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I write with relieved fingers. Football is back in our loving arms. And not that ersatz FA Cup Crap in which child warriors obliterate your heroes and send them to the Shadow Realm.
1. The big game this weekend is Tottenham vs. Liverpool [Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN], a clash in styles that is less about football and more about fundamental approaches to life. I have spent time with both Mourinho and Klopp. Jose lost himself in conversation whilst describing his greatest pleasure as a manager - nullifying opponents’ attacking plans, emasculating their threat, and rendering them impotent. Klopp also loves to wax rhapsodic about his life's mission. “We should not ask about football, did you win something or not? But did you try everything to improve the place you've been in? The house you've lived in. Improved the mood, the love…” Two very different philosophies. I believe Love will win out this weekend. Especially as Hate does not have injured Harry Kane available.
2. With the title chase wrapped up, The Battle to avoid the Relegation Moon Door is where it’s At! Only six points separate Watford in 19th from a mighty power like Everton in 11th. While my beloved Canaries are the most plucky, handsome, darlings to ever nestle at the bottom of the table after no wins from their last eight, they will fancy their chances when they bring their pugnacious game to Old Trafford [Manchester United vs. Norwich at 10 a.m. ET NBC Gold]. Chelsea host a toothless, punchless Burnley [Saturday at 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN], who are listing after losing three straight. A team who have never been the same since Christian Pulisic banged a perfect hat trick against them in the reverse fixture, which oddly feels years ago.
3. A note on Everton, fresh off their FA Cup humiliation against Liverpool’s kids. I love Everton with all my heart, but they are in a remarkable moment as a club with fans threatening mutiny. Big Dreaming Owner Farhad Moshiri has generously spent half a billion pounds with good intentions, yet the squad is still second-rate. The only discernible impact of that investment has been to smother much of what has set the club apart: authenticity, tenacity and collective spirit. Huge respect to Liverpool’s next generation who took their chance with style and confidence. But these next few games for Carlo Ancelotti, starting with Brighton at home [Saturday at 10 a.m. ET NBC Gold], are symbolically crucial to prevent a crisis of confidence between club and fan base.
4. NWSL News and Notes Prince Harry and Meghan moving to MLS is not the only big American trade going on right now. The NWSL draft is next Thursday and a flurry of deal-making is preceding it. Portland Thorns, coming off a major late-season stumble, are re-shaping the squad’s culture. Emotional talisman and fan favorite Emily Sonnett, plus the rights to forward Caitlin Foord, and two draft picks, were dispatched to Orlando in exchange for the No. 1 overall draft pick, which they seem poised to use on 19-year-old Stanford prodigy Sophia Smith. The team also exchanged my favorite USWNT Star O’the Future, Midge Purce, for Sky Blue’s Raquel Rodriguez. Chicago Red Stars, meanwhile, grappling with that Sam Kerr-shaped hole in their roster, have snagged Houston Dash forward Kealia Ohai, the More Famous Fiancée of that dude who plays for the Texans, in exchange for 18th overall selection and defender Katie Naughton. The wheeling and dealing is expected to continue all week as we head into the draft. A reminder that NWSL season kick-off is just 100(ish) days out.
5. My Trip to Anfield and Why You Should Go I visited Hell and lived to tell the tale. By Hell, I mean Anfield. By lived to tell the tale, I mean created the latest episode of our VisitBritain Digital Travel Series, which chronicles our trip to take in Liverpool vs. Manchester City live and in-person. You can WATCH HERE. Even I have to begrudgingly admit that Anfield is a magnificent cauldron that should be near the top of every football fan’s visit bucket list… right behind Goodison. The next installment of our series drops next week. Episode 3 is one of my favorites. My morning spent with a gent who is all that’s great about Everton Football Club: Speedo Mick.
6. #PatchAtThePark Speaking of VisitBritain, we are relaunching our #PatchAtThePark campaign, football’s answer to Flat Stanley. Here’s how it works. If you’re attending a Premier League match, SEND US AN EMAIL with your mailing address and we’ll send you a Patch to take with you on your journey. Then, take a photo of your patch (LIKE THIS), and send it to us over social media.
7. A Conversation with one of My Heroes Over the holiday, we aired a Television Special with Manchester United legend and Ajax CEO Edwin van der Sar. The Dutch legend spoke about his Manchester United glory days. We also discussed the evolution of the art of goalkeeping and Ajax’s secret to developing a peerless pipeline of golden youth talent that includes Frenkie De Jong, Matthijs de Ligt and Donny van de Beek, not to mention American Sergiño Dest. This week, we released a director’s cut of the episode as a Pod Special. LISTEN HERE.
And speaking of the Men in Blazers TV Show, you can catch our entire Boxing Day Special with John Oliver HERE. We return Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
8. I feel the need. The need for Tweed. Winter has descended upon New York City, and I have officially ensconced myself in Tweed, that earthy fabric with noble roots in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides where it was woven to keep the aristocracy warm whilst they hunted and fished in winter. For my Tweed, I head to the tailors at Freemans Sporting Club on New York City’s Lower East Side. WE CREATED THIS VIDEO, which chronicles my season’s Tweed selections from the bounty of more than 300 they have available. The two jackets they crafted to cover my ample girth are beauties. One for everyday use. And one for Peacock Rog, on those rare days when I’m feeling invincible.
9. Odd but Important Request Does any GFOP in New York City play the Harpsichord, Harp or Casio VL-Tone well enough to play any song? If so, EMAIL US. We have important work to do...
10. Song/Book/Pants to begin 2020 a. A Book: I am currently reading "Sovietistan: A Journey Through Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan," by Norwegian author Erika Fatland and it is one of the most engrossing, witty, perceptive books I have engaged with in a long, long time. Fatland is an incredible storyteller. The territories she covers are mesmerizing. I am going to stop typing now so I can finish it. But I cannot recommend it highly enough.
There are two ways to keep up with what we’re reading. The first is the MiB Baldmart. The second is our brand new GOODREADS PAGE. We’ve started a GFOP Readers group in which you can follow along with what we are reading, what we have read, and discuss / recommend what we should read next.
b. Television: Netflix has mastered the art of delivering brilliant content that no-one in the world is talking about. "The End of the F***ing World" is one such show. It is a work of genius. Season 2 just dropped. Please watch it just so we can talk about it.
c. Pants: If, like me, you love violet corduroys, Todd Snyder has got you covered on Sale. I own three pairs of these beauties.