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The Fiver | Mike Ashley and ‘dark forces’

 

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In a week when Manchester City and Chelsea exposed Qatar FC and Real Madrid as combustible nearly men and the world’s most expensive but underpowered over-35s team, you might think we’d end it talking about one of the above superpowers. But when Mike Ashley speaks The Fiver can get its job done in half the time, giving us the opportunity to hit the Tin early and wind up barfing into our fireplace in the style of everyone’s favourite “power drinker”. And so it is that Ashley has popped the noggin above his massive pile of naff trainers and Lonsdale tat to bark wildly about “dark forces” in football that have been, wait for it, preventing Newcastle from “becoming the powerhouse that the fans deserve”. Honk indeed! It’s the kind of blather you’d expect to hear from David Icke, Richard Keys or, erm, Ashley.

The Newcastle owner made the claims amid news that HMRC had discontinued a long-running investigation into alleged tax-knack at the club linked to a fraud inquiry involving Mr 15%s and transfer fees. “After four years of the club being subjected to this investigation I am pleased the criminal investigation has now been discontinued,” cheered Ashley, who didn’t go into detail about what had been holding the Magpies back prior to 2017. “It is now time for the dark forces … to step aside.”

It also emerged that Ashley has opened a can of legal whoop@ss on the Premier League, seeking damages for loss of “profit, or alternatively, opportunity” in an attempt to reverse the decision that prevented the Saudi takeover from going ahead in 2020. A deal from which he stood to trouser a shedload of cash from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, a body chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. We’re assuming Ashley hasn’t read the conclusions to that intelligence report about the prince’s own dark forces. Or perhaps he has and doesn’t give a flying one.

Ashley has been unfortunate to fall foul of the old “dark forces” before. They gave him an “unpleasant surprise” when a Big Website investigation uncovered that Sports Direct staff were effectively paid less than the minimum wage in 2016. And perhaps it was “dark forces” at work in his warehouses that led to a select committee of MPs finding that staff had been subject to “appalling working practices” and treated “as commodities rather than as human beings”. Like the little kid in The Omen, “dark forces” just follow Ashley wherever he goes. What’s the common denominator here? If only we could do the moral maths.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE!

Join Tumaini Carayol from 8pm BST for hot Premier League MBM coverage of Leicester 0-0 Newcastle.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Our supporters always want to support us” – De Graafschap suit Hans Martijn Ostendorp hails fans of the club, whose nickname is the ‘Super Farmers’, as they saw them off for potential promotion to the Eredivisie later on Friday night with a pyro-infused tractor calvalcade.

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Here’s the latest Football Weekly Extra podcast.

FIVER LETTERS

“I’ve made another wallchart to raise money for the Luton & Dunstable Hospital NICU (who cared for my daughter when she was born) – any chance you could give it a mention in The Fiver please? Since I started doing them back in World Cup 2010, we’ve raised over £28,000 for the hospital – all the info on how to order is here. Thanks so much” – Elliott Quince.

“Re: refereeing misadventures (Fiver letters passim). Before my first game for the Dutch in Hong Kong Division 3, the ref told me I couldn’t play in my glasses. I told him that I couldn’t see without them and, what’s more, I was a lot bigger than he was. We were 2-1 down at half-time, but before the start of the second half the ref, and both his linesmen, told me that if I took to the field again I would be sent off. I spent the second half on the sidelines drinking Heineken (we lost 7-1) and by the following Sunday I was ‘contact lensed’” – Richard Samwell.

“Never mind Ed Sheeran (yesterday’s Quote of the Day). Look at next season’s Harry Kane-sponsored Orient shirt! It’s got a Tommy on the front and everything. The poppy wars will be interesting next autumn” – John De la Cruz.

It’s for a good cause, to be fair.
It’s for a good cause, to be fair. Photograph: Leyton Orient FC/YouTube

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Elliott Quince.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

A number of high-profile female players in Argentina have made allegations to Fifa of bullying, misconduct and sexual harassment against a youth-team coach working for the country’s FA.

Chalk this one up for the fans.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær is preparing to anger the top four-chasing clubs by giving everyone and anyone – maybe even Donny van de Beek – a game during Manchester United’s run of four games in a week after they booked their spot in the final of Big Vase. “I’ve got to look after the players,” he blathered. “That might affect whoever gets into fourth position or the [Big Cup]. That’s not my problem.”

After a very Arsenaly exit from Big Vase semis against Villarreal, Mikel Arteta is starting to sweat. “I think everybody’s job is always under scrutiny,” he parped.

Oh Arsenal!
Oh Arsenal! Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Emma Hayes has paid tribute to Chelsea’s approach for helping her team within touching distance of WSL and Women’s Big Cup glory. “This is the most special club in the world because of both its diversity and its togetherness as a whole,” she cheered. “It’s one club. That’s just the DNA of this place – and it breeds winning.”

And Gary Lineker’s posts on Social Media Disgrace Twitter about the dismal state of politics could help him avoid a £4.9m tax bill, as part of a continuing dispute about whether he should be classed as a freelance worker for the BBC and BT Sport.

STILL WANT MORE?

Ten things to look out for in the Premier League this weekend, including a Big Cup final dress rehearsal, a bogey team and David Moyes looking to smash Everton with his Hammers.

Chelsea and Manchester City deserve their places in Big Cup final, but let’s not forget the huge amount of £££££££s that have helped them get there, writes Barney Ronay.

Even at Super Bowl-winning Tampa, the Glazers are far from loved, writes Dave Caldwell in a view from the USA! USA!! USA!!!

Max Rushden on how the intense stress of promotion and relegation has the power to make fans feel their heart beat inside their foreheads.

After that 5-4 loss at Harrogate.
After that 5-4 loss at Harrogate. Photograph: George Wood/Getty Images

Quiz! Quiz! Quiz!

Ben McAleer on the fringe players looking to squeeze into the extra places in England’s bumper Euro Not 2020 squad.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

THE MAIN STORY WASN’T WRONG. TO THE DRINKER!

Source The Guardian

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