WSL: Hearty congratulations to the Guardian’s brilliant Women’s Football Correspondent, Suzy Wrack, who won the Vikki Orvice award for New Women’s Sports Writing this week for her book A Woman’s Game: The Rise, Fall and Rise Again of Women’s Football.
When she’s not cranking out award-winning tomes, Suzy can sometimes be found loitering in the Hertfordshire countryside, specifically on Arsenal’s London Colney training ground. She recently went there to hurl interrogatory projectiles at the team’s assistant coach Kelly Smith for a wide-ranging interview on the subject of this year’s title race, among other things.
More on the Ivan Toney findings. “Ivan Toney repeatedly bet on matches involving his own team and would have received a ban of longer than eight months had he not been diagnosed with a gambling addiction, the written reasons of his case, published by the Football Association, have shown. Read on …
WSL: Marc Skinner wants his Manchester United players to focus on the task at hand while he keeps an ear on results elsewhere as the Women’s Super League title race goes to the final day of the season tomorrow afternoon.
United travel to Liverpool trailing league leaders Chelsea by two points, with Emma Hayes’s side taking on rock-bottom Reading, who need to win to avoid relegation from the top flight. Skinner’s side are already guaranteed their highest-ever league finish five years after reforming but must win on Merseyside to give themselves any chance of denying Chelsea a fourth straight league title.
“All we can do is try to win the game,” he said. “Should it need different connotations, we’ve got to be ready to adapt to that but we’ve got to try and win the game. We have to keep tabs on Reading-Chelsea. I don’t think we’re going to listen to it with that much intent but we’ll have an understanding of the scoreline.
“It will be more comms in the ear, not watching the game. It will be a tough ask for Reading, Chelsea have been excellent this season, but we can all hope. We need two great swings to go for us.” Should Chelsea draw with Reading, Manchester United could still win the title but would have to beat Liverpool by six goals.
Newcastle United: Eddie Howe says his team “massively over-achieved” by securing Champions League football this season. Newcastle guaranteed themselves a top-four Premier League finish with Monday night’s 0-0 draw with Leicester and will return to the biggest European stage after an absence of two decades.
Asked about dealing with the expectation they have created, Howe said: “Ask me in a few months. I don’t know if it’s something you look forward to, but the dynamic will have changed for us. I think we have massively over-achieved this year for where we were at the start of the season and to keep over-achieving – and that’s what we’re going to have to do to match the expectation – is going to be our biggest challenge.”
Newcastle bring the curtain down on their season with a trip to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea, who have not massively over-achieved this season, to say the least.
Toney also bet on his own team to lose
It has also been revealed that back in 2017, Toney bet on the team he was with at the time to lose on a number of occasions but only in games in which he was not part of the squad and therefore could not negatively impact the games in question. If nothing else and with no pun intended, the striker clearly backs himself. Brentford have received and accepted the written reasons outlined by the Independent Regulatory Commision and we’ll bring you more details as we get them.
Ivan Toney was betting on himself to score
The full findings of the investigation into the Brentford striker’s gambling have been published and reveal that Toney bet on himself to score on 15 occasions before it was common knowledge that he would be playing in the games concerned.
Toney received an eight-month ban but apparently got lucky. The independent regulatory commision who conducted the investigation on behalf of the FA say he would have got a a 15-month ban but for the mitigating factors of his guilty plea, his youth at the time of his rule-breaking, his “genuine remorse” and the fact he has been diagnosed with a gambling addiction.
“The position appears to be that Mr Toney has ceased gambling on football although he still gambles on other sports and casino games,” says the report. “He is determined to address his gambling problem with therapy at the conclusion of the season.” Good luck to him as he takes his first steps on the road to recovery.
Liverpool: Following Manchester United’s win over Chelsea last night, Mo Salah took to Twitter, as they say, to say how “devastated” he is by Liverpool’s failure to qualify for the Champions League, adding there is absolutely “no excuse” for the team’s failure to finish in the top four. “We had everything we needed to make it to next year’s Champions League and we failed,” he wrote. “We are Liverpool and qualifying to the competition is the bare minimum. I am sorry but it’s too soon for an uplifting or optimistic post. We let you and ourselves down.”
Asked for his reaction to Salah’s tweet, Jurgen Klopp said he had read it but was “a bit worried about the headlines” journalists create from things he says. “Do me a favour and do your best,” he said. “When it’s a fact that you can’t qualify for the Champions League anymore … look, even I knew after the last game that [Newcastle and Manchester United] need one point, for me it was clear they would get that point.
“In the world of social media so many bad things happen constantly and I don’t think that was one of them. It was just a normal description of his situation, of his feelings. In that moment after the game it’s not a time to send optimistic messages, maybe an hour later or a day later. I saw Mo in the canteen just now and he was smiling. I don’t know for what reason, I didn’t ask him but he was not in a bad mood.”
Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp is currently talking to the ladies and gentlemen of the Fourth Estate and has just said Liverpool’s final game of the season against Southampton on the south coast is strange because there is nothing at stake for either team. Following Manchester United’s win over Chelsaea last night, Liverpool cannot now qualify for the Champions League and Southampton are already relegated.
“I’m not used to games on the last matchday where everything is sorted before. I can’t remember when that last time was the case. We only play this game to win the game and we have to make sure that I find a lineup with good legs, a lot of desire and we have to see … we will not take any risks with players. That makes no sense. We have a big group, training was really good and the boys were really into it. I have not made any decisions yet because I didn’t see the doc yet but I will have a conversation with him and we will see who is contention.”
Brighton: With qualification for the Europa League secured, Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi has said he will need to add bodies to his squad, especially if in-demand pair Moises Caicedo and Alexis Mac Allister are sold during the summer. He has, however, said he won’t be bringing in too many new players.
“Monday starts the toughest period in my season because without football it is difficult,” he said ahead of his side’s trip to Aston Villa. “I am looking forward to starting the next pre-season. I think we have to work in this holiday because we have to build a new squad to prepare for the new season. I think we don’t need so many players. We have to understand if Caicedo, Mac Allister [are sold] – I don’t know which players can leave – then we have to bring very good players because next season will be tougher than this one.
On the subject of what kind of money he’ll be given to spend by club owner Tony Bloom, De Zerbi displayed a poker-face that would have been the envy of his poker-playing boss. “I can speak only about the characteristics, the quality of players,” he said. “Money is not my job. For sure I can tell you we have to have a stronger squad, a bigger squad because we will play in four competitions. And we have to be ready to compete in our way in these four competitions because we arrived with 14, 15 players in the crucial part of the season.
“The next year will be tougher because in the history of the Premier League it can happen that clubs achieve Europa League and the next year you have to fight to avoid relegation.”
The weekend starts here …
Or it started last night, for the purposes of this rolling conveyor belt of piping hot football news. Playing out the game in hand they had over the Premier League’s 18 other teams, Manchester United heaped more misery on Chelsea as they subjected them to a fairly comprehensive hiding at Old Trafford, securing their place in next season’s Champions League in the process. United hosted Fulham in the Premier League’s final round of fixtures on Sunday, while Chelsea’s last chance to salvage some small sliver of dignity from a disastrous campaign presents itself in a game against high-flying Newcastle at Stamford Bridge.
There’s plenty of more important taking place over the weekend, with the top flight relegation battle to be fought to its conclusion and the denouement of the Women’s Super League taking place, while three EFL playoff finals will also be decided.
One of Luton Town or Coventry City will earn promotion to the Premier League tomorrow evening, an outcome not even the most prescient of sooth-sayers could have foreseen at the start of the season. Elsewhere, the final round of fixtures will be played out in the Scottish Premiership and a win at home to Mainz will see Jude Bellingham’s Borussia Dortmund beat Bayern Munich to the Bundesliga title. There’ll be no shortage of pre-weekend news and chat to stay across so we’ll keep you up to date with all the news as it comes rolling in.