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Overcoming addiction to reach the top again, Ireland's rebel without a pause and the week's best sportswriting

It’s Sunday morning and you know what that means….. stick the kettle on and feast your eyes on some brilliant long reads.

1. “‘Everything changed in a second,’ George Graham says as he remembers the sweetest moment of his life bursting into life at Anfield on a Friday night in May 1989. Twenty-eight years later, on a November morning in a brasserie on Hampstead High Street, Graham’s bacon sandwich lies half-eaten on his plate amid flickering memories of the goal Michael Thomas scored for Arsenal in the last minute of the final match of the 1988-89 season.”

That night the destiny of the title changed in the dying seconds of the season, by Donald McRae for The Guardian.

2. “Think about those guys in relation to the appointment of David Moyes (54) at West Ham United and the interest Everton reportedly hold in appointing Sam Allardyce (63) to their vacant post. Both managers are the logical step in terms of an experienced, safe pair of hands who would be expected to guide these teams to safety from the financial perils of relegation.

David Moyes Unveiling - London Stadium

The go-to argument is that they know the league but looking at the incumbents of the top five only Pochettino had previous Premier League experience, with Southampton, before being appointed at Spurs, while Mourinho first went to Chelsea from Porto. Pochettino’s arrival at St Mary’s in 2013 had experts and pundits ridiculing the club’s board for taking the decision to bring him from Espanyol and placing faith in the fundamental footballing principles that are the basis of his style of play.”

Safety-first managers will leave Premier League on the hard shoulder: Liam Rosenoir for The Guardian

3. “Redskins practice is over, and Josh Norman plays me a pass. I’m wearing loafers, but I do my best to trap the ball and send it back to the league’s highest-paid defensive back.

“I like soccer,” I tell Norman.

“Oh, I couldn’t tell,” Norman said.

This is a story about the strongest bond in football: Josh Norman and his soccer ball. He brings it basically everywhere he goes. When he’s training, he always has it. When he’s with teammates, he’s passing it to them. “And when I’m around the house,” Norman said, “I’m kicking it against a wall.”

How one Pro Bowl cornerback fell for the Beautiful Game, on The Ringer this week.

4. “Twenty years ago this week, one of pro wrestling’s central tenets — that it’s all scripted — was famously and fabulously ripped to shreds. The result was the strangest and realest and most controversial event in the industry’s history, one that occurred live on air, square in the middle of the ring. It culminated off-camera backstage with a wrestler blacking the eye of the company’s owner with a legitimate punch, which came after the same wrestler had hocked a loogie into said owner’s eye at ringside on camera, which was just before the wrestler threw a tantrum that included thrashing a set of video monitors used by the TV announcers. Two decades on, it is still held up as the ne plus ultra example of reality ripping pro wrestler’s theater asunder. It might be the most famous finish a match has ever had.”


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Sports Illustrated’s Dan Greene takes a look back through the years at the ‘Montreal Screwjob’.

5. “With the exception of his 2012 rookie year, the 26-year-old Gordon has missed some or all of every season of his professional football career because of struggles with substance abuse. He has not played a regular season football game since December 2014, absent for 51 of his team’s last 56 games, and spending more than 100 of those 1,052 missed days in rehab. When he did play, he was exceptional, recording a league-best 1,646 yards in 2013 (and doing it in just fourteen games).

Last week, he came to New York for his reinstatement hearings, trying once again to convince league executives that he had a handle on his sobriety. And it worked.”

Josh Gordon on addiction and his NFL comeback for GQ 

6. “The common portrayal of Premier League footballers is of spoilt young princelings, rewarded with life-changing wealth before they’ve hardly kicked a football, and cut off from the supporters on the terraces. It has never been that simple.

A view of James McClean's tattooed leg Source: James Crombie/INPHO

For McClean that connection with the crowd is everything: it’s the fuel for his game. And it can’t be easy, when November comes around, for McClean to stand steadfastly apart regardless of the booing, the jeering, the missiles and the wilful depiction of his presence as a wilful insult to England’s war dead.

Everyone knows that the vast majority of English people have no interest in, let alone antipathy towards, Irish people or the Troubles in Northern Ireland. That is why it is so easy to reduce McClean’s position to that of insult.”

‘Rebel without a pause: the relentless James McClean,’ writes Keith Duggan for The Irish Times

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