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HAIL! GFOP

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I type with fingers filled with begrudging respect for Liverpool’s peerless achievements.

We have to wait until Sunday to see Klopp’s Teutonic Coach O antics. In the big game of the weekend, Manchester United visit Liverpool [Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN]. A game that over the past 30 years has been about something even bigger than football… “Perches.” When I was a kid, Liverpool were the greatest team the world had ever seen. It pained me to experience, and therapists subscribing to this newsletter will realize this probably explains a lot, but the Reds dominated the '70s and '80s, like 8-Tracks and Roller Skates.  
 
A defiantly traditional club, they were slow to adapt to the global era and riches ushered in by the Premier League's creation, leaving a vacuum for Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, who reeled off 13 titles in 21 years. In Sir Alex’s words, “knocking Liverpool off their F**king Perch.” The most aggressive sentence ever uttered about a thin metal bar in a birdcage designed to enable budgerigar roosting. 

It speaks ill of me, but as I have regrettably come to realize since August, Liverpool’s 30-year title drought was one of the major achievements we Everton fans have savored over the past few decades. Manchester United fans all the more, as the rivalry between the cities of Liverpool and Manchester has all the traits of a Sicilian blood feud. So as the tectonic plates that underlie football have been shifted back Liverpool’s way via a combination of Klopp’s charismatic genius and the Glazers’ ownership inertia, Sunday’s game has a symbolic heft that outweighs the 90 minutes. 

Ole’s United will draw strength that they are the only team to have blemished Liverpool’s perfect season. Though their injury list is long and may now contain Marcus Rashford, they have played up and down to their opponents with a chameleonic quality, which may be their best cause of hope. Liverpool appear so unstoppable, even their “baptisms” are of the joyous, rapturous kind, rather than of the Jorge Masvidal variety. Brace yourself for another exclamation point in Liverpool’s unprecedented season of wonder. Worth reading: Miguel Delaney musing on whether we will soon see Pochettino at United. 

2. In other games, Norwich host Bournemouth [Saturday at 10:00 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold] in a game that pits Canaries against Cherries, a fight to the death over the Relegation Moon Door. Can’t we just look away and give them both three points? Lovers of shattered dreams and perpetual mediocrity will savor West Ham vs. Everton [Saturday at 10 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold] for the David Moyes Memorial Derby. 

3. Good news! There are midweek games. Bad News! That means The MEN IN BLAZERS SHOW returns, Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 6:00 p.m. ET. The show is remarkable despite the fact we are in it, mostly because I spent the afternoon talking to Matthew McConaughey whose passion for football has bloomed late in life, but my lord does it burn deep. The star of “The Gentlemen” has trotted the globe, taking in games and becoming part-owner of Austin FC. To sit and talk academy strategy with Wooderson is really living. The symbolic power of a gent from Uvalde in Texas Hill Country, who cut his teeth on Longhorn legends like Earl Campbell and Vince Young now loving Premier League football, is to realize just how fast the game is growing in the USA. Tune in Wednesday for True Detective, Season Four.
 

3b. We have a busy week in the Panic Room. Alex Caruso, Bald Mamba, enormous Manchester City fan, drops in, then we head to D.C. to spend some time with the CAPS TJ Oshie. Send questions for both HERE.

4. I have loved your response to our Speedo Mick Everton short film [WATCH HERE], which was Episode 3 of our "VisitBritain Premier League Weekend 2: Electric Boogaloo" digital travel series. What a Hero. Mick is a gent who has battled his way back from addiction, summoning the tenacity to overcome his personal demons, and electing to give back to the community that gave him strength, raising thousands of pounds for charity in an inimitable style that is the essence of Everton Football Club. As he says, “You can only keep what you have by giving it away.” Mick is currently walking the length of Britain in his Speedos to raise money for charity. You can donate HERE.  

If you're making a football pilgrimage to Britain, and want to participate in our #PatchAtThePark campaign, email us HERE with your postal address and what game you'll be attending and we'll send you a patch. 
 

5. NWSL College Draft 2020
To nobody's surprise, Portland used their top draft pick yesterday to acquire Sophia Smith, the third Stanford player in a row to go first in the NWSL College Draft and, at 19 years old, the first teenager to be drafted into the league. Alliteration Lovers Favorite, Stanford Sophomore Striker Sophia Smith, recorded 17 goals and nine assists in 20 games for the Cardinal this season. In the six-game College Cup, she bagged two hat tricks, seven total goals, four assists, and MVP honors, leading Stanford to a National Championship. Through a complex last minute, three-way trade with Sky Blue and the Red Stars, Portland also got their hands on the second overall pick, which they used on Morgan Weaver, from Washington State. The big shock of the Draft was a last minute trade that sent Washington Spirit's Mal Pugh to Sky Blue for a slew of draft picks (including fourth pick, which they used to snag USWNT star-in-the-making and UCLA Bruins all-time assist leader Ashley Sanchez). Our hearts go out to Rose Lavelle, who will experience serious separation anxiety in the wake of this announcement.  

6. Stuff that is even better than Ken Jennings
a. A Book: I am currently reading "The Age of Football," by David Goldblatt. The author of the classic, weighty, global history of the game returns with a worthy sequel.

We finally have a Goodreads page, set up by Producer Jordan. I genuinely love it, mostly because it has empowered the creation of a GFOP Readers Group in which you are all recommending titles I need to read. I could not be more thankful to you all for each and every insight.

b. Television: I have been looking for "When We Were Kings," the classic documentary about the "Rumble in the Jungle" between Muhammad Ali and George for ages. Thanks to HBO for reviving it. I have watched the film four times this week. And you should too. At least once. 

c. A Song: I have been listening to a ton of Australian radio over the past few weeks as the wildfires have raged. Radio station Triple J’s program "Home and Hosed" is elite. Here’s a stand-out track. "Weightless," by Sydney band, 100.  

d. Blazer: I am blown away by the simple British design of Universal Works and have invested heavily in their sale. The mix of functionality, industrial aesthetic and fabric experimentation is a thing of wonder. I own one of THESE.
 
Pura Vida,
Rog: @rogbennett 

On behalf of
MiB: @meninblazers
Davo: @embassydavies
Producer JW: @JonoWilly
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“We should be careful / Of each other, we should be kind / While there is still time.”

Philip Larkin
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