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Hi guys,

Help! It's the final weekend of the Women's Super League. This is both good because I am a bit tired and in need of a break from football. This is bad because what do we do when football isn't happening?

Football doesn't happen at 10am on a Thursday, which is when I usually sit down and start writing this newsletter. Fortunately, even when football isn't happening on Women's Super League pitches, it's happening in the mouths and minds of people and idiots everywhere — a comforting reminder on the eve of off-season.

That's why today's newsletter is dedicated to one such idiot, whose contribution to this newsletter cannot be overstated. Marc — for your services to mediocrity and entitlement, I salute you.

Flora

Aristotle, Obama, Skinner

Manchester United fell out of the title race many moons ago, but the fixture list has given Marc Skinner one last chance to make it all about him this weekend, when the Reds could rob Chelsea of their coveted fifth successive title on the final day of the season.

As it stands, a +2 goal difference advantage is edging it for the Blues, who are level on points with Manchester City. Chelsea looked a touch lacklustre against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday night, and another 1-0 win might not be enough to seal the title at Old Trafford, depending how City do at Aston Villa. It really is anyone's game, which means it's as much Marc Skinner's as the next guy's.

After winning the FA Cup left him free to admit he thinks he's "actually OK", Skindog was on a one-man mission to control the narrative in pursuit of the next, bigger hit of affirmation when he spoke to the press ahead of the final day showdown on Wednesday.

“I don’t believe we have enough conversations around football,” he began, when asked by journalist Chris Brookes about his team’s style of play. “I feel like being Manchester United manager, it’s all about the situation around football.

“I like to talk about football because that’s my job.”
Me too, buddy! Well, I mean, I guess actually my job is to talk about football, and your job is to make the football interesting, either by making it high quality so we can enjoy and praise it, or by making it a bit shit so that we can criticise and make suggestions from afar.

At least, I think that’s how it works, but I’ve not been in this game for too long so. I wonder, since you’re “actually OK” at your own job, I wonder if you could make some suggestions for how I could be “actually OK” at mine?

“I don’t think people are analysing the depth of the game enough in order to see how much detail we go into,” he continued. “The analysis sometimes is lazy, and I feel that it needs a little more in-depth research.

“You need to watch games before you have a comment on them. You don’t just need to watch highlights, you need to watch games.”

👀

Jeepers. Gadzooks. Gosh. Blimey. Cor. Crikey. Goodness. Golly. Heavens. Gee. Hord. Gadsbud. Wow. Woah. Holy cow. Goodness gracious. Goodness me. Oh my God. My goodness. Oh my dear me. My word. Oh man. Holy smokes. Odd bodkins. My gracious. Whoa. Yikes. Gee whiz. Geez. Heavens to Betsy. Cripes. Wowzers. Jeez. Wowser. Wowee. Wowzer. Holy moley. Holy mackerel. Oh wow. Holy crap. Zowie. Good grief. OMG.

Well, welcome to 31/7, I guess, Marc. If I’d known you’d been tuning in all this time I might have been a bit more polite!

While I’ve got you, though, maybe it’s my turn to advise you, to stop being a little bitch for two secs and give some earnest feedback about what I imagine would make your life as a football manager easier. I’ve never coached a football team, but I’ll try and apply what I know from writing about them.

Firstly, when it comes to words, as a general rule — just like dressing yourself on a really hot day — less is more.
Secondly, consider applying ‘show, don’t tell’. I note that on Wednesday, you told the media: “How I’d love our fans to see us is that we can maintain possession but we can also exploit transition, we can adapt the style based upon what’s needed against the opponent.”

Fans and readers don’t like to be told what to think and feel. They prefer to come to their own conclusions. If you want fans to see Man Utd as an adaptable team that maintains possession and exploits transition, the best way to make that happen is to build an adaptable team that maintains possession and exploits transition and make sure that they do this on matchday, when all the fans are watching.

If you insist on persuading people of your brilliance, you could brush up on your rhetorical techniques. I know your predicament. I know because, once I learned about anaphora, I was exactly the same. I know how addictive it can be! But in this instance, ‘less is more’ trumps Aristotle.

“I feel that we have got a nice progressive style,” you said. “I feel that we’ll adapt, I feel that we’ll evolve, I feel that we’ll have a style that our fans can get behind for many years to come.”

We need head and heart, but presenting them simultaneously weakens your conviction. Barack Obama didn't win the 2008 US presidential election saying “Yes, I feel that we can”.
Thirdly, be honest. If you don’t know something, say that you don’t know something. Lying patronises readers and fans, because it makes them feel like you imagine that you are stupid enough to believe them.

This week, you were asked about Grace Clinton, who has proved one of the Women’s Super League’s best young players this season while on loan at Spurs. Aged 21, she is already close to a permanent fixture in Sarina Wiegman’s plans for the future of the Lionesses.

So when you say, “I think we don’t get the credit that we identified her qualities from Everton,” are you expecting fans to overlook the fact that in the two years since she signed for Man Utd, she’s not made a single senior appearance? By creating such wildly different realities — the one in which you’re the best thing since sliced bread, and the one in which you’re an OK football manager who coached his team to fifth place — you create a distance between yourself and the fans, which won’t help when it comes to permissible moments of weakness. Showing humanity is the best way to get people on your side.

Seriously though mate, managing a football club ain’t easy. Why else would Carla Ward be leaving her role as Aston Villa coach, or Emma Hayes be packing in at Chelsea?

Come to think of it, wasn’t your partner Laura a coach, too, once? I’m sure I read that you met her when you were both coaching at Birmingham City, before she gave it all up to be the mother of your kids?

Coming Up

  • Saturday — Women's Super League
    • It's the final day of the WSL season and the trophy is firmly in the hands of neither Manchester City nor Chelsea.
    • With the teams tied on points, it'll be a case of 'who scores more' if both teams win, with Chelsea getting a two goal headstart.
    • It's Skinner who stands in the way of Chelsea, while hoping to prevent Man City is Aston Villa, who will be managed by Carla Ward for the final time.
  • Sunday — Scottish Women's Premier League
    • The final day of the top division north of the border looks similar
    • Celtic and Rangers are also tied on points with one match remaining — though the Gers' goal difference deficit of 16 is a little trickier to overcome
  • Next week — Champions League final
    • English referee Rebecca Welch, who made history earlier this season as the first female to officiate a Premier League game, has been appointed to run the biggest club game in Europe next weekend.

More at The Square Ball

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