Good morning. Here is your briefing. Let’s start with some good reads.
Louis van Gaal is in serious trouble, according to the papers. The Mirror says that he’s got one game to save his job and that game is away at Stoke on Boxing Day. The Guardian says it’s two games and he’ll be able to have a swing at Guus Hiddink’s Chelsea too. Over at the Independent, Mark Ogden suggests that the senior players have had just about enough of Van Gaal. All in all, it’s not looking good for the Dutchman.
Watford continue to rise up the Premier League table and there’s a nice look at the club behind the scenes from Rob Draper in the Mail on Sunday here.
In the Guardian, Jonathan Wilson makes the point that Pep Guardiola, who is of course leaving Bayern Munich next summer, might find it tougher in the Premier League than anyone thinks, and not just because of Watford. There’s also some nice stuff on Guardiola in the Telegraph from Ian Hawkey.
There are lots of wonderful Jimmy Hill obituaries to read and we’ll direct you to this by Paddy Collins, this by Martin Kelner and this by Martin Samuel, mainly because it drew our attention to this explosive one-on-one between Malcolm Allison and Alan Mullery, skilfully and shrewdly coordinated, of course, by Hill himself. He was one of a kind.
ON YOUR TELLY THIS WEEK (Assuming that you live in the UK)
It’s Christmaaaaaaaaaaas and therefore the football is winding down ahead of Boxing Day. TV Listings these days are for the location of Bond films and the avoidance of Mrs Brown and her assorted boys. Nevertheless, there will be some for whom an open tin of Quality Street and a night of gentle comedy holds little appeal and thus, we continue with a special TV listings.
Tonight will offer the last of the top level football before Christmas and a chance for England’s monied elite to gain ground on runaway league leaders Leicester City. Arsenal could bring themselves within two points of the Foxes, Manchester City can reduce the gap to three, but if you don’t have a dog in this fight, you’ll surely want a draw and for Claudio Ranieri to sit on a four point cushion until Boxing Day? Leicester winning the Premier League would be the greatest thing to happen to English football for years. There are 92 clubs in the top four divisions and for years they’ve been divided into two groups; a tiny, preposterously rich status quo apparently welded into position and the seething mass of everyone else. Leicester’s early success in the league feels a little too much like Flash Gordon’s early success with an improvised American football in Emperor Ming’s throne room, the heavy clang and disappointed sigh can’t be far away, but it’s wonderful to watch right now. Santa, if you’re listening, you know what to do.
There is no football on television on Tuesday.
There is no football on television on Wednesday.
If you’re starting to twitch, you can watch the Western Sydney Wanderers against Newcastle Jets in the Hyundai A League on Thursday at 8am on BT Sport 1.
There is no football on television on Friday. It’s Christmas Day. Eat some cheese.
Look, if you’re really desperate, try this. It’s a documentary on Manchester City in 1981. We had no idea of its existence and we stayed up too late watching it because we are weak of will.
BOOK OF THE WEEK
The best thing about Kindles (or similar e-reading devices) is that you can gorge yourself for less than th price of a pint. If you’ve been given one for Christmas, you should fill your boots. You can get Bill Shankly’s autobiography for £1.99, you can get Roy Keane’s new one for £1.99 you can even get a ground-breaking and much underrated bit of football fiction for £2.25 if you fancy a change of pace. (THE BACKER’S NOTE: Not this again. Seriously. Where is your pride?)
FROM OUR VAULT
In salute of Watford’s achievements this weekend, how about another look at the time they nearly went and won the bloody title. Nick Miller takes up the story here.
BEST NON-FOOTBALL THING
Go to Mars. Have a look around. Get the strangest feeling that Jawas are going to jump out at you at any moment.
If you’d like to recommend something for next Monday’s briefing, get in touch by emailing [email protected]