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Dublin: 6°C Saturday 16 January 2021

The Sunday Papers: the best of the week’s sportswriting

Stick the phone on silent, put the kettle on and chill out with a couple of these gems from the past seven days.

Giovanni Trapattoni arrives for a press conference this week.
Giovanni Trapattoni arrives for a press conference this week.

IN NO PARTICULAR order every Sunday, we flick back through the week’s newspapers, websites, blogs and magazines to bring you the best sports writing.

1.Yeah? Really? Rooney? That makes me proud. Rooney, wow! Rooney is extraordinary, he could play for Barcelona. And before people imagine headlines like “Xavi says Rooney to join Barcelona” – although, I’d love him to! – what I mean is that he’s our kind of player. That game was wonderful, the best I’ve played. The feeling of superiority was incredible – and against Real Madrid! They didn’t touch the ball. Madre mía, what a match! In the dressing room, we gave ourselves a standing ovation.”

Sid Lowe starts a great interview with Camp Nou genius Xavi by telling him the Manchester United No 10 stood and applauded in his living room as Barca routed Real Madrid 5-0 last November. Great stuff.

2. The weekend’s summed up in one word from an Irish point of view. Phew. Should we be thankful for small mercies from Rome or quivering wrecks at the prospect of the French?”

Irish Examiner sports editor Tony Leen kicked off the paper’s new ‘Monday morning at the watercooler feature’ as he and his rugby writers digested the Six Nations’ opening weekend. The GAA chat is very good too.

3. “The phone first rang a year ago in January. The caller identified himself as Bob Rich, a billionaire American businessman and sports team owner. He had English royals among his ancestors. For Christmas, his wife had bought him the title Lord of Bedlington. And he wanted to do something, well, lordly.”

John Riordan alluded to this piece about an English non-league side’s American tycoon sponsor in his own column on TheScore during the week. The front-page New York Times piece is worth a read too.

4. “Lombardi was not solely a martinet, any more than Ferguson. The greatest of all managerial myths is the sloganeering tyrant who terrifies his players into winning or inspires them with banal exhortations. However strong the leader – and Lombardi, Matt Busby, Shankly and Ferguson were all immensely authoritative – the pact between players and manager is preserved by the latter knowing what he’s doing, and the former going along with it.”

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The Guardian’s Paul Hayward traces a line from Vince Lombardi to Alex Ferguson.

5. “How does a referee with only one Six Nations game under his belt get to be the man in the middle for Ireland’s trip to Italy last Saturday? Especially as that one game was for the same fixture in the same tournament 12 months ago. With that sort of planning you’d expect Fianna Fáil involvement, but the one consistent irritant to all who play, coach and watch the game is the scrum, the long scrums, the very long scrums, which are getting longer and longer. Now I may be wrong, but Monsieur Poite doesn’t look like he spent much time in the scrum. Indeed, I’d wager he couldn’t organise the frontrow in a team photograph – which is arguably worse than the Fianna Fáil label of not being able to organise a piss-up in a brewery. Although, to be fair, that’s probably the one area in which FF lead the way. In fact, you could say they could even organise a piss-up at a team photograph.”

Vote Poite number one, writes Risteard Cooper of Apres Match fame in the Irish Times.

6. On a bitterly cold day two years ago, Mike McCarthy pulled up to Green Bay’s Austin Straubel Airport to meet a candidate for his open defensive coordinator job. Dom Capers stood waiting with two bags. One was an overnight suitcase. The other, in McCarthy’s words, was ‘a humongous bag of books.’ ‘Let’s just say he’s old school,’ McCarthy said. Within those spiral-bound books were Capers’ football life and the symbol of everything he’s about. Some were nearly 20 years old, including the original 3-4 defensive scheme that he and longtime collaborator Dick LeBeau wrote in longhand when both were with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1992. They contain philosophical tomes, terminology and as many as 21 diagrams per page. Those who have original copies say the margins are littered with edits in LeBeau’s or Capers’ handwriting.”

ESPN profile one of the Packers more interesting staff members ahead of last week’s Super Bowl.

8. “His day consists of watching television and eating three or four meals prepared by his heart-broken wife, Valerie. She nags him to exercise, but says she gets ‘cussed out’ for it. She bugs him to take his medication but says she gets ignored over it. Her new trick, just to get him on his feet, is to tell him he has to come to the kitchen to eat his lunch. That’s her best way to get ‘The Refrigerator’ to walk near the refrigerator. Of course, then when she least expects it, her husband will hobble out the door and into his car. She knows exactly where he’s headed: to the liquor store.”

Whatever happened to William Perry? It’s not a happy ending, sadly.

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