The Rebound: Wrexham jump the shark, Liverpool’s Robot Wars, and Leicester City brace for impact

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All the reaction to this weekend’s footballing action, including Wrexham, Liverpool, and Leicester City.

A reminder, if one was needed, that not even the most meticulously-crafted and cannily-realised scripted drama can ever hold a candle to the snaking, flailing whims and tantrums of professional football. There is nothing that Hollywood’s greatest minds - with their third act resolutions and their Courier 12pt fonts - could ever construct from the feeble twigs of blunt imagination that truly comes close. They may borrow and mimic, yes, but to do so is to meekly acknowledge their inferiority - that their work is to organic spectacle what shredded jackfruit is to pulled pork. It can be very, very good, but it will never be better.

Even by the usual standards of football’s gleeful insanity, this weekend was... a lot. If this were some HBO primetime series, it would currently be fielding accusations of jumping the shark. But it’s not, and instead, we just have to sit here, with our jaws trailing on the floor like trawling nets and plumes of black smoke drifting outwards from our ear canals.

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We start in the National League, where Wrexham and Notts County locked proverbial horns in a slugfest that wouldn’t have felt overly out of place in the final throes of a latter Rocky film. One is the oldest professional club in world football, the other (although just two years younger) feels like a brash youthful upstart, buoyed by the glitzy affluence of Tinseltown and in possession of a savvy appeal that wields as much coal dust as it does stardust. They both deserve to be promoted this season, but only one of them will be assured of that fate automatically.

That in itself feels like unjust madness. Already, both clubs have racked up a century of points and goal differences approaching +70. They have been superlative and have rendered the rest of their division superfluous. Granted, there are reasons for the exclusivity with which Football League status is awarded, and you would imagine that whichever side misses out on top spot will go up via the play-offs, but the fact that one might miss out at all seems - and pardon my French here - bloody daft.

Anyways, as for yesterday’s match, it was Wrexham who edged proceedings in the most far-fetched of circumstances. With the score at 3-2 to the Dragons and literal seconds left in the contest, Notts County were gifted a penalty. They missed it. Or rather, Ben Foster saved it. The veteran goalkeeper, a YouTube darling in his own right whose presence has been dismissed by many as symptomatic of the kind of attention-grabbing short-termism that characterises Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s joint-venture at the The Racecourse Ground, might just have pawed his new club to the cusp of League Two. If he does nothing else this season, he may well have already etched his name into the long and storied mythos of Wrexham’s history. As McElhenney himself tweeted in the aftermath of Monday’s win: ‘And that’s why you go get Ben Foster’.

And again, on the subject of high drama, even two men who have garnered their renown from jolting the absurd into life - who have played superheroes and international art thieves and smart-mouthed Pokemon - have clearly been left dumbstruck by this beautiful, stupid sport that we all love so dearly. When Reynolds and McElhenney bought Wrexham, there were justifiable fears that it could represent little more than a glorified vanity project - a shiny new play thing for two naive pretty boys with limited attention spans and even less applicable knowledge to offer. But time and time again, they have proven themselves to be attentive and considerate and thoroughly, thoroughly decent.

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This is no exercise in method acting, they are genuinely invested to the absolute utmost; emotionally, financially, spiritually. As Reynolds himself put it during a giddy, doe-eyed exchange with man-of-the-hour Foster after the final whistle: “I’m never going to be the same again.” None of us ever are, Ryan. Welcome to the ranks of the doomed besotted.

Earlier in the weekend, Liverpool and Arsenal knocked seven bells out of each other in a rousing 2-2 draw at Anfield. And then the linesman tried to knock seven bells out of Andy Robertson. Sort of. Constantine Hatzidakis, with his name and physique like an enforcer for the Greek mafia, threw an errant elbow in the general direction of Robertson after the Scot dared to approach him and put a hand on his arm. As with most petty quarrels, there were two sides to this.

In one sense, there is never an excuse for a match official to lash out at a player, however flippantly instinctive or lacking in malice, and to be fair to the Liverpool defender, it did look as if he caught a glancing blow to the throat. Conversely, the indignation with which Robertson reacted might have been more appropriate had Hatzidakis toe-punted his first born into the Mersey, and something like this has been coming for quite some time. The normalised level of abuse directed at referees and their brethren throughout football in all its guises is, in a word, unacceptable. That’s not to say that Robertson went in guns akimbo in this instance, but at a certain point, on a human level, its understandable that a berated man in baby blue polyester might impulsively swat away yet another braying gnat.

The linesman will no doubt be reprimanded, as he should be, but its always worth going beyond an incident and trying to interrogate why it might have happened in the first place. With that in mind, let us use Sunday’s confrontation as a catalyst for change, and allow us to lobby all the more fervently for the only proper alteration that would quell this kind of ugliness once and for all; get rid of corner flags, and instead install the house robots from Robot Wars in each extremity of the pitch. Just wait and see how eager irate players are to put their hands on Sergeant Bash or Sir Killalot. Maybe if assistant referees were given flamethrowers and circular saws instead of silly little flags, we would finally know something akin to peace.

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And lastly, Leicester City have appointed Dean Smith as their new manager until the end of the season in a move that feels worryingly like when they tell you to put your head between your knees in the event of a flight falling out of the sky. It might not save your life, but at least they might be able to identify you by your dental records. I’m afraid the Foxes are going to have to brace for impact.

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