football news” – Peter Oh.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’the day is … Jack Mignall, who bags a copy of The Pride of the Lionesses. We’ve got more prizes to give away, so get scribbling.
BIG PHIL’S BIG EVOLUTION
7 October: “The performances over the last two games in my opinion have been outstanding. I’m pleased with the players, I’m pleased with the spirit, I’m pleased with the direction that we’re going.”
11 November: “For me, it is enough. I can’t accept it anymore. If we continue on this journey people will suffer. I’ll suffer, players will suffer and women’s football will suffer.”
8 October: “You wanted me sacked didn’t you? That’s what you put in your article the other day, you wanted me sacked. Yes you did, I read it. I read it.”
11 November: “I realise fully the criticism going my way is probably only half of what it should be, one win in seven games is without doubt unacceptable.”
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Cardiff City say they want a “younger and offensive type of manager” to replace Neil Warnock, who was mutually consented through the door marked Do One late on Monday. Calls have duly been made to Neil Harris and Lee Bowyer, apparently.
Is Virgil van Dijk getting carried away with Liverpool’s commanding Premier League lead? No chance. “There are so many difficult teams to beat in the league, so many difficult grounds to go to,” he droned, in quotes so dull we can only apologise for republishing them.
Steve Clarke may have to turn to Shortbread McFiver as left-back for the meaningless Euro 2020 qualifiers with Cyprus and Kazakhstan after Andy Robertson joined Kieran Tierney and Ryan Fraser in dropping out of the Scotland squad.
Everton say Moise Kean was ditched from their squad for Saturday’s win at Southampton after rocking up late to a team meeting for a second time.
And perhaps after watching replays of various opinions of VAR and waiting an inordinate amount of time before arriving at his judgment, Neil Swarbrick has emerged from his Stockley Park bunker to rate the system as “about seven-ish” out of 10. “In two years’ time I’m hoping for maybe an eight and a half or nine,” he Mike Skinnered.
STILL WANT MORE?
Barney Ronay invokes books from the Bible in wondering whether Pep Guardiola is approaching his endgame at Manchester City.
Sterling v Gomez has plenty of precedent: here are some of the more memorable inter-squad tear-ups at international level.
Gareth Southgate has handled the Sterling v Gomez stramash pretty well, but would he drop his best player for a big World Cup tie, asks Paul Wilson.
VAR, and the debates thereon: as bad as Brexit? Richard Williams calls for a pause to reconsider.
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!