The 31/7 email logotype in purple and orange

It's the final round of WSL fixtures until 2024. Heck! For some teams, it didn't go exactly as planned, and now they'll have to wait until January 21st to fix it 🤬 👊🏼 These days fan expectations of their favourite teams and their favourite players can be a bit INSANE and that's what I've been thinking about in this latest edition of 31/7.

As ever I invite you to pass on this email to a pal who might enjoy it and if you're a friend of the legend who has forwarded me on, then you can sign up for more of this good stuff by clicking on the Goat of Gratitude here > 🐐 < or visiting

I hope you have a fantastic week.

Alessia is really sorry

This week, Alessia Russo showed just how easy it is to pander to an angry mob after Arsenal lost their first ever north London derby and endangered their shot at the Women’s Super League title in one go.

“Taken a bit of time to reflect on Saturday, which was a frustrating end to a really positive 2023,” she wrote, and I licked my lips. Here comes some juicy remorse, a little beating-yourself-up and soul-searching.

She continued: “Loving life in N5, thank you for all your support Gooners, you are the best.” Heart emoji. End message.

And just like that, the great stroppy masses, foaming at the mouth for some explanation as to how this terrible crime could have been committed, were satisfied. And thank goodness, cuz Russo needs those Gooners’ luv bad after turning her back on her own when she left Man Utd this summer.
Earlier this month, Russo spoke about the difficulty of leaving behind good pals in Manchester to seek her fortunes in London. Initially, it didn’t prove a worthy sacrifice as Arsenal were knocked out of the Champions League in the blink of an eye. The Gunners then waited two games for their first Women’s Super League victory, in a division whose champions traditionally don’t register more than three or four draws or losses over the course of a season. Russo didn’t immediately score five thousand goals, either, and that’s not a good feeling for any striker fresh on the scene, let alone one who is hailed as one of the finest goalscorers of her generation.

It must have felt great, then, to be the star of the show in front of a record-breaking crowd at the Emirates last week, when Arsenal overthrew the champs Chelsea to draw level on points and seemingly, with one single win, set themselves on course for a march to the podium.
Less than a fortnight later, the party is over because on Sunday, Arsenal were punished on the ONE occasion they let Spurs out of their grasp, while no less than 31 of their own shots failed to hit the net.

After scoring two against the WSL holders the previous Sunday, Russo got just one of her six shots on target, but made more shot-creating actions — passes or dribbles in the lead up to an effort at goal — at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium than she did in her last three WSL appearances put together.

She might not have packed her shooting boots but, despite her paving the way for glory, none of her teammates wanted to take up the mantle either, meaning Arsenal secured that damning third draw or loss that condemns them to have no chance whatsoever of bringing home the silverware. So say some.
When I was a kid, on a Saturday afternoon, we'd keep the Leeds United score live on Ceefax, Dad would pop in occasionally between gardening jobs, shouting up the stairs when a goal was scored and a little flicker in the pixels let us know that up there, somewhere, 150 miles north of our back garden, something had happened in a game of football.

When Ceefax showed full time, we switched off the TV and forgot about it until the next Saturday. Within hours of the final whistle in north London, this moment when Arsenal 'keeper Manu Zinsberger stood like a statue as Martha Thomas slots in the winner spawned several TikTok pisstake videos and fans were stropping that the players didn't immediately take to Instagram to apologise.
…as though the players’ got nowt better to do with their time than to run around making amends among their butthurt fans.

I was kind of joking when I went on about Lauren James’ apology meaning nothing last week but seriously, in the life of a football player, what does sorry actually mean?

Sorry we didn’t win.
Sorry I’ve ruined your day.
Sorry it wasn’t good enough.
Sorry I’ll do things differently next time. What will you do differently? Try your best, again?

Women’s football isn’t immune from the sensational clickbait YouTube ranting attention-seeking bollocks which has made a farce of some of the top Premier League teams. Why can’t we just enjoy the 90 minutes of football then get on with our own lives until the players next get the chance to play their hearts out for you? What’s all this other football player admin they’ve suddenly got to do, EXPLAINING themselves on a Saturday night instead of hanging out with their family? How much of the Strictly Come Dancing results show did Alessia have to miss as she was agonising over this post?
Her stock apology made me laugh so much. She's just gone ‘yeah, I’ve been thinking really hard about all this stuff…’ and then published the contents of her long reflection, two sentences and 34 words. It’s 34 words more than what she owed anybody, but even this small effort satisfied fans, who are falling over themselves with gratitude.

LOVE YOU LESSI <3 <3 <3 <3

Mary is really ready to leave

Mary Earps has been having a mad time of it lately. In the last seven days, she’s been presented with an honorary doctorate by the University of Loughborough and unapologetically unveiled a tram bearing her name in Nottingham, and — glad tidings! — soon you’ll be able to wear a hoodie with even more of her famous FIFA award collection speech on it.

Craziest of all, though, she let in TWO goals against Liverpool on Sunday to leave United four points adrift of the top three and she didn’t even pound the ground in frustration. Mary… are you ok, hun?
Fans are taking her apparent lack of interest in Man Utd’s fortunes as incontrovertible proof that she has already mentally checked out.

Several journalists have insisted that so far no moves toward her long-rumoured transfer to Arsenal have been made yet, but here, you’ll love this — a timely reminder that the 31st January is a long fucking way off yet 🙃 — and so plenty could happen to get Earps out of a Man Utd shirt and into one which all right-thinking people know to be a better one.

This week, Man Utd manager Marc Skinner was gassing up Phallon Tullis-Joyce, who was signed from OL Reign this summer to be Earps' successor: “I’ll be very clear: she has all of the foundations. I’ve never seen a goalkeeper make the saves that she makes, honestly. … She’s so athletic. I think it’s just making sure she can make those in big moments.

“She’s such an astute learner, she literally takes a notepad into everywhere she goes. So, you’re going to see a real character that, I think after this season once she’s had these kind of games, I think you’re going to see a world-class goalkeeper. I really do. She’s got all of the qualities she needs.”

Meanwhile, at Arsenal, incumbent no.1 Manu Zinsberger is doing this when called upon to stop a goal:
So, all in all, Earps to Arsenal just makes sense.

Lauren is really good (still)

Lauren James has had a shit week because loads and loads of people were nasty to her after she stamped on Lia Wälti. Unlike Russo, James didn’t feel the need to post an apology for her feisty footwork, and I don’t think it would have stopped people abusing her if she had, anyway, because you can’t reason with bellends.

Emma Hayes had her on the bench for Chelsea’s Champions League tie against Hacken FC. When LJ subbed on, she looked to have sealed the result for the Blues by pinging a great ball which Sam Kerr headed quite beautifully into the goal but the silly Aussie fiancée had stepped offside in her impatience to make wifey-to-be Kristie proud and so denied James her moment of redemption.
But when you’re as good at football as James, you don’t have to wait long for another moment of excellence. She was back in the starting line up for the Blues’ WSL game at Bristol City on Sunday and within twenty minutes her week-long stay at ‘not a good place’ was well behind her as she silenced the haters with another long-range STUNNER.

Even better, her Chelsea and England teammate Niamh Charles took the heat off LJ by getting sent off in injury time. With the Blues 3-0 up and cruising to the final whistle, Charles saw the chance for a slidie and absolutely wiped out Mari Ward in the game’s dying moments. So unnecessary, very generous to Lauren.

More at The Square Ball

A photograph of Katie Astle playing for Leeds United Women against FC United of Manchester

Soggy bogs and misty eyes

by Flora Snelson

A non-league ground lined with golf brollies for a rainy FA Cup tie reminded me of being at Histon as an 11-year-old. This time, Leeds brought the magic.
31/7 logotype in purple and orange