WHAT have you all been doing with your free weekends, then?

Because of the fact that Liverpool FC absolutely shat their kecks against both Southampton and Wolves at home in the space of a few days back in January, February has been a distinctly lean month in terms of on-pitch action so far. A return to form and winning ways against Tottenham Hotspur has been followed by two empty weekends, in which our rivals were able to continue their respective marches towards domestic and European cup success, while the Reds had a nice sunny mini-break and the rest of us sat around on our arses.

So, how did you pass the time? Did you watch some of the games these competitions offer even though Liverpool aren’t involved? Did you finally have a clear out of the back room out that your wife has been moaning about since October? Did you actually go outdoors and socialise like a normal human being?

I spent a lot of time on the couch watching property programs where people decide whether or not to move to the countryside and/or abroad, to be honest. And if that’s not a sign that I need Liverpool to be back playing football, then I don’t what is.

Sutton Find a Shaw-Fire Way to Ruin Their Big Day

I’ve always found the whole “Magic of the Cup ™” spiel tedious, to be honest.

A yard-dog team from a non-descript commuter town beating a couple of League One sides and getting themselves on telly just doesn’t do it for me, really. They’re not going to win it and they’re just taking up a space that could be occupied by an actual good football team. When a part-time joiner slides in on an international winger with two feet showing, I don’t think “well in, lad, good for you.” I think, “Jesus Christ, this a fucking waste of time for all involved.”

So it was nice to see Sutton United ruin the whole thing for themselves and all other non-league clubs this week, by repeatedly sullying their reputation in pursuit of short-term monetary gain. The reaction to the club’s sponsorship with The Sun, and goalkeeper and male-model Wayne Shaw’s pie-eating publicity stunt, should hopefully ensure that no other club follows the same path in future.

What should have been an opportunity for the club to revel in a once-in-a-lifetime level of public and media interest descended into a farce of their own marking. It’s not the first time The Sun has used a lower-league side’s cup run as a marketing opportunity, and it won’t be the last, but its reputation is arguably at the most toxic level that it has been for a very long time, for reasons related to Hillsborough and also many others. In penning a contract with them, Sutton United consciously signed away their dignity and allowed themselves to be manipulated.

And then you’ve got that fat pie-eating gobshite goalkeeper. He spent the whole day relishing his role as the club’s joke figure, engineering opportunities to be photographed in ‘hilarious’ situations like hoovering the dugout, before taking part in one the most cynical publicity stunts you’re ever likely to see. But he succeeded only in breaking gambling rules and making a fool himself, all to in an attempt to earn a very small slice (wahey!) of the Murdoch pound. If the Lad Bible were a human being, it would be Wayne Shaw. He is the physical embodiment of nauseatingly cringeworthy banter.

His hijacking of the night has seen him lose his job, for which he only has himself to blame. The stupidity of both the club’s key decision makers and Shaw himself meant that what should have been the greatest night in Sutton’s history ended in embarrassment, and they lost all of the goodwill shown to them beforehand. Lincoln City beware.

Hopefully this serves as a reminder to everyone that the League Cup is a vastly superior competition to the FA Cup, because you don’t have to deal with any of this small-time nonsense served up by attention-seeking dickheads playing for teams from your places you’re not even sure exist.

In short, fuck the FA Cup, fuck that fat pie-eating gobshite, and fuck The Sun.

Cheerio, Claudio

A little under a year ago, Claudio Ranieri stood teary-eyed on the radiant King Power turf, basking in the glory of arguably the finest sporting achievement of all-time, as Pavarotti belted out ‘Nessun Dorma’ to 32,000 football supporters who couldn’t quite believe the season they had witnessed. The lives of every person associated with Leicester City, including the manager’s own, had reached their pinnacles — a state of delirious happiness that they could never have hoped to reach in their most fantastical of daydreams — and it was all down to him.

But now, after a season of poor results in the Premier League, and in spite of a good result in the first round of the Champions League knockout stages, they’ve binned him.

At first glance, it’s understandable. Champions last season, to relegation fight this? Fair enough. But then you remember that this is Leicester, and he is the greatest thing that ever happened to them, and should really have been given a lifetime contract after the joy that he gave them.

I mean, Leicester are what, about 16th or something in the Premier League? I refuse to look this information up because anything lower than seventh is an irrelevance to me and I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to know who is doing better out of Bournemouth and Middlesbrough. But, whatever the exact position, isn’t it about right for Leicester? Can they legitimately claim to be worthy of another top-half finish? Even the most deluded of Foxes fans would admit that last season’s adventure was fortuitous in the extreme, and relied heavily on the squad’s intoxicating sense of self-belief and the implosion of the more traditionally successful clubs.

The reality is that Leicester City’s status as a football club, and the quality of their playing squad, are only of a level that should be hoping to stay in the Premier League. They are no better than that. Danny Drinkwater is their best midfielder, for fuck’s sake.

After his imperious performances last season, during which I can only assume a hypnotist was hired to make him believe that he was the product of a genetic experiment using a mixture of the sperm cells of Franco Baresi, Fabio Cannavaro and Bobby Moore, Wes Morgan is now playing like the aged centre-half that he is. Jamie Vardy, meanwhile, looks like he’d be better suited going back and doing 12-hour night shifts in that carbon-fibre splint factory again, because teams have realised that not playing a high-line and giving him space to run in behind your defenders renders him less than useless.

Frankly, I was disappointed that they even bothered to turn up and compete this season. It could never, ever get any better for them. Why arse yourself enough to play games against Swansea and that when you’ve actually lifted the Premier League? Stop. Retire. Fold the club. Go out and never come home. Drink until you can drink no more. Dance until you have a coronary. Have sex and picture that big silver trophy every time you climax. Whatever you do, don’t ever play football again. It can only make things worse.

I’ve always liked Ranieri, he comes across as a lovely feller, and he’s never been abrasive with the press, even when things became difficult. I hope he tells Leicester’s owners to fuck themselves and spends the rest of his days on a yacht in the Mediterranean. As for Leicester, maybe there will be another racist orgy for them to take part in this summer and storm to the league title again in 2017-18.

Clatts (Not Quite) All, Folks!

Listen, Mark. I’m gonna level with you. I can’t do this anymore. You’re toying with my heartstrings too much. I need to know where we stand. One minute you’re giving Liverpool a trio of penalties at Old Trafford, the next you’re overseeing that Palace 3-3. One minute you’re leaving me behind to move to the Middle East, the next you’re sticking around for a few months. You’ve got my head absolutely kettled, here.

The game-playing has got to stop. Love is based on honesty and trust and I feel like I’ve been lied to. Have the last 10 years meant nothing to you, Mark? Did you not really care when you sent you sent off Tony Hibbert at Goodison Park? Was it all just an act? Did you only get my hopes up so you could crush them all these years later?

I suppose this gives us the chance for a proper goodbye, at least. One last authoritative brandishing of a yellow card. One last dodgy derby pen. One last shake of the head in the face of a nailed-on foul in the Liverpool penalty area.

Please. I need this to be able to properly let go.

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