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Mr Roy and a career that was defined by modest excellence | Football


A couple of years ago, The Fiver learned of a delightful concept called “the English goodbye”. (According to our cousin Theme Pub O’Fiver, it’s known more commonly as “the Irish goodbye”, but that doesn’t suit our purposes so we’ve muted him for the day.) In short, it’s when somebody leaves the pub, or any gathering, without saying goodbye. In our experience, it’s usually the intersection of a Venn diagram that has three circles: shyness, booze and rampant self-loathing.

Even in the prime of youth, the English aren’t great at goodbyes. What are you supposed to do with your eyes, never mind your hands? So spare a thought for Mr Roy, the septuagenarian who has to bid farewell to 6,500 fans at Selhurst Park when Crystal Palace play Arsenal on Wednesday night. It’s on record that Mr Roy isn’t a fan of leaving dos; he was thoroughly affronted when he had to do a press conference after resigning as England manager in 2016. Later, at least, the atmosphere will be a bit warmer. Mr Roy, who took over when Palace were pointless and goalless, has quietly done an outstanding job at Selhurst Park. The extent of his overachievement may become painfully apparent in the next year or two.

“I don’t like that idea that you have a fanfare and you retire from football as if you’re retiring from life,” said Mr Roy, as a horse-drawn carriage strolled through the Selhurst tunnel. “There are still things I’d like to do, I’ve still got energy and enthusiasm to do other things. It’s just a question of being a little bit wary, I guess, of saying ‘well, I’m retiring’ and then finding myself in the old Frank Sinatra position where you retire every year or so.” If it is his final job, Mr Roy’s four years at Palace are a neat microcosm of his career: quiet achievement, bloodying big noses, Two Banks of Four, the occasional mildly gratuitous reference to a love of JP Donleavy. It sometimes felt like you could have given Mr Roy the best team in the Premier League or the worst and he would drag either to mid-table. It’s true that he collected all kinds of trophies in Sweden in the late-70s, but his biggest achievement in England was to take Fulham to Big Vase final in 2010, a run that included a comeback for the ages against Juve.

That kind of night was not really in keeping with a career that was defined by modest excellence. He was almost universally liked – almost – which is why he largely escaped criticism for, let’s be honest, a desperate spell as England manager. The only club where he was really loathed was Liverpool, after six shambolic months in which his most notable achievement was to become a meme. He was also ridiculed for calling Northampton “a formidable challenge” before a Milk Cup tie, though Mr Roy had the last laugh when Liverpool went out on penalties. And so, thanks to the vagaries of a randomly generated fixture list, his last game as Palace manager – perhaps the last of his career – will be at Anfield on Sunday, with Liverpool probably needing a win to qualify for Big Cup. If he does deny them, Mr Roy should forget the traditional English goodbye, and do the David Pleat dance instead.


Join Rob Smyth from 6pm BST for hot Premier League clockwatch action, before John Brewin guides you through Burnley 1-2 Liverpool at 8pm.

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“My dream was to come back here, but I never thought I’d live long enough to see this day. My wish has been granted” – AFC Wimbledon fan Alice Dunnett, 87, on returning to watch her team at Plough Lane after 30 long years away. Brilliant.

The rainbow’s end.
The rainbow’s end. Photograph: Alex Davidson/Getty Images


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Tickets are available now for Football Weekly Live’s Euro Not 2020 preview special on 10 June. Get them while they’re hot.


“Re: Spurs and Harry Kane (yesterday’s Fiver). To dare is to do one?” – Adam Uncamus.

“Watching Tuesday’s League One semi-final first leg, I was shocked to see that Oxford United had hired James Corden as their manager. Given the lack of a stand at one end of the Kassam, surely the U’s might consider some car park karaoke to foot the bill? It would likely be better than their performance in the game” – Brian Scorben.

Oxford need a late, late show now, tbf.
Oxford need a late, late show now, tbf. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

“At least Columbus Crew got most of their identity back (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs). Montréal Impact underwent an ‘image change’ this year when the owners changed the name to Club De Foot Montréal and changed the crest, a vivid white and light blue fleur-de-lys, to what looks like an engraved Pontefract cake” – Martin Coxhead.

Send your letters to And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Adam Uncamus.

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Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell and his family have been left “extremely shaken and shocked” after fleeing a reported petrol bombing and fire at their home.

River Plate may be forced to use an outfield player between the sticks for their Copa Libertadores tie against Independiente Santa Fe after all four of the club’s keepers tested positive for Covid-19.

Harry Kane. Manchester City. Here we go?

France have named what should be the winning squad for Euro Not 2020, with Karim Benzema making the cut. “We had a long discussion,” tooted Didier Deschamps. “After that I had a long reflection to come to this decision. I’m not going to reveal a word of the discussion, it’s only our business. I needed it, he needed it.”

Steve Clarke has opted for youth by naming uncapped trio Billy Gilmour, Nathan Patterson and David Turnbull in Scotland’s Euros squad. Full list: Gordon (Hearts), Marshall (Derby), McLaughlin (Pope’s Newc O’Rangers), Cooper (Leeds), Gallagher (Motherwell), Hanley (Norwich), Hendry (Queen’s Celtic), McKenna (Aberdeen), O’Donnell (Motherwell), Patterson (PNOR), Robertson (Liverpool), Taylor (QC), Tierney (Arsenal), Armstrong (Southampton), McFiver (Fiver Towers), Christie (QC), Fleck (Sheffield United), Gilmour (Chelsea), McGinn (Aston Villa), McGregor (QC), McTominay (Manchester United), Turnbull (QC), Adams (Southampton), Dykes (QPR), Forrest (QC), Fraser (Newcastle), Nisbet (Hibernian).

Germany’s 26 has also been unveiled.

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It’s going to be all change in Barcelona very soon, according to president Joan Laporta. “We won the Copa del Rey and are very proud of that, but we were knocked out of [Big Cup] very early on and threw away the league in an incomprehensible way,” he sniffed. “From next week, you’ll see a series of decisions taken that need to be made.”

Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti is in a rare old funk at Goodison.

Former Spurs U-18 coach Matthew Taylor is the new man at the helm of Walsall.

And Simone Inzaghi has been musing on Lazio’s 0-0 draw with Torino in Serie A, which relegated Benevento … managed by Pippo Inzaghi. “I am disappointed for my brother, but we gave it our all,” he parped. “We have great respect for each other. There will never be bad blood.”


Daniel Levy is stuck between a rock and a hard place, writes David Hytner.

Mr Roy by Mr Ed.

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Timo Werner may be carrying his own personal raincloud around but Chelsea still look destined for a top-four finish, reports Jonathan Liew.

Oh Timo!
Oh Timo! Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Reuters

Away-day bogey teams, featuring a load of Luton misery and Fulham’s never-ending woes at Turf Moor. It’s The Knowledge!

How the life of a football scout changed during the pandemic.

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