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MIB is driven by a belief that Soccer is America’s Sport of the Future. As it has been since 1972.

Hail! GFOP

 
Brace yourself for this weekend’s delicious serving of the World’s Greatest Psychodrama, which passes itself off under the name “Premier League.” It promises to be excruciating. Arsenal host Chelsea [Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN] on the weekend which marks Arsene Wenger’s 20th anniversary as Arsenal’s manager. An epic achievement, splintered into chapters. The early ones as heroic as Virgil’s "Aeneid" with Wenger transforming Arsenal Football Club and English football along with it. The later ones more like Captain Ahab futilely chasing his Moby Dick, the White Whale of the Premier League title, towards self-destruction.   

Wenger’s Arsenal have not beaten Chelsea in nine straight games. They might never have a better opportunity to do so. Antonio Conte is still shuffling his deck of players searching for coherence. The Chelsea midfield has been devoid of creativity, which may necessitate the return from exile of Cesc Fabregas, who is tipped to leave the naughty step and play the role of footballing Benedict Arnold against the Arsenal fans who once adored him. Chelsea’s defense, traditionally vaunted, now so vulnerable, will be without 35-year-old John Terry, still their best back line player. Yet, Arsene will remember well his last milestone anniversary — that of his 1000th game in charge on March 2014 -- in which Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea smashed six goals past his shellshocked charges without reply.

To mark Wenger’s achievement, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the man himself for a documentary, “Inside The Mind of Arsene Wenger,” which will debut next week, Oct. 1 at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. He really comes across as the Premier League’s greatest philosopher/poet/manager. There was a moment when I wanted to describe to him how it feels to see him on the sideline… and tell him the extent to which, at times, I feel chest pains just watching him in his technical area. He pre-empted my question with a self-knowing smile, quipping, “You look at me suffering? And you’re right, of course I suffer.”

In other games, Manchester United seek to stem the bleeding against defending champions, Still Lovable's Leicester City [Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN]. Jose Mourinho has spent the weekend lashing out at all and sundry. Much of the scrutiny surrounds his tactical treatment of Wayne Rooney, a floundering icon whose best performance in recent memory came in THIS wine commercial. Not since Ser Jorah Mormont has a man degraded so quickly. No one in football is talking about this, but I believe Wayne might have Greyscale.

I head off to Germany next week to spend some time in Dortmund, a city I have long wanted to visit. We will drop an Arsene Wenger podcast midweek, however be warned: The MEN IN BLAZERS SHOW returns with another LIVE episode Monday, Sept. 26 at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports post-Burnley vs. Watford with special guest, founding member of Metallica and Chelsea supporter Lars Ulrich. If you’re stuck at work, you can watch via the NBC Sports App.

Two quick pieces of personal note: First, condolences to Arlo White, who lost his beloved mother the week before last. He and his family are in our thoughts. And second, I want to thank all the GFOPs for every single Crap Cat-inspired image, and all your creative homemade photoshopping, and stuff you send our way. It means a ton to all of us at Men In Blazers. To more. To more.

Remember. Nigel Rules,
Rog @rogbennett

PS You might feel inured to YouTube highlight reels but this one of the great Ronaldo, the man Mourinho once described to me bitingly as “The Real Ronaldo,” is well worth a watch.

On behalf of
MiB: @meninblazers
“Positive” Davo: @embassydavies
Producer JW: @JonoWilly
Producer Lexi: @tannneal
 


I. Togga Fantasy League Patch Reveal

On this day, the 23rd day of September in the year Two Thousand And Sixteen, we reveal the prize that thousands of GFOPs have been competing for on a weekly basis in our Men in Blazers Togga Fantasy League. The design comes courtesy of GFOP Ian Hutchison. (Cue angels singing.)
 

Togga has changed the way we watch football. Last weekend, Rog actually cheered for United because he had Marcus Rashford leading his fantasy line. For those of you who have yet to join, you can download the app HERE. You’ll be automatically entered into our league. Once you’re there, just choose your starting XI and you’ll be off and running.


II. On Tour With Watford’s Biggest Musician Fan... Not Named Elton

We don’t want to name names or point fingers, but some people occasionally label Watford as a cookie cutter club. The fact that the sterile confines of Vicarage Road look like a big box store from the outside does not help. But the truth is, if this season’s Liverpool play Heavy Metal Football, then Walter Mazzarri’s Watford is at least Rock N’ Roll. Only Liverpool, Arsenal and City have scored more goals through five games than Watford’s 10. 

But The Hornets’ rock ethos extends off the pitch beyond Étienne Capoue, Troy Deeney and even Harry the Hornet (we see you working, Harry). The club’s most famous fan is the Rocket Man himself, Elton John. One of Watford’s biggest fans on these shores is an English guitarist who now makes his home down the Jersey Shore. Ian Perkins is the guitar player for Brian Fallon and The Crowes, one of JW’s favorite bands. He’s also one of the gents behind Asbury Park FC clothing line. In honor of Watford’s back-to-back wins, including last week’s 3-1 thumping of Manchester United, we asked Ian how a musician copes with the ups and downs of Premier League fandom on the road. We wanted to know his Three Best Football Stories from The Road. His No. 1 is below. Numbers two and three (Three is Jay DeMerit-themed!) are available HERE. Rock Stars. When it comes to football … they’re just like us.
 

Ian Writes: Easily my favourite recent memories of watching Watford on tour have been the last two weeks. After finishing a European tour up at Reading/Leeds festival and being so close to Vicarage Road for the Arsenal game, not going was nearly as heartbreaking as the result. I got to stay home with family for a week or so, but it lined up with the international break so no Hornets for me.

We then flew back to the West Coast to start our U.S. tour, and after a shaky start to the season, Watford were back with an away game at West Ham's new stadium. Anyone who follows the Premier League on the West Coast knows the drill. Waking up at 6 a.m. and watching your team lose is no way to start the day, so when Watford were 2-0 down my day was already over. Then the goals start flowing, we win 4-2 and I'm walking around like I own LA.

Two days later we play the Late Late Show with James Corden. We know he's a huge Hammers fan so our friends at Fender manage to find a Steve Harris signature bass for us to give him. It has a huge West Ham badge on the front and he looks genuinely happy when we hand it over to him, calling his mate into the room to show it off. His face then changes as he says, "We were awful at the weekend though!" That was all I needed to hear, the perfect setup that any underdog football fan dreams of. I replied, "Yeah, I know. I'm a Watford fan. We were just too good."

Thoughts soon turned to the next game, Manchester United at home. I spend the whole day before telling everyone who will listen how we are going to get beaten but I'll still wake up at 5:30 a.m. to see my boys play some of the world’s best players. Hopefully we can get one goal and make a good game of it. Six a.m. rolls around and I'm awake in my new home shirt, drinking coffee and hoping for the best. As the game starts, we are driving from Texas to Oklahoma, so I'm relying on tour bus WiFi. But right after kickoff we hit a huge storm and the signal drops. Thankfully I have a good support network. There's so few Watford fans that we all know each other. I have family at the game giving me updates, the NYC Hornets are sending me videos. Then Capoue scores and my phone goes mental. We pull out of the storm during half time and regain signal so I can watch my boys put on an epic display, winning 3-1, with Deeney smashing home a penalty in injury time and everyone knows it's beyond United. I'll be talking about this game for the rest of the season and maybe, just maybe, it will take the place of my Liverpool story from when we beat them last season. Watford fans have never had it so good.


III. Men in Blazers MixTape Vol. 10: Fantasy Edition

Because of our recently acquired fantasy football addiction, the latest Men in Blazers MixTape is a compilation of bangers and ballads to make you feel the intense tingling of our Togga league. These songs are equipped to carry you through the low (lowest) lows of picking an all Stoke starting XI and the high highs of a Lukaku hattrick. You can listen to the new mixtape on Spotify HERE. Warning: Listeners may be overcome with the uncontrollable urge to start old man Rooney.  
 

Take Off Your Sunglasses - Ezra Furman and the Harpoons (Rog) If you are feeling crap, this song is more than likely to make you feel Uncrap.

Fears - MTNS (Davo) Because after the home defeat to Liverpool, it’s what I have about Chelsea’s midfield.

We Will Live For Ages - Hjaltalín (Rog) I found this track at the beginning of the summer when I was making a film about the Icelandic National Team. It was faintly audible in every bar in Reykjavik. It makes me want to move there.

All We Need - ODESZA ft. Shy Girls (Davo) Because I was really interested to see how the former Manchester City striker would do behind the turntables.

52 Girls - The B-52's (Rog) These are the girls of the U.S.A. The principal girls of the U.S.A.

Titled - Christine and the Queens (Davo) Christine, Héloïse, is simply the most interesting and hard to categorize person in music right now. She’s like Kevin De Bruyne.

Kolniður - Jónsi (Rog) I am a sucker for any song that starts slowly, builds up into a swell of emotion, until the singer can’t give any more, and just finishes. Essentially any Sigur Rós song ever.

How Deep is Your Love - Calvin Harris (Davo) A question I ask myself watching football… A LOT.

Dark Side of the Moon - Chris Staples (Rog) Chris Staples is the Seamus Coleman of music. Both gents are hauntingly underrated.

Somebody Else - The 1975 (Davo) It’s like the feels you get when one of your favorite players leaves your team and starts scoring for somebody else.

I Admit I'm Scared - Eskimeaux (Rog) If you are feeling crap, this song is guaranteed to make you feel that you are not alone in feeling crap.

Enjoy Yourself - Prince Buster (Davo) No fantasy mixtape would be complete without the founding father of ska.

Now - Lena Horne (Rog) One of my Top 5 tracks of all time. The great Harlem-born Hollywood-star-turned-activist released it during the civil rights-era when she wanted to make a public statement. It was written by Broadway vets Adolph Green, Betty Comden, and Jule Styne who decided to craft an incisive rant against civil rights abuses that Styne composed to the otherwise joyous tune of "Hava Nagila." Sadly, just as relevant today as it was when it was first released.

Producer Picks
Another Girl, Another Planet - The Replacements (JW)
Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie (JW)
Titled - Christine and the Queens* (Lexi) So good it made the mixtape twice.
Welcome to Vulf Records - Vulfpeck (Lexi)


IV. Three Questions on Danish Football and the Nordic Culinary Revolution

Danish Football and New Nordic Cuisine. Both regular topics on our other Podcast, “Scando-files Today.” But in this crossover edition of Three Questions, we delve deep into both issues with the restaurateur who serves as flag bearer for the aforementioned food revolution. Like all great moguls, he owns a football club.

Foodies world over will know Claus Meyer as one of the minds behind Noma, the two-Michelin-star establishment that The World’s 50 Best Restaurants has rated the No. 1 eatery in the world four times. Recently he brought his brand of Nordic culinary swag to American shores, opening up a litany of spots here in New York City. The Great Northern Food Hall in Grand Central Terminal. Agern, right next door to Grand Central. And Meyers Bageri in Brooklyn.

When he’s not overseeing his restaurant empire, Meyer is focused on second-tier Danish club Nykøbing FC, of which he is part owner. In this issue of The Raven, we talk food and football pairings with one of the most powerful people in the restaurant industry. 
 

MIB: Explain to food neophytes, like us, who subsist strictly on Guinness and Pie what exactly New Nordic Cuisine is.

Claus: I grew up in what was considered the darkest period of Danish food history, the 60s and 70s. I spent one year in France as an au pair in the mid-80s and it radically changed my life. I wanted to bring the spirit and virtues of French food culture  - enjoyment of food and deliciousness - back to Denmark. It felt like a calling. My parents divorced at the sound of a microwave oven. Coming from a broken family, I had the feeling that with a greater food culture people would have better and more joyful lives.

That was 1984. Fast forward, 19 years later, that’s when I decided to open Noma with the goal of reconnecting cooking to the nature that surrounds us, using 100% local ingredients and working with the principles of time and place. We formulated a manifesto, a set of guiding principles that would apply to the French concept of “terroir" in a Nordic context – unlocking the potential flavors of our land. We invited all major stakeholders on the food scene to come together in that process to create this new paradigm with us. That was the foundation for creating a new culinary language and a great cuisine in its own right with dishes the world had never seen before: Dishes like langoustine, horseradish, dill and buttermilk; beef tartare with roasted bread crumbs, wild cress, pickled lingonberries, cep mushroom mayonnaise and cep mushroom dust; and pork cheeks with bacon, apples, sunchokes and thyme.

MIB: Your role in this culinary revolution has allowed you to fulfill every football fan's dream: to own a club of their own. Tell us about football's place in your life, how you came to purchase Nykøbing FC, and a little bit about the team.

Claus: I fell in love with the team thanks to my grandfather. He was among the club’s biggest fans in the 60s and 70s, when they played under the name B1901. We were consistently top five in Denmark and regularly played in Europe. I went to the matches with my grandfather and drank it all in. The club is located on the island of Lolland, where I grew up. It’s one of the poorest parts of Denmark and, over the years, the best players kept getting scooped up by bigger clubs. As a result the club dropped to the fourth division. In 2006, they merged with B1921 to form Nykøbing FC. In 2015, I purchased part of the club.

Having a little budget, trying to get the best out of the club, and growing organically, sometimes feels likes playing a family game. But first and last: when NFC wins, I forget all problems in my life for a while. I love the club and its victories makes me much more happy than I can rationally explain.

MIB: Talk about the similarities and differences between operating a restaurant and owning a football club?

Claus: There are definitely similarities between my dream of taking Nykøbing into Champions League before 2025 and the dream I had of creating a world class restaurant like Noma in the food desert that was Denmark. When the idea has a utopian character and is executed in a way that is generous and inclusive, suddenly the restaurant and/or football club can become the epicenter of a movement of avalanche proportions. To set the agenda, you need to make sure that a lot of things are right: the ownership structure, the values, the stakeholder relations, the vision. That has been my primary role in most of the things I have been involved in. Generally speaking, it's all about making sure that everyone exposed to the restaurant or the club gets more out of it than they had expected.

MIB: You're now living in New York City. How are you following Nykøbing FC?

Claus: In three ways: Livestream on TiFoSport or ViaSat. Listening to the matches on Radio Sydhavsøerne or simply following the matches on LiveScore. It was magical to follow the final match of the last season live in Vanderbilt Hall, Grand Central, the day we opened Great Northern Food Hall. Nykøbing scored the decisive goal in the last minute of the match and I screamed so loud that four policemen came running towards me to make sure everything was okay.

MiB: What is the perfect meal and drink to accompany football?

Claus: Beer and roast pork sandwiches with crackling skin, raw apples and pickled red cabbage.


V. #PatchAtThePark

This week’s edition of #PatchAtThePark features patches from HAO’s last international cap [LISTEN TO OUR HAO POD SPECIAL HERE], an American Football matchup in the Sooner State, and the Crap Cat mother lode.

But our favorite comes from GFOP Mike Hudson, whose daughter had the immense privilege of meeting Jewish Messi, aka Stevie B., aka Steve Birnbaum. You can listen to our MLS Pod Special with Steve HERE
 


VI. "Plumb our Annals”

Our entire pod archive is available HERE. If you prefer the Cliffs Notes version, check out "Men in Blazers. Unbuttoned: Now That's What I Call Sub-Optimal,” Vol. I (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play) and Vol. II - The Best of 2014 (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play). The albums are the least objectionable of our football "analysis," Ravens and interviews.

You can access all MiB-related content (videos, pods and articles) by visiting www.nbcsports.com/mib.
 

Please forward this to your football curious friends. Let's see if we can bring them over to the dark side. The Ian Darke Side.
 

“We should be careful / Of each other, we should be kind / While there is still time.”

Philip Larkin


Podcast

Rog and Davo recap Watford’s win over Manchester United, Pep’s still perfect start at City, and Friday Night Football at Stamford Bridge. LISTEN HERE

Good Reads


> Arsene Wenger: 20 Years at Arsenal - An Incredible Journey of Joy and Frustration. Amy Lawrence for the Guardian. READ HERE

> Lynden Gooch, Sunderland’s Young U.S. Star: ‘I Knew I Was Good Enough.’ Chris Young for the Guardian. READ HERE

> The NWSL Isn’t Going Anywhere, But It Can’t Sit Still. Jonathan Tannenwald for the Philadelphia Inquirer. READ HERE

> Kaduregel-Shefel: Celebrating Diversity Through Football. Gad Salner and Vadim Tarasov for The Set Pieces. READ HERE

> A New Tradition: Homegrown Midfielder Paxton Pomykal to wear #19. Daniel Robertson for FC Dallas. READ HERE
 
> Red Bulls' Kljestan Serves Up His Own Second Chance. Flip Bundy for the New York Times. READ HERE
About

Michael Davies and Roger Bennett believe that soccer is America’s Sport of the Future. As it has been since 1972. Visit MeninBlazers.com, “Like” us on Facebook, follow the show on Twitter and Instagram, or email us at MeninBlazers@gmail.com.
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