When the Fiver was a horrible student, one of the posters on its bedsit wall featured a shallow grave marked by a machine gun stuck in the ground with a GI’s helmet hanging off the butt. The futility of war was summed up by the plaintive accompanying slogan: “why?”. (Of course it was also summed up by the fact that millions of good men died so the Fiver could spend the best years of its life smoking weed, drinking Snakebites and listening to rubbish like Jesus Jones and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, but hey, time’s a wasting).
These days the machine gun and helmet have been replaced by a picture of the Euro Vase trophy, but the slogan remains the same: “Why?” What is the point? Who cares about a competition whose sole function is to identify and crown the 33rd best team in Europe? Apart from the Uefa suits, who today divvied the remaining 40 teams into eight groups of five that will be played out interminably, until a mere two from each group are eliminated. The remaining 24 clubs will then be joined by the eight who finish third in their Big Cup groups, which means a grand total of 4,583 matches – many of them dead rubbers – will be played out in their entirety in order to reduce the number of teams in the competition by … eight.
One of the lucky teams to go out before the round before the round before the quarter-finals will be Newcastle, who were drawn in the same group as Fenerbahce (H), Palermo (A), Celta Vigo (H) and Eintracht Frankfurt (A). “Newcastle haven’t won anything for 40, 50 years and any trophy will do,” aye-ayed Newcastle’s Scouse coach Terry McDermott (above). “These fans have been starved of success over the years and if any fans deserve a trophy it’s these Newcastle fans because they are the best,” he continued, eyeing up some braying Geordies who certainly hadn’t been starved of brown ale or pies.
It would seem that paying very close attention to the injury news surrounding the Scottish Second Division can be very lucrative.