Good morning. Here is your Monday briefing. Let’s start with the news.
There’s a slight difference of opinion between the Mirror and the Times today. The former says that ‘to a man,’ the French players have decided to go ahead with Tuesday’s game against England. The latter claims that the French players are in a state of shock and are unhappy that they were told to play by French federation chief.
Cesc Fabregas is keeping his chin up as Chelsea’s miserable campaign worsens with every passing week. “The season is fucked!” he wailed.
Paul Lambert is back in football. The former Norwich and Aston Villa manager is the new boss at Blackburn Rovers. All the best of luck, Paul. You’ll certainly need it.
Hungary are the first team to qualify for the 2016 European Championships through the play-offs. They saw off Norway to reach their first tournament since 1986.
The curtain fell on the career of Real Madrid legend Raul this weekend. He signed off in style, winning the NASL title with New York Cosmos. You can read all about that in the Daily Mail.
ON YOUR TELLY THIS WEEK
We’re only in the middle of this international break, I’m afraid, but the bright lights of top level club football beckon, so take my hand and I’ll try to make this quick. Will we see Ireland reach the European Championships tonight? Will we see Ireland at all, given that we didn’t see much of them in the fog that swallowed up the first leg of this tie? Find out on Sky Sports 1. And if you’d like a little hors d’oeuvre before that, you can take in Gareth Southgate’s England U21s against their Swiss counterparts. That’s on BT Sport 2 at 1745.
The last two play-off ties will conclude on Tuesday, so take your pick from Denmark vs Sweden, where Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s penalty gives them the edge over Morten Olsen’s Danes, or Slovenia vs Ukraine where Andriy Yarmolenko inspired his side to a 2-0 first leg win at the weekend. Those games are on Sky Sports 1 and 4, respectively. Germany vs Holland is on BT Sport Europe and England’s game with France is still on ITV because fuck you, ISIS.
There are second legs of the Women’s Champions League on Eurosport on Wednesday, including Chelsea against Wolfsburg and you can see Bradford’s FA Cup replay with Aldershot on BT Sport 2.
If you’ve got BT Sport 2, you can watch Maidenhead vs Port Vale on Thursday. If you haven’t, I think you’ll be okay.
Ah, there we go. Game of the night on Friday is probably the surprisingly competent Hamburg against the they-would-be-runaway-leaders-in-a-normal-league Borussia Dortmund. That’s on BT Sport 1. Middlesbrough got gubbed by promotion rivals Hull City before the international break. Can they get back on track against mad old Queens Park Rangers? Find out on Sky Sports 1. If neither of those appeal, try Nice vs resurgent Lyon on BT Sport Europe.
Full TV listings can be found over here on the Live Football on TV page.
GO TO A GAME
We wanted to make Oldham’s FA Cup replay with Mansfield on Tuesday night our special game of the week, but we ran into some problems. There are no details of the fixture on their website at all, no ticket prices, no nothing. We did try to make contact with Oldham through Twitter, but to no avail. We’re reliably informed that it’s *not* a sell out, so if you do fancy watching a proper game, give it a go. We’re not angry with Oldham though. How could we be angry? Look at their badge. Tell me that this owl isn’t a bit sexy.
I would. I totally would.
BOOK OF THE WEEK
When football books are described as ‘warts and all’ nowadays, we generally mean that they contain long, painful passages beautifully rendered by exceptional ghostwriters. By that rationale, David Farrell’s autobiography is not warts and all. It’s all warts. It is terse and aggressive, it’s brutal and it’s honest. Most footballer autobiographies now are little more than polished business cards from those hopeful for a media career. Farrell’s is a brick through your kitchen window. It’s refreshing to find a footballer unafraid to have a swing at his contemporaries, but ‘Taxi for Farrell’ is far more than a score settling exercise. It’s an excellent insight into the mentality of a footballer who perhaps lacked technical brilliance, but made up for it with intelligence, guile and gigantic, swinging testicles.
FROM OUR VAULT
One of the first articles on the site was this wonderful long read on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s short reign at Cardiff City by Lars Siversten. It’s a monster, so save yourself some time for it at lunch.
BEST NON-FOOTBALL THING
For all the great leaps in mobile technology, there is still a lack of stupid two player games that require one phone and no internet connection. Behold, Battle Golf. The kind of thing you can lay on a train table and play when you’re stopped outside Euston for no discernible reason. My wife and I played it at a bus stop, for our marriage is as hot as a new born star, and we didn’t notice our bus driving past. Click for angle, click for aim, try to either put the ball in the hole or concuss your opponent with it. And it’s free (with ads).
If you’d like to recommend something for next Monday’s briefing, (particularly a non-football thing, we struggled again this week) get in touch by emailing [email protected]