The world of football is just trolling the Fiver now. Yesterday afternoon, Gareth Southgate announced the England squad for Euro 2020 at 5pm, and didn’t even start talking about it until six. And then, six minutes later, as readers and Fiver alike wondered why on earth they ever bother, our triple-whammy of news-gathering haplessness was complete, as one of the biggest clubs in the country found themselves suddenly managerless! Carlo Ancelotti had grabbed his first chance of an out with both hands, telling Everton to do one, then waltzing off up Goodison Road, whistling, aware that he was probably heading in the wrong direction for Madrid, but never mind, getting away is the most important bit right now, he can recalibrate later, once he’s well clear.
To be fair, exactly how much the Fiver lost yesterday as a result of its Fiveishness is a moot point. Southgate said nothing of import, never does, while the players took turns to send out a series of tweets – “My pride at pulling on the shirt is limitless”, “Let’s make this summer special”, “Always believe in yourself, silence the doubters” – that suggest post-career gigs copywriting for apparel manufacturers are not beyond them. England play Austria tonight in a friendly at Southgate’s alma mater, the Riverside, a match in which Jesse Lingard, standing in for the absent Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United contingent, is almost certainly going to score a hat-trick, on account of not having made the final 26. You know how these things work.
Having said that, there’s a fair chance Austria could record only their second win on English soil, having won eight of their last 10 friendlies. If they manage it, at least all of their efforts will be televised this time; back in 1965, Toni Fritsch’s 81st-minute winner at Wembley remained on the ITV cutting-room floor, the match highlights instead climaxing with a jump cut to a belting rendition of the national anthem. What a glorious nation!
So with everyone waiting patiently for England’s first pre-tournament test, the Fiver is pretty confident that it won’t be caught with its trousers down tonight. Unless Everton spring a presser at 5.03pm to announce a dream ticket of Rafa Benítez and Steven Gerrard, in which case we’ll tell you all about that tomorrow at 5pm, along with more on this break-in at the Democratic National Committee HQ in Washington DC, though to be frank we’re not sure that particular story has legs.