RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Sunday, February 28

Saturday, February 27

Friday, February 26

Thursday, February 25


the way this culture has been 
built, we're all replaceable; 
practice embezzling hours back 

Wednesday, February 24

4LW4YS R3M3MB3R T0 L0VNG3...

always remember to lounge - 
ain't shit you really got to 
do but survive each damned day 

Tuesday, February 23

0LD S0VL G04T M3NT4L1T13S...

old soul goat mentalities 
run head first into modern 
world's existential bullshit 

Monday, February 22

Sunday, February 21


satin flags with silk fringe ain't 
for the wretched; most of us 
born half-doomed and one-third dead 

Saturday, February 20

Friday, February 19

MY BL00D L1N3 C4M3 FR0M TH3 H1LLS...

my blood line came from the hills, 
here and there; “son of tonsure” 
hard-headed ascetic monk 

Thursday, February 18

M4D3 1T T0 TH3 H0R1Z0N...

made it to the horizon, 
where I try to blend in with 
Blue Ridge skyline best I can 

Wednesday, February 17

Tuesday, February 16

W4ND3R3D 4L0NGS1D3 TH3 S4M3...

wandered alongside the same 
river for three decades now, 
scattering thoughts like crow caws 

Monday, February 15

25-Man Metaphysical Roster: SHEFFIELD UNITED FC

 {Billy Sharp's spirit goal a couple days after his 2-day old son died years ago}

[25-Man Metaphysical Roster is a football metaphysics methodology based off the foundation of minutes played over the past 100 competitive matches for a club, determining which 25 players constitute the strongest psychic force on a club’s current path. Intuitive analysis, performed mostly from an un-American “soccer” fan’s perspective is added. Ideally, we do this twice a month, cycling through English Premier League clubs, because it’s the top domestic English-speaking league on Earth, and as un-American miscreants and mongrels, our staff of writers were born saddled with this limited, segmented tongue of the global colonizer, oppressor, and capitalizer. To some extent, we hate the English, but also America, and likely ourselves. Core staff is Raven Mack (chairman), Paul Robertson (director tecnico), and Neil Bulson (director rudo) from America, with additional input from Dan Brookes and Jude Riley as English consultants. Venmo @ravenmack23.]

Writing about Sheffield United right now is a bit sad, like performing a eulogy while the person is still on a ventilator, technically alive but nonetheless doomed by all appearances. The Blades sit a good 14 points out of surviving relegation, in a season that they’ve thus far only seen around a dozen points, with the bulk of that happening since Boxing Day. They just got off to a terribly shitty start this season, and no amount of recovery might be enough to keep them in the top flight. I find this sad on multiple levels. Firstly, because as a supporter of the previously doomed Swansea City club, I’d taken a shine to Sheffield United while my Swans floundered through the Championship. There were some connections on the pitch between the clubs, and as a doomed individual myself, it’s hard not to love an old industrial revolution city situated in the foothills at multiple rivers slapping together that’s been bombed and abandoned and somehow still survives. Plus, the Blades crest is as close to machete representation as a man can get in modern football. Machetes are a common symbol among football metaphysics, and dirtgod metaphysics in general, as post-industrial capitalist society manufactures all these intangible “needs” which blossom in our minds due to how we’re conditioned to view the world (through these digital filters currently); and the machete is the best thing to hack at all that shit with. It grows like hawthorn or blackberries, so you can’t get at easily, as it’s become so psychically prevalent in how we live our lives, so the machete becomes the tool of choice for hacking away at this shit.
Thus, perhaps all that is why Sheffield United – despite a 9th place finish their first season back to the Premier League since a plummet earlier this century that went all the way down to League One – this club was always doomed. They are a survivalist machete club in an era where international ownership consortiums laundering oligarch and/or fossil fuel monies dominates the tables. Seemingly, the Blades should be able to navigate into that realm, as they are quite literally half-owned by Saudi prince money since 2013. But why hasn’t it taken?
For one, the existing English ownership and Prince Abdullah the Saudi prince half-owner got caught up in legal disputes about ownership the past couple seasons, with Kevin McCabe – a Sheffield businessman – having sought out the foreign investment, and stepping down as chairman when the club slid into the third tier. It became a case of just wanting the money without the loss of authority though, as McCabe tried to squeeze Abdullah out after Sheffield United’s trajectory seemed to have been righted. This ended in McCabe having to sell his half to the prince. McCabe grew up a Blades supporter, but also has gone global with his business interests, and even after being forced by court verdict to sell off his half of his hometown club, still owns clubs in Australia, Hungary, China, and Dubai. Similarly, Prince Abdullah also owns clubs in Belgium, India, and also Dubai. Makes you wonder how heated that Al Hilal United/Dubai Blades rivalry is going to be. In fact, that’s sort of the problem, as all these clubs go from being a singular occupation of a wealthy man’s obsession, as McCabe’s original ownership of Sheffield United was, where a rich man squanders his money trying to give his hometown some sporting glory, to this new global era of ownership. These men (always men) accumulate pieces of clubs like Monopoly board game properties, with no real deep obsession for the club itself. Prince Abdullah wanted Sheffield United to get back to the Premier League as quickly as possible. Once it got there, his oligarchical hard-on was gone, and he was lusting after other accomplishments. This is the difference between accumulating pieces on a life-sized board game, and being an actual supporter as owner. An actual supporter would want Sheffield United to remain in the Premier League, to beat Sheffield Wednesday on any occasion they play by at least 3 goals, and for good measure come to dominate Manchester United so badly they finally concede they are not the true “United” in English football.
All of this is impossible in modern football though for a club like Sheffield United. So a 9th place finish when tapped for relegation last season may be a high watermark. But you never know what happens when a Saudi prince feeds a football club money. Maybe they get lucky and strike a couple spirit warriors that allow them to navigate a higher metaphysical plane. As it stands, maybe the Premier League was too much for them as they’re currently built, and that’s why the club has stuck with Chris Wilder as manager despite the bad start to the season. They know they’re current psychic place is slogging to back towards the top of the Championship table, and their peak existence is brief spells in the Premier League trying to claw out a mid-table finish. Damn, no wonder me as a Swans man loves the Blades – it’s essentially the same club in that sense.
Well, here are the 25 men who have metaphysically composed this current direction of the Blades. And the Football Metaphysics team also went out and acquired a couple of English voices to add to our mix. We are all anti-empire, and embrace a love-hate relationship with modern football, driven by distracting ourselves from the necessary but sometimes painful decline of the false greatness of western civilization. So welcome Dan and Jude to the mix, with myself and Neil, as Paul continues to nurse a lingering psychic hamstring injury. [RAVEN]

#1: CHRIS BASHAM (up 3 from #4 last time Sheffield United were metaphysically ranked on 15-Apr-2020, thus his first METAPHYSICAL STAR) – Sometimes in life, people have to know who they are and then just be that person rather than chasing some crazy notion of being a yachter or whatever the fuck the European sporting elite do when they are not sporting. You know, the fancy playboy players who hold yacht parties with titties and beer everywhere. Well, Chris Basham isn’t invited to those parties. That’s because Chris Basham is the guy who does all the dirty work, keeps the pitch clean, occasionally using English Catch as Catch Can wrestling holds to keep the enemy from scoring them goals. Red cards flying in his wake, Basham has accepted a life of brutality and hard times. He once was bounced from Newcastle United’s youth team and spent the next two years working at McDonalds. This is not a dude who is going to be a fashion icon, he is just a dude who worked at McDonalds and he’s still working at McDonalds in his heart because he remembers each fancy lad eating their fucking burgers and the simmering resentment of class consciousness the whole time, and so he cracks their heads on the pitch in the naked fervor of sport. Chris Basham knows who he is, and it is a McDonald’s worker shoving the rich kids faces into the fryer which is how you get those chicken nuggets. [NEIL]

#2: JOHN EGAN (up 3 from #5 last time) – Egan, along with Enda Stevens, forms the stubborn Irish backbone of the Blades defense. Much like the Blades, Egan has come from the lower levels. He actually was signed to a Premier League club – Sunderland at the time – when he first became a senior level player, though he never appeared for Sunderland at the time. Actually got loaned to Bradford City in 2014, and suffered a broken leg early on, which put him on the shelf for a year, and ultimately got him relegated to League One status with a Gillingham transfer, where he played at the same time that Sheffield United hit their lowest point in that most recent series of relegations. Like them, he clawed his way up, first to perennial Championship club Brentford, then joining the Blades to be part of their promotion year. He appeared in every league match last season and all but a few this season so far, and lack of defense hasn’t necessarily been their Achilles heel, as they’ve lost eight matches 1-0, including to Manchester City twice – a club known for being more than able to pile on some goals. Should they get relegated, Egan is just as likely to be the type to stay with the club as an elevated Championship club rather than get sold off to a lower-level Premier League club, though he’ll likely be on the short list for newly promoted clubs to pilfer talent from. [RAVEN]

#3: GEORGE BALDOCK (up 5 from #8 last time) – Younger brother of Reading striker Sam Baldock, who – about four years his sibling’s junior – had always played in the shadow of his brother, up until the past two seasons, when he’s been one tier above him. Both of them began with MK Dons, and combined have played a bazillion seasons between the top five tiers of English football. But Sam’s one stint at the top level, in 2018-19 with Brighton & Hove Albion, only got him two appearances in the league. Last season, after Sheffield United was promoted, George played in every Premier League match for the Blades, earning himself a reputation as key member of the squad’s defense. He’s missed a number of starts this season, suffering from a few dents and dings, and it looks like that means he’s going to join his brother back down in the Championship next season, where at least one of them has been all but one season of the past decade. [RAVEN]

#4: ENDA STEVENS (down 1 from #3 last time; also one previous metaphysical star with the club on 15-Jun-2019) – Another Irish cog in the Blades defense, natural born Irish too, from Dublin, where he played as a youth and professional first. I love how magic clubs sound in some places. His youth club was “Cherry Orchard” which sounds like the most wonderful club to fuck around, learning football metaphysics. And he peaked out in the Irish leagues with Irish heavyweight Shamrock Rovers, which also sounds pretty magical. Why do we get dumb derivative shit in America like Inter Miami or Houston Dynamo? Then again, when I think of magical sounding places in America, some of the most wondrous sounding spots are and were the notoriously wretched concentrations of urban poverty that are American housing projects. Places like Chicago’s Cabrini Greens or LA’s Nickerson Gardens. Maybe that’s the key to improving American soccer – having a league of large housing project clubs where kids learn the sport and realize they can get paid worldwide for a sport that’s probably not as consuming as major American sports. Of course, the NBA has as well-established groupie culture though, so basketball will always retain prominence. Has anybody ever done any deep data studies on the conventional attractiveness scale of football groupies in various domestic leagues? Because that might be important information to relate to my fake magical soccer league based in American housing projects. [RAVEN]

#5: OLIVER NORWOOD (up 1 from #6 last time) – The depth of football culture in England versus America is just so shocking, despite it making perfect sense. Norwood was a Burnley kid who got spotted by Manchester United scouts at the age of 6, joining the club’s youth system at age 7. Having “coached” kids that age in my small town American existence, I mostly tried to get them pointed in the right direction. I had one kid one time who never went after the ball, preferred skateboarding, and just wanted to do cartwheels. I told him he could do a cartwheel every time he stole the ball from the other team. He became a defensive threat at that point. Had another kid who never wanted to do shit, coming from a rough-looking family, so I asked him, “You ever see an old refrigerator just sitting out in the yard, in the way?” He laughed and said yeah. “I want you to be an old refrigerator. You don’t even have to kick the ball. Just any time the other team has the ball, go run in front of whoever has the ball, and get in their way like an old refrigerator.” The kid actually started doing it too, and laughing every time he clogged up the other team’s hopes. I guess there’s a trend there for me, in teaching hopeless kids to find a glimmer of hope in being a defensive obstruction for the progress of larger society. Thus Norwood being a fucking 7-year-old, whisked off to the Manchester United youth school is mind-boggling to me. And yet, for Norwood, even though this high-profile youthdom meant he played for their u-18 side, and he he did well enough to appear with the reserves and get a professional contract once he was old enough, he never once appeared for the senior club, not quite being good enough. Those youth academies suck up all the good English boys (well, Norwood is Northern Irish by his national team fealty, but has lived and played in England his entire life), the senior club is populated with international human resources imported from other locations. So the likes of Oliver Norwood drop a metaphysical level below the global elite, to places like Brighton, where Norwood was for a few seasons, which included getting loaned down to the Championship to Sheffield United on their 2018-19 season where they earned promotion. He was rewarded with a contract with the Blades, and has been a prominent fixture on the club’s starting XI sheet ever since, and is currently vice-captain for the squad. And while the club has been to slow to adapt to the psychic power of their salmon-colored kits this season, Norwood is one of the men who has had a resurgent form that’s helped them at least escape being an all-time worst Premier League club. So even if they don’t escape relegation, they have at least escaped being worse than 2007-08 Derby County, who only got 11 points, and had the horribly ominous -69 in goal differential that season. There is no worse goal differential in football metaphysics than a negative-69. [RAVEN]

#6: JOHN FLECK (up 1 from #7 last time) – Scotsman who came up with and played for Rangers for a number of years, so I imagine him and “Burn Dog” Oli McBurnie have knocked back a number of drinks together. It’s impossible for me to hear the name John Fleck though and not assume he’s a well-learned “free jazz” aficionado whose academic mastery of the subject matter never has translated into an easy and innate rhythm in his trumpet playing. But he’s trying hard, and seems like a nice guy, so you just let it go. We have easily overlooked how many well-meaning but shitty white-appearing jazz musicians have lost their side dinner crowd music hustles to this coronavirus pandemic. How are these guys to feel self-important without a captive audience to listen to their hyper-intelligent between-song banter? [RAVEN]

#7: DAVID MCGOLDRICK (up 2 from #9 last time) – Black Irish striker is such a strange and unique vibe, you always want it to succeed tremendously, but the forces of western civilization are against it. After a long career mired mostly in the Championship (has well over 300 appearances, and 75 goals at that level), the past two were McGoldrick finally getting to enjoy making it to the Premier League, being promoted on individual level along with his club. Sadly, that last Championship season, he netted 15 goals for the Blades, which might have led to lofty notions of exactly who McGoldrick is metaphysically, as he’s not equaled that prolific nature, though he’s does lead the particularly impotent club in goals this season. Between McGoldrick and Billy Sharp (who we will get to shortly), this is truthfully more of a club built to excel in the Championship. And despite that 9th place finish last season, I guess that doesn’t always translate to being good enough to survive in the Premier League. That being said, the club’s in good shape to be next season’s Norwich City in the Championship. It’s just sad they had to be this season’s replication of last season’s Norwich City in the Premier League. [RAVEN]

#8: JOHN LUNDSTRAM (up 3 from #11 last time) – Lundstram is one of the Blades’ English dudes with a more high profile history that’s supposed to be leading them into the next era. He played for the English national team at all youth levels up through u-20, but hasn’t ever cracked the main squad (and likely won’t, barring an injury-depleted friendly in the future). Lundstram was Sheffield United’s big signing when they were promoted to the Championship, looking to grow with the club, which happened fairly well up until this season. Interesting fact about Lundstram – as a youth, he came up through Everton’s system, having grown up in Liverpool, and has always remained a LFC supporter despite those Everton days. [RAVEN]

#9: DEAN HENDERSON (down 8 from #1 last time, thus one previous metaphysical star with the club on 15-Apr-2020) – Idea for a movie: Harry Redknapp eyes a return to management, proposing to hmm…let’s say Daniel Levy…that he base his squad around signing the Liverpool captain, the Man United sub goalie and a Sasquatch. Name of movie? Harry and the Hendersons. Remember that movie? Huh? No? Ah well, those with equally dodgy memories might also have forgotten that last season a bright, young goalkeeper impressed Premier League watchers with weekly high-level performances for Sheffield United who rode high in the table, declaring themselves the Kings of Yorkshire and mocking the likes of Barnsley, York City, Huddersfield and of course the clowns at Wednesday. Was it, like Bigfoot, all a myth? A team in cryptozoological form, believed to exist but merely something made up by a bunch of weirdos? It seems hard to countenance now that Sheffield United were ever really that good and Leeds’s Bielsa-driven revival has even ended their proud reign in Yorkshire. As for the goalkeeper, well he has all but disappeared, become something between a legend and a hoax. Some say he will replace David De Gea at Manchester United, some say he will rise again to overcome the force of malignant evil that is Pickford in goal for England, some even say he has gathered hitherto untold riches for a lad that we grab only slight glimpses of near fellow fantasy figure the elfin Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. I say Dean Henderson has mastered the brutish career of goalkeeping where renown can be won over a decade and lost in a couple of bad games. Play one incredible season on loan for Sheffield United, get a huge pay rise from parent club Manchester United and then hardly ever play. The pressure of being goalkeeper for England and/or Manchester United is ridiculous so why bother? Instead, let De Gea and Pickford look like the schmucks, let your reputation burgeon, get paid and chill, maybe have a few kids, take up gardening, phone up Baldock to reminisce about the good old times. Perhaps occasionally you will be required to get the gloves on and save a few things, maybe Nick Pope or some other loser will do it, who cares? Stay free of this terrible goalkeeping business young Henderson, you have done enough. [JUDE] 

#10: OLI MCBURNIE (up 2 from #12 last time) – I affectionately called McBurnie “Burn Dog” during his time with Swansea. He showed flashes of greatness as a big fish in a smaller pond at times in the Championship, and is such a hard ass goofball with his tiny shin guard wearing ass. What’s become painfully clear as he’s been with the Blades is that some folks are destined for a certain level of greatness, and globalism does not benefit them. Sure, Burn Dog excelled at the Championship, which with a football pyramid suggests he should also then have a chance to excel in the top flight. But he can’t, and probably never will. He’s just a simple-minded but extremely lovable Scottish boy who is right at that precipice, but ain’t ever gonna be a Premier League superstar. His peak is either going to be excelling at the Championship or being considered a detriment to a floundering bottom of the table Premier League club (like he’s seen now). This is all disappointing that we have to even project this scale of Sisyphean accomplishment myths to all footballers, because Burn Dog’s ideal situation personally would be to just slide back into Scotland, go play for Rangers, score a bazillion goals and be a club hero. And he could probably do that. He’s only 24, so I’m sure the notion he has to be a success in English football will hang over him for at least a few more seasons. But why the fuck not just go to Rangers now, get yourself a decade of service in there, and become a modern day club legend? What the fuck is the point of being mired in PL/Championship purgatory, bouncing between clubs like Swansea City and Sheffield United, and then more of the likes of Burnley or Norwich or god forbid fucking Newcastle, but never really being noteworthy in life? Fuck it man, let ol’ Burn Dog just go to his beloved Gers and be a superstar, at least until some angry Celtic defender slides into those unguarded shins cleat first in an injury time expressions of sectarian violence, down 3-1, on the wrong side of Glasgow. [RAVEN]

#11: AARON RAMSDALE (previously ranked #11 for Bournemouth on 15-Jan-2020) – When it comes to English football talent under the age of 25, there are two distinct classes. The first contains galaxy talents like Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jadon Sancho, but also quite a lot of the mediocrities that get spat out of the uppermost echelons of the football-industrial complex. They chiefly comprise healthy, youthful, marketable, uncontroversial, grab-a-pic-for-the-’gram types who ooze #Hustlementality and a general air of competent banality. They stand out most when asked to step down a level, where they carry the air of a Faberge egg asked to perch on the shelves of a gun shop. The other, rapidly shrinking, group contains Aaron Ramsdale. Wayne Rooney was their figurehead; the golem of natural talent, scoffing crisps and gulping cordial before running back outside to play some more with his mates on the field. Brute force and will are their tools. The remarkable state of English football and its proclivity to some of the wildest gambles outside of r/wallstreetbets is that £18.5m can be spent on the goalkeeper who conceded the third most goals in the 19/20 season and shows little end to leaking. Fair enough, he’s just a pup in goalkeeping terms, and in consecutive years he’s been marshalling Championship defenders out of their depth. Part of the transfer was an emotional decision to restore Ramsdale to his patrimonial course: a product of the Blades Academy who set out into the world to defy those who would have him selected behind veteran sticksman Mark Howard (currently at Scunthorpe) via endless loans and the meaningless trundle of England youth internationals. To use a phrase much used by Neil and others: Ramsdale was bought to be a spirit warrior in an era where there’s no spirit available to capture. [DAN]

#12: JACK O’CONNELL (down 10 from #2 last time) – This dude has the same name and face of the actor Jack O’Connell so I can only assume they are the same person with spread out energy levels and shit. The actor Jack is infamous for playing shit of the earth characters like his turn in This Is England in which he played a skinhead named Pukey, or his sensational turn in the dirty English teen show Skins, where he played a fucking maniac named James Cook who was a self-destructive but beaten to the bone lovable, all drugs and car crashes and fucking until you die antihero in what was probably the darkest arc of that fucked up but vital show. He’s since made a name for himself as movie starish kind of dude, playing a stoic cowboy sort in the Netflix series Godless which was pretty good, but now he’s got himself on the defense for Sheffield United, playing next to Chris Basham who keeps telling him how much he hates the shitheads who eat at McDonald’s and, well, shit, he’s only played twice this season so maybe he was just doing some field work for a new role? That’s some raw dedication to his craft, and if he can commit to it a bit more, maybe Sheffield United won’t have to be flushed down the relegation toilet this year. This is just how Hollywood and sports work. [NEIL]

#13: SANDER BERGE – Every good football team has to have a Viking sort, someone to mind the middle and maybe stab a few weak Christians in the process, and Sander Berge is a literal Norse Viking, although he probably doesn’t make a show of the Viking thing both because raping and pillaging isn’t in good graces these days, and because the whole Viking mystique is so easily coopted by white hate groups both in Europe and over here in America.  But Sander Berge is a legit Norse Viking and those are nice to have for when shit gets real. His family also has people who have played basketball at an international level, so you know he is probably a rangy fucker, yes I just checked he’s 6’5” and I don’t know what else to tell you. This gentleman is a fucking Viking. [NEIL]

#14: BILLY SHARP (down 4 from #10 last time) – We use the term “spirit warrior” for a certain breed of footballer who transcends normal footballing and becomes a psychic entity for club, or sport, or self, or a combination of those three. Probably the most famous (and thus also infamous) spirit warrior football has seen is Diego Maradona, the man who personified the number 10, and also was a hated heel in England due to his hand of god goal in the World Cup. Diego ended up the epitome of himself, of a striker, and the pinnacle human example for multiple clubs, including the Argentine national team, Boca Juniors in Argentina, and Napoli in Italy. It’s pretty amazing he was so powerful a force he could become the face of so many different clubs like that. I say all this because in the past few months I’ve done some extensive #10 research, and if you list off the men in the Premier League who have scored the most goals for their club who are currently wearing that #10 kit, Billy Sharp is near the top of the list. He did not score those goals in the Champions League, or even the Premier League mostly, like the far more famous #10s like Harry Kane or Sergio Aguero. He didn’t even do it in a giant four or five season smorgasbord like a Sadio Mane. But I’m not sure any of those other three have crossed that indefinable threshold of being a spirit warrior either. Certainly, they are all much higher caliber players than Billy Sharp, but more so than them, Sharp is truly a spirit warrior force for this Sheffield United football club. And that, unfortunately, ties them to him as much as it does him to them. Sharp is 35 now, but he’s been a key part of the club’s ability to snatch a few actual points the past month or so. He also was a Sheffield boy, literally as a boy, born there, and a youth player there. And despite a few stints elsewhere as a professional, he’s always ended up back with his hometown club. When he came back in 2015, he left behind a Leeds United club at the Championship level, to go back to the Blades, who were then at their lowest point in decades. But ol’ Billy Sharp played in all but two matches over the next two league seasons, and poached, picked, and dazzled for 51 goals over the course of those two years, and they were back in the Championship. In the two years they spent there, he remained a workhorse, and was key to their promotion back to the Premier League, which he’d never played at with the club, despite multiple stints there. He spent two seasons with Southampton previously in the Premier League, but only had a pair of appearances in 2012-13 season to show for it. Billy Sharp got promoted as well. The club itself had notions of grandeur though, and Sharp saw a somewhat reduced role at times, both last season and the beginning of this one. Eventually, with the club’s spirit warrior being sidelined too long, the effects of that began to show up in that long stretch of frustrating results that anchored them to the bottom of the table this season. But Sharp has been key to their more hopeful form, even if they might be too far gone. He’s gotten five goals between Premier League and FA Cup play, where they find themselves perhaps to the outsider as a shock quarterfinalist, although the club has had a recent history of being known as giant-killers in the competition. And perhaps that’s where they – and Billy Sharp – flex still this season, as they look to be too far back in the riptide of points to remain a Premier League squad after this season. They travel to Chelsea next month, with a trip to Wembley Stadium for the semifinals there for the taking – a feat they’ve achieved four times already in the Premier League era. But never with Billy Sharp. I don’t know, maybe I’m out of line here, and thinking with my heart not my brain, but I’ve got a feeling that despite all that’s happened to the Blades this season, we’re gonna see Billy Sharp force his way into Wembley Stadium. I’m all for it, too. [RAVEN]

#15: ETHAN AMPADU – “Ethan Ampadu” is one of the most magical names in English football right now. Factor in the fact he’s Welsh (by way of Exeter city), and it’s even more magical. Sadly, he cut off his trademark dreadlocks that he wore for a while, which made him seem like a ridiculous little defensive midfielding wizard. He’s contractually obligated to Chelsea though, and has been loaned out to the high-level likes of RB Leipzig and now Sheffield United, so you can’t be having dreadlocks, not even a magical Welshman named Ethan Ampadu. Cut ‘em off and assimilate son; maximize the value of your human resource, which we will extract to our fullest, until you are useless to us. [RAVEN]

#16: BEN OSBORN (up 3 from #19 last time) – Osborn is just your most basically smiling Englishman with the most “has logical debates online” name one could hope for, thus I have to kinda hate on him even though I have no valid reason. Football metaphysics often times has nothing to do with you personally and is just the general accumulation of aesthetic and historic clutter around what you appear to be. [RAVEN]

#17: JACK ROBINSON – This dude is one of the youngest players ever to suit up for Liverpool, which he did when he was only 16 and Brendan Rodgers was on his way in and Luis Suarez had only considered eating people, but the Anfield pitch was too big a stage for Jack Robinson and he was soon loaned out like a prostitute to various shitty clubs who could use some quality meat. And Jack Robinson hasn’t really made a name for himself beyond that, which is troubling because he is threatened to be swallowed by Jackie Robinson, the first Black dude to play major league baseball, and that is a hell of a name to live up to, but also Jack Robinson is apparently a mythical name used to represent quickness, which is a whole hell of another thing to have to live up to. Basically, this guy has a whole lot of work to do to earn the name Jack Robinson, and if he doesn’t work for it, he’ll end up just another white jackass. That’s how they name them. [NEIL]

#18: LYS MOUSSET (down 3 from #15 last time) – A totemic figure of bustling brilliance during the unlikely success of the 19/20 season but now mostly seen sad-eyed in a big coat on the touchline. Rumours spread that in the 20/21 pre-season he’d “dropped his dinner on his big toe”, injuring him for a stretch until late November. Pathetic with desperation, Wilder threw Mousset on at the next possible moment, where he played every game with a steadily increasing apathy, culminating in getting angrily hauled off in an FA Cup game against Bristol Rovers in early January. His replacement, Oliver Burke, scored within a nanosecond of taking the field and Mousset hasn’t been seen in the red and white since. Of course this all reeks of a guy who wanted a better contract, who took a mutual strop with his manager, was thrown a bone in the slough of despond, and then cast back into the shit pit. I might be wrong and it might be that Mousset is the new Michu/Chimbonda of one inexplicably good season and then nada. I hope I am. I am not. [DAN]

#19: JAYDEN BOGLE – Bogle’s a young right back who came to the Blades from Derby County this past September. he made his Premier League debut for the club the week before Christmas, subbing in for Rhian Brewster, and scoring the first goal of the match, against Brighton & Hove Albion. The Gulls of course equalized, but the goal did give the Blades their second point of the season. That was a promising early sign for Bogle’s influence on the club. A second Premier League goal two weeks back equalized in a match with West Brom, and spirit warrior Billy Sharp added a go-ahead goal in the 73rd minute, for only their third win of the season. So Bogle’s already having a solid touch to the club’s stature. [RAVEN]

#20: OLIVER BURKE (previously ranked #23 for West Brom on 15-May-2018) – Some years ago, while Scotland manager, Gordon Strachan suggested that Scottish footballers were sadly lacking genetically in comparison to rival nations. This bizarre pseudo-eugenic intervention caused a moment of hilarity and was all but forgotten. However, Oliver Burke is almost certainly the consequence of a secret Scottish project to breed their own Gareth Bale. Nicola Sturgeon and Strachan with the aid of Sean Connery crossed two borders, sneaked into the Valleys and snatched some Bale DNA to combine with that of trusted Scottish stock (Ally McCoist) and bring raw wideman pace and power to their beloved nation. All seemed well when Burke emerged fully grown at Nottingham Forest and threatened to destroy the Championship with his physical gifts, earning the attention of energy drink behemoths RB Leipzig who doubtless saw in the meaty young Oliver a test subject for their next beverage. Despite an impressive fifteen million pounds transfer fee, things sadly began to flounder there for the lad and talk emerged from then Leipzig coach and future overseer of 9-0 hammerings Ralph Hassenhuttl that Burke lacked something in his ‘hard drive’. This was undoubtedly a Germanic nicety for ‘a bit simple’ which, though a little cruel, probably ended the Scottish Genetic Football Project before it had really begun. Since this ignominy, Burke has been fairly well travelled having short and largely uneventful spells at West Brom, Celtic and Alaves, before joining other footballers of size at Wilder’s Sheffield United. Thus far in his brief stay Burke has found it hard to impress in a Sheffield United that has struggled for confidence and form but a recent winning, albeit deflected, goal against Manchester United may well catalyse both team and player. Still only 23 years old, the opportunity is there for him to put a bit more information on the hard drive and become the player his physical gifts suggested in his Forest years. [JUDE]

#21: RHIAN BREWSTER – When England won the u-17 World Cup in 2017, it was widely known that although other England age groups had progressed well in that period, this group was the one the FA believed had real transformational promise. Some of that promise has begun to be realised – Phil Foden, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Jadon Sancho have all become senior internationals and Emile Smith Rowe looks set to join them. For others of that age group such as Morgan Gibbs White and Ryan Sessegnon, the road has been a little more rocky, though hopes are still high. Brewster is perhaps the most curious and interesting case of the bunch. Top scorer in that World Cup, talk at his then club Liverpool was that he was the most exciting youth product the club had seen in some time. On the brink of breaking into the first team, with occasional appearances on the bench in the Premier League, it appeared all was bright for young Brewster. A brutal knee injury ended these hopes, cost him eighteen months of his career at a key stage and put the player on a less steady path. Even this was not enough to impact general belief in him and Liverpool had to scare off a number of top German sides who tried to get him to join them as part of the fetish for young Brits in the Bundesliga. Following recovery, he was unable to really make an impact at Liverpool, leading to a loan spell at Swansea under Steve Cooper, his England u-17 manager. Brewster thrived, scoring repeatedly in the Championship with a variety of goals from tap ins to absolute thunderbastards. It was this loan that led to a remarkable 23 million pounds transfer to Sheffield United where he has proceeded to do…..nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not a thing, like you would not even notice he was there. At Swansea, Brewster was inclined to drift though games, uninvolved until key moments; at Sheffield United he is simply uninvolved. He looks like a racehorse who, having unseated his jockey, is running amidst the other horses, having a lovely time, wondering what the hell the others are so bothered about. Watching, it feels unthinkable that any club would have spent so much money on him and erstwhile German Brewster-fanciers are probably relieved that Covid and Brexit meant that taking anything across the English Channel into the Europe Union in the summer was problematic. Yet I do not want to dismiss the lad. Being a young centre forward is not easy, especially if your game is not based on pace. Much like previous England age group hope Tammy Abraham (and perhaps it seems Dominic Solanke), he would probably benefit from a more sustained spell in the Championship which, given the sorry plight of Sheffield United, he is quite likely to imminently get. [JUDE]

#22: MAX LOWE – This anonymous spy name sounding fucker is only 23 years old, yet somehow has already plied the sport for seven seasons with Derby County, which included multiple loans to Aberdeen in Scotland. He signed with the Blades this past summer’s delayed transfer season, and Lowe has been partial scapegoat for Sheffield United’s poor start, with manager Chris Wilder even saying to the media that Lowe was probably starting too early, and wasn’t ready for it. He got subbed at halftime against Leicester City early in December, and it took him almost two months to get another minute of time on the pitch during Premier League action, even without injury to justify this. [RAVEN]

#23: PHIL JAGIELKA (up 2 from last time; also previously ranked #24 for Everton on 15-May-2020) – The old warrior returned home. Jagielka came up with Sheffield United and only was pried away from his club when Sheffield United was sent down for being a shit club. The club wasn’t about to drag him down with them so they sent him on to Everton, where he made a name for himself as a stalwart defender for the better part of a decade, captain shit. As captain of Everton, he was a key piece for that squad as they hovered around their usual spot just outside the big boys table. He even managed to get some run with the English national team, and for the most part became an Everton institution. But, the thing with institutions is that they get old and eat up a lot of money and so Phil was bounced from the Everton that he helped make, and then chose to return to his first love at Sheffield United, where he retains an elderly presence, one that is for closure more than anything else. No matter what happens, you can always come home. [NEIL]

#24: KEAN BRYAN – Once the rest of the crew has cherry-picked their preferred blurbs to write, I take what’s left. I’m the clean-up man, putting in work to finish off the rest of the 25. But that means by the time I get to like a Kean Bryan, the whole project, in the moment, has descended into an internal mush of Port Vales and Gigg Lanes and Oldham Athletics and Harry Redknapps until my American brain is tapping out to the absurdity and pointlessness of it all. Why write so many words in an era when people would prefer you just share a couple memes? Why bother adding American input on a sporting entity we’re about 29th best in the world at? Fuck. Is Kean even a real name? How do the Bolton Wanderers field a starting eleven even if everybody is wandering off all the fucking time? I mean, I know Wolverhampton started using trained wolves to keep their wanderlust players on the pitch, but I haven’t heard of any shit like that from Bolton. Is that even legal, the use of wolves to keep men playing football? Is it even playing if they are being paid and the expectation of their labor is attached, whether they want to “play” or not? It’s all too much by the time we get to the end of it, but that’s just how metaphysics works. It wears you out; but after a nice little Andy Capp session on the sofa, preferably late afternoon so it gets dark while you’re turned into the back cushions like a kitten nestling into a warm den, you feel recharged again. [RAVEN]

#25: CALLUM ROBINSON (down 9 from #16 last time; also previously ranked #23 for West Brom on 15-Aug-2020) – Robinson is the rare case of an upgrade via downgrade. Last season, he was struggling for time and form in his first season with Sheffield United, so got loaned down a tier to West Brom, where he played a small part in their automatic promotion. He’s by no means lit it up this season in his return to the Premier League, but he’s done better with West Brom than he did last season with the Blades. Of course, both clubs look fairly solid bets for relegation regardless, so I guess it doesn’t really matter. [RAVEN]

1 F0LL0W3D P0W3R L1N3S...

I followed the power lines 
to where buildings stood fifty 
people high; I got lost there 

Sunday, February 14


natural born country boy, 
taking solace in nowhere; 
it’s where I feel most at home 

Saturday, February 13



navigated cinder block 
labyrinths, meandering 
back roads, and own half-doomed heart 

Friday, February 12

Thursday, February 11

Wednesday, February 10

Tuesday, February 9

Monday, February 8

14-Man Micro-Metaphysical Roster: PORTLAND TIMBERS FC

{Portland Timbers' supporters raising a Bob Ross banner; they used antifa symbol for their's  & got in a battle with MLS over being able to use it, which the supporters ending up winning}

[14-Man Micro-Metaphysical Roster is a football metaphysics methodology calculating minutes played per the last 50 competitive matches for a North American football club, weighting that shit more heavily for most recent matches, and using them calculations to list the 14 players constituting the strongest psychic force on a club’s current path. This is done at Football Metaphysics Space twice a month for the Premier League clubs in England, and now we’re trying to do it for the top clubs in North America, one per month, alternating between MLS and Liga MX. Joining me, Raven Mack, is American soccer game expert and MLS aficionado Mike Dikk. Venmo @ravenmack23.]

Why would you write about American soccer the day after the cultural spectacle that is the Super Bowl? Even in half-speed pandemic times, American football dominates the sporting discourse in this country, partially due to the fact American soccer is such a shitty version of international football, operated by a league built to mimic major American sports cartel systems, and only attracting top international talent as a partial retirement opportunity to be a big fish in a small pond that’s actually a big pond but full of minnows. It seems like a dumb time to kick back off the North American part of Football Metaphysics coverage, but that’s exactly what I’m doing. Why? Because fuck American football. It’s as much a cause for the rise of fascism in America in the past decades as anything else, and having Joe Biden’s creepy smiling ass before kickoff instead of Donald Trump doesn’t change the fact it’s a commercial parade of military and alcohol excess, layered with patriotic imagery, all the while ignoring the continued human exploitation involved in grown men concussing themselves into neurological oblivion for a tiny percentage of the profits that go into the elite group of white men’s pockets that actually run the league.
But also, fuck American soccer. MLS wants so hard to build itself off that same model, and is actually threatening a lockout of players right now, as the rest of the world actually plays football in a somewhat regular replication of normalcy, albeit with partial or zero crowds. MLS decides it’s best to scare off what international talent it has with talks of austerity, which would further hurt the already hurting American version of the international sport that dominates the sporting discourse most everywhere else on Earth.
So as we kick off the schedule of alternating an MLS and Liga MX club every month, it makes sense we start in Portland, with the Portland Timbers, the representative club of a city who has been in the news constantly for violent battles between far right extremists and leftist agitants. Weirdly, the political landscape of America is urban liberals who ignore the poor people in their midst, even while displacing them, and claim to be oppressed by a super-conservative minority politically. On the other side of this is a vast semi-rural and rural expanse, populated by bumpkins who have been trained to identify is delayed-activation billionaires, who claim to be oppressed by a socialist elite. All of this is magnified by digital misinformation, and what we’re left with is a political clusterfuck of non-critical thinking that’s just as likely to end America as it is to settle down and find some unity behind some fucked up shared trauma.
American soccer fans tend towards the liberal side of that scene, although we did see such amazing things as crowds at FC Dallas matches booing the Black Lives Matter moments last season. But American soccer fans are fucking idiots too, just not as bad as the types that boo black lives mattering. American soccer fans have tended towards the Bruce Arena/Bob Bradley mode of thinking that American soccer is just fine, we just need to kick more ass. Foreign seasoning for young stars or a more inclusive youth pyramid system, or even a fucking actual pyramid system with relegation and promotion at the professional level – none of that is needed. We just need to strap on a patriotic headband like Rambo or Hulk Hogan, and go kick ass like America always does, because we’re America, so that’s what we do. Except somehow we’re still not able to. The likes of Landon Donovan and company can run roughshod over Trinidad & Tobago or Guatemala, but seems to struggle against Uruguay or Serbia. We are far from elite.
The reason I say all this is because the World Cup is coming to America (and Mexico, and Canada) in 2026, and I honestly believe -–in true Football Metaphysics fashion – that the best thing for American soccer (or football) is for America to continue to fall apart as an empire. A solid and stable neo-liberal America would be good for MLS – and mean more clubs in gentrifying cities to draw in the microbrew hipster crowd that is the MLS’ sourdough bread and organic butter, but wouldn’t do shit to make American soccer better. American soccer needs broken borders, and poor kids from trailer parks playing defense, and kids from hyper-competitive urban environments playing striker, and fucked up lanky GKs from broken parts of the country finding solace minding the nets. The next five years, in terms of football metaphysics, will be a battle for the soul of American soccer moving forward. I mean, let’s face it – the only reason MLS exists is because the USA had to manufacture a professional league to justify getting the World Cup in 1994. For that I’m thankful, because it gave us the foundation which we must now destroy, and build from the rubble. 2026 will be over three decades since that launch, with MLS just hitting it’s 30s and a mid-life crisis where it can either fail (like previous American soccer leagues) or adjust its identity to something more sustainable. But I don’t really give a fuck if it survives or not. I just want degenerate dirtbags – of which America has no shortage of – to realize they can make money ALL OVER THE ENTIRE EARTH playing soccer. Not just in America, and concussing themselves stupid, but literally anywhere on Earth. Right now, American soccer is still a private school event, where the wealthy and connected are the only ones who can make a go of it. Sure, MLS itself looks much more diverse, as they’ve made an effort to do so in recent years. But it’s still not a sport in this country that draws from the wretched of the Earth, pulling the super-competitive and athletic types that exist in raw abundance among the classes simply trying to survive capitalism. I am hopeful that trend changes in the next five years, as America’s inequalities become more and more obvious, and we hopefully start murdering the extremely wealthy every now and then. Thus, we begin our return to North American football metaphysics in Portland, with the Timbers. This is a club which existed in multiple forms, in the ‘70s in the old North American Soccer League, in the ‘80s as a semi-pro club, and then the first decade of this century as the second level upstart club looking to gain acceptance into MLS proper, which – as is always the case – requires termination of the existing club and it being reborn as a new corporate entity under the umbrella of the MLS. So here we go. And welcome Mike, who joins me as an American football expert whiteboy this month. [RAVEN]

#1: STEVE CLARK – If I played a very marginalized sport in my home country and I had a common boring name like “Steve Clark” I would definitely work on changing it. This is a vanity searchers nightmare. Anyhow, Steve is the primary GK for the Portland Timbers and has a 73 rating in what I consider the bible of my soccer knowledge, aka FIFA 21. 73 is pretty top tier for MLS so don’t let the boring name fool you. This guy is actually good and earned the “save of the tournament” for that weird MLS covid bubble thing they did last summer. Raven had me write something that I don’t even know if it will see the light of day, but in that thing I wrote about how goalkeeper stats are kind of bullshit to me and there’s no way of actually knowing if a goalkeeper is good. There’s even less of an indicator if a goalkeeper is good in MLS because it’s honestly hard to tell what is genuinely “good” and what is “dumb luck” in the league.Steve is 34 which is old by most standards but he’s a goalkeeper and this is MLS so he’s practically 19. [MIKE]

#2: DIEGO CHARA – Chara was Portland’s first designated player ever after they became an MLS franchise, coming north from Deportes Tolima in his native Colombia. He’s been the catalyst for the Timbers ever since. Now 34, and joined on the club by his younger brother Yimmi, you’d think Diego’s best days were behind him, but he made the MLS Best XI list last season. He also obtained his green card in 2019, which means he’s considered a domestic player for MLS roster purposes. The Timbers have a couple of guys carrying green cards, which allows them to stretch the number of foreign players allowed each match. In fact, clubs are supposed to be allowed 7 roster slots for international players, but the Timbers currently sit at 9. And that’s not counting the green card holders. But clubs can also trade international roster slots, which means some clubs just outright buy the slots from other clubs. I don’t know, the shit is all fucked up at this point, and unfortunately America is way better at lawyers than soccer. [RAVEN]

#3: DIEGO VALERI – Valeri comes from football-crazed Buenos Aires, which exports a seemingly endless number of Argentine humans who excel at the sport far beyond the nation’s population would suggest. Valeri played for his hometown Lanus club in Argentina, and had a loan briefly to Europe (FC Porto in Portugal) before getting loaned to Portland way back in 2013. This began a permanent move that has seen Valeri become a force for the club, winning MLS Player of the Year award (unfortunately named for Landon Donovan) in 2017, and even obtaining a green card as a permanent resident here in the States. Now at the age of 34, he’s far beyond his prime footballing years that’s going to see him move to Europe, and the money he makes in MLS is likely comparable to Argentina, and far less physically intense, so to an extent Valeri has lucked into a pretty good life here. Valeri was hot on the heels of that high watermark 2017 season when current head coach Giovanni Savarese took over steering the club, and Valeri has been an elder statesmen for the club, and a fan favorite, and key to Savarese’s success as manager. With as much turnover as MLS rosters tend to have, it’s interesting that their two top guys have been there for the better part of a decade, both coming in from South America. Portland, more so than most clubs, has embraced an international look, and done so with guys like Valeri who get a green card and US-resident status as soon as they can justify it. This is more in line with how Liga MX clubs operate, and long-term, were MLS and Liga MX to ever form a joint league system of some sort around that 2026 World Cup, it bodes better for a club like the Portland Timbers than most other MLS clubs with a more insular outlook. [RAVEN]

#4: JORGE VILLAFAÑA – Villafaña is a Mexican-American with US citizenship who went to high school in Anaheim, and was captain of that soccer team. In 2007, he won a reality show called Sueño MLS, which earned him a try-out with MLS. He landed on Chivas USA, the failed attempt at having a Mexican soccer club in the US system, but it established Villaña’s career firmly. He was traded to Portland way back then, in 2014, but after two seasons, he was sold to Santos Laguna in Mexico, where he competed for a couple of years, before coming back to Portland in August of 2018. Now 31, just this past month, he was traded to the LA Galaxy, meaning he gets to return home to the Los Angeles region, and Southern California. Internationally, he established himself as a starting member of the USMNT during their failed 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, which is probably not a career highlight necessarily. In another not necessarily a highlight moment, while with Santos Laguna, and helping them win the Clausura 2018 Liga MX finals, he and his wife got robbed after visiting a currency exchange store in a Torreon, Mexico, shopping center. Villafaña and his wife went to the store, looking to turn $20,000 American dollars into 400,000 pesos, but the store didn’t have that much on hand. Upon leaving, they were immediately followed by a couple dudes with guns, who promptly robbed them of the money. This occurred between the first leg of the finals, and the second. To his credit, despite not coming in as a sub in the first leg, Villafaña did sub in for the final half hour of the second leg, which was his final appearance in Mexico before going back to the US. He fucked around and found out. [RAVEN]

#5: DARIO ZUPARIC – I’m eternally fascinated by the Yugoslavian diaspora of nations, and football players. So a Croatian dude who ended up playing in Portland is quirky to me, especially since he did not come as a high profile designated player (which skirts the MLS salary cap partially). Zuparic’s heritage there was always Croat, born and bred in the Zagreb region, though his first international appearances happened with the Bosnia & Herzegovina U19 team, as his parents were Bosnian Croats. By the U20 level, he had moved to Croatian nationality in terms of football, but he was never good enough to make the senior national club. He did reach the top Croatian league, playing for HNK Rijeka, who are the third wheel in terms of esteem in Croatia behind the two major clubs of Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split. Zuparic signed with the Timbers in November of 2019, but remained with Rijeka until the end of the year, but appeared in 19 of 24 Portland matches last season, establishing himself as a stubborn and stingy eastern European defender in their back line to complement the South American flair up top. To be honest, it’s pretty good football metaphysics for an American club. [RAVEN]

#6: LARRYS MABIALA – In our basic football metaphysics we’ve come to see as foundational for club success, we’ve identified three regular components. Up top, you need South American flair and gusto as a scoring threat. Your most perfect strikers are going to be South American, which is not to say others can’t occupy that role, but culturally, the rough and tumble world of South American futbol creates those who have a combative ability to score. Think Diego Maradona. Sure, you get guys who go to Europe and learn to flop like Neymar, but they’ve been turned cosmopolitan by money. A true and living striker is cold-hearted and would rather run through a tackle and score than fall down and draw a penalty. They go for the throat, rather than play lawyerball. On the back end, the industrial grime of existence in eastern Europe tends to build solid GKs and defenders. Maybe not entirely, but having at least that presence in there eliminates the sheen of glamour from your defensive unit. Defense, regardless of sport, is always ugly, utilitarian, and block housing-esque when done well. But the third component is the fulcrum which connects offense and defense, and generally speaking that is best done with a defensive midfielder, or a central defender with the ability to see and assist and even score goals. For some strange reason, Africa – specifically black Africa – produces these players in great psychic abundance. But we don’t have a ton of African players in MLS, because the immigration paths are not as direct here as they are across the Mediterranean into southern Europe, or backwards along colonial paths to former colonial overlords. Thus Mabiala is a rare gem of this type of player in North America, and has been a regular for the Timbers for nearly four years now. Born in France, and good enough as a youth to be part of the Paris Saint-Germain youth academy, as well as make an appearance for the French national U21 team, he switched international loyalties to the DR Congo, where his parents were from. He’s well-travelled, having spent time playing in England and France, as well as a long stint in the diverse and rugged Turkish Super Lig. He brings an immense wealth of experience to the Timbers, even as a role player. Few players in MLS have the international resume Mabiala does, and few defenders in MLS have the ability to score like Mabiala. Another solid piece of footballing metaphysics by the club. [RAVEN]

#7: ERYK WILLIAMSON – Eryk may have the most annoying spelling of Eric ever seen but he is also somewhat of a rising star in MLS. FIFA 21 also agrees he has the potential to be a guy that leaves MLS behind to play for like Dolskoynk FC in some country I never heard of, so I guess we should enjoy Eryk while we can. Eryk barely has more followers than me on Twitter and that’s just my current Twitter account, so it is safe to say more people know who I am than Eryk Williamson, rising star of the MLS. I’m kidding, obviously. It’s entirely possible the same amount of people are familiar with us both. Before I go I’d like to mention that I think the most important thing to know about Eryk is that he is the cousin of Queen Latifah so he clearly has me beat in the cousin department. [MIKE]

#8: JEREMY EBOBISSE – You’d think a striker surnamed Ebobisse who was born in Paris would also have an international history with the sport, but that’s not the case with Ebobisse. He grew up in suburban DC, in Bethesda, Maryland, and simultaneous to playing public high school soccer, he was part of a fairly prominent youth club system called OBGC Rangers. These are expensive systems where some kids get scholarships to play, so that you have a child of immigrants, like Ebobisse, excel alongside of and with guys named Chase, Carter, and Jake. That exposure got Ebobisse a scholarship to go play at private Duke University for two seasons, before joining the MLS on a developmental contract. His pinnacle as a Timber was likely the 2018 playoffs, where he started all six matches for them, including the MLS Cup against Atlanta United. He also scored the opening goal in their first-leg win against rival Seattle Sounders during that run. [RAVEN]

#9: YIMMI CHARA – Yimmi is the younger brother of club legend Diego Chara, whom he rejoined for the first time in a decade just over a year ago. Both brothers played for Deportes Tolima in their native Colombia back in 2011, when Diego became the Timbers’ first ever designated player. Yimmi spent a few more seasons for Tolima, making a name for himself, which allowed him to move to Mexican heavyweights Monterrey, be loaned to Colombian heavyweights Atletico Nacional, and even play for Brazilian heavyweights Atletico Mineiro, before transferring to the Timbers last year. Though less familiar to MLS fans than his brother Diego, Yimmi has actually made more appearances for the Colombian national team, mostly in friendlies, though he came close to making the 2018 World Cup squad. Neither is a superstar in Colombia, but football is probably still at a higher level in Colombia as an entity than America. Yimmi joining the Timbers is almost like the club getting a younger, faster, more seasoned version of their veteran star, which somehow doesn’t seem possible, or fair. With last season’s disjointed season, a more stable regular season for this year would’ve been imperative for Yimmi to establish himself as he could for the club. MLS feels almost part-time compared to the more intense schedules of most of the rest of this hemisphere, which doesn’t seem like it would work in favor of players who feed off of rhythm and momentum. When (or if) the MLS finally gets started this year, Portland’s success is going to depend on how easily Yimmi Chara gets into his rhythm, and how well he and his brother engineer and control the offense. [RAVEN]

#10: FELIPE MORA – A Chilean striker who established himself as a goal-scoring threat south of the border in Liga MX the past few seasons, for both Cruz Azul and Pumas. He was loaned from Pumas to Portland last season, and gave the club 7 goals in 24 MLS appearances. The Timbers have a wide array of potential goal threats, but Mora, at age 27, could be their strongest one this upcoming season, at least from their sizable South American contingent on the squad. [RAVEN]

#11: CHRISTHIAN PAREDES – I chose to write about this guy because he has a real soccer guy sounding name, but outside of that there doesn’t seem to be anything notable to say. He plays...sometimes, and he has the potential to be good enough to leave MLS at some point in his career but as of right now he is just a guy who was pretty decent a couple seasons ago and less decent last season. I don’t know how soccer mechanics work so maybe they just put him in some formation where he is no longer allowed to score goals or do anything notable that I can Google. It is truly a mystery. [MIKE]

#12: SEBASTIAN BLANCO – Along with Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco come from Buenos Aires, and specifically the club called Lanus in that city. While Valeri’s been here for longer, Blanco’s become the offensive leader for the club in his time with the Timbers, coming in February of 2017 after having returned to Argentina after a failed transfer to West Brom in the English Premier League. Now though, pushing 33 years of age, will likely have to start making room for the younger players on the squad, although then again, this is MLS, so maybe not. Blanco’s a tiny little spitfire of a dude, which it seems like a quarter of all MLS clubs have tiny little Argentine dudes rocking their #10. [RAVEN]

#13: ANDY POLO – It might seem easy to assume the name Andy Polo is a traditional American soccer whiteboy from privilege, but no, it’s a trick because that’s not the case. Andy Polo is actually Peruvian, and came to America from the Mexican club Morelia. Earlier in his career, as testament to his rising star at the time, he was signed to a short term contract to European heavyweights Inter Milan. That was in 2014, and he left them for Colombian club Millonarios. He’s been with the Timbers for two seasons now, one on loan, then as a permanent player. Only 26, and making an $150K a year guaranteed salary, which is certainly not signifier of a huge international demand for Mr. Polo, but also is pretty good money for a non-demanding schedule. [RAVEN]

#14: BILL TUILOMA – A New Zealand-born player of Samoan descent, who at one point was contracted to Marseille in Ligue 1, suggesting a pretty high trajectory for a player from New Zealand, much less Samoan. Samoa has not been known for producing many international footballers, so Tuiloma always played for New Zealand internationally. Australia considers itself part of Asia for footballing purposes, which means the OFC federation is now New Zealand dominating a bunch of smaller islands. Australia moved to the Asian confederation because it allowed them an easier path to World Cup qualification, because the Oceania Federation got half a slot, meaning whoever won had to beat a club from Europe or South America to get into the World Cup, which of course rarely happened. Now, with the expanded field that will start in 2026, Oceania Federation will have a team qualify, which means basically New Zealand will qualify. Tuiloma’s only 25, so this means ultimately he’s likely going to get to play in the World Cup in North America, as a competitor, in two matches where New Zealand gets waxed by better countries. Tuiloma only actually played a couple matches for Marseille’s senior squad, and came to Portland in July of 2017, where he’s been an off-and-on rotated member of their squad ever since. [RAVEN]

R3C0GN1Z1NG 34CH W1NT3R...

recognizing each winter 
as time to retreat into 
the warm thinking of my heart 

Saturday, February 6

Thursday, February 4



Nickelus F had a line in one song about eating gas station fried chicken regularly, and being he was also from Richmond, I don’t think I ever related to a rapper more. I estimate I’ve probably eaten close to one billion pieces of gas station fried chicken, with about 84% of that being thighs. When I die, I hope they put an image of a fried chicken thigh on my grave. Actually I’m being cremated and scattered by the railroad tracks, so I hope they save 69 chicken thigh bones to lay with my ashes being scattered, so the raggedy wild dogs and coyotes in the area can enjoy a marrow feast in my dead honor.
By the way, this video is amazing. Nickelus F is one of those brilliant ass dudes nobody knows about. His growing cultural status as Richmond Legend is absolutely deserved.

KN0WL3DG3 0F 4S3M1C...

knowledge of self determined 
by decoding asemic 
writing hidden in the cracks 

Wednesday, February 3

Tuesday, February 2

Monday, February 1

SONG OF THE DAY: s0Vl p0W3r pt 11

When songs I write about for song of the day from the J.J. Krupert machine don’t exist inside youtube, because it’s a 45 I’ve recorded at 33 rpms (like this one), or some weird ass vaporwave from Lithuania, or beats my boys have made, or shit it might just be some fucked up shit I came across inside the dark tunnels of the internet, and no video exists on youtube for it, then I make one. This used to be just stitching gifs together with the audio, but gradually I started taking chunks of clips from elsewhere and slapping the music on it. It’s very little effort to be honest, but looks pretty great when you blur it out and glitch it up and throw it all together – kinda like knowing your way around a kitchen, in that if you get all the right ingredients and throw them together with even a little bit of competence, then the shit tastes good. This old Maceo & the Macks jam slowed down to 33 speed with a bunch of clips of Jim Kelly kicking people’s asses is the perfect example. This shit is like the fried egg sandwich of digitalia.

25-Man Metaphysical Roster: SOUTHAMPTON FC

{Southampton's greatest moment - and only major trophy - 
their 1-0 1976 FA Cup win over Manchester United}

[25-Man Metaphysical Roster is a football metaphysics methodology based off the foundation of minutes played over the past 100 competitive matches for a club, determining which 25 players constitute the strongest psychic force on a club’s current path. Intuitive analysis, performed mostly from an un-American “soccer” fan’s perspective is added. Ideally, we do this twice a month, cycling through English Premier League clubs, because it’s the top domestic English-speaking league on Earth, and as un-American miscreants and mongrels, our staff of writers were born saddled with this limited, segmented tongue of the global colonizer, oppressor, and capitalizer. To some extent, we hate the English, but also America, and likely ourselves. Core staff is Raven Mack (chairman), Paul Robertson (director tecnico), and Neil Bulson (director rudo), but obviously, we always need help. Venmo @ravenmack23.]

Southampton Football Club was an original Premier League member in 1992, where they remained until 2005, suffering relegation, which bottomed out in League One for two seasons a decade ago. They earned back-to-back promotions in 2011 and 2012 to get back to the Premier League, where they’ve remained a solid middle of the table club, and in fact played two seasons in the Europa League. You take away the Big Six, and Southampton has been a Premier League club more than most any other club, and tends towards finishing in the top handful of clubs not the Big Six. They struggled from 2017-19, flirting with relegation, which you can’t really do for too often without fucking up, but after an 11th place finish last season, they’ve gotten off to a solid enough start this season to not fear relegation, though they likely ain’t challenging for a Europa League spot either. That’s sort of the existence for a lot of clubs who float in this high-middling level - way too good for the Championship, but not gonna compete with the likes of the Big Six heavyweights. Under Austrian manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, who was appointed at the end of 2018, the Saints have settled into the cream of the middling. So, using our methodology of minutes played in the past 100 competitive matches, these are the 25 men who make up the metaphysical direction of this Southampton Saints Football Club currently… [RAVEN]

#1: JAMES WARD-PROWSE (up 1 from last time Southampton were metaphysically deduced on 15-Mar-2020; also HIS FIRST METAPHYSICAL STAR) – Ward-Prowse has been a lifelong member of Southampton’s club, even though he was born and raised in Portsmouth to a Portsmouth supporting family. Portsmouth’s best days are currently behind them though, so Ward-Prowse - since the age of 8 - has been a Saint. He’s been a fringe member of the English national team, with four caps for the senior team, though not anything super important necessarily. But he’s been the face of Southampton for a while, wearing the captain’s armband, and having played his entire professional career over the past decade, for only Southampton, beginning at the age of 16, getting called up for their League Cup matches back then. Perhaps not coincidentally, that season was the Saints last one in the Championship, before getting promoted. All Ward-Prowse played that season was a single FA Cup and that single League Cup matches, but he got a goal in the FA Cup match he appeared. The following season, he played about half their Premier League matches, and ever since he’s been most ever present as their fulcrum with the captain’s armband in the defensive midfield. One interesting fact is when he was still with the Southampton youth academy, he secretly trained, without them knowing, with lower tier non-league Havant & Waterlooville, specifically to get tackled and beaten up and get tougher. That’s a solid mentality for a captain to display. [RAVEN]

#2: JAN BEDNAREK (up 1 from #3 last time) – The glossification of dirt cultures for upper level football presentation always trips me out. I am one quarter Polish, as my maternal grandfather was the child of Polish immigrants, actual Ellis Island ass immigrants. It didn’t have a lot of effect on my upbringing, like there’s no real cultural shit I learned, because my grandfather was a rolling stone, and disappeared from New Jersey as soon as he could, through vagabonding as well as the navy. He fell in love with a creole woman in New Orleans but ended up marrying a Scandinavian widow living in her car outside Chicago with her two young boys, likely because he felt like they needed caring for. I don’t know, maybe my grandma had that WAP back in the day. But what I did learn about my Polish heritage is Polish people are absolutely fucked. It’s like the Eastern European doomed, who are doomed even by those relative standards. They are a people steeped in pollution. You never hear about wonderful trips through the Polish countryside. This of course means they’re a perfect form of person to play defender or GK, specifically slotted in that center back “fuck you, I won’t let you do shit bitch” territory, because a person steeped in environmental poisons does not attempt to succeed in life, they simply bash shit away as much as possible. Which is why Bednarek was perhaps destined to be a center back. But he’s this model-looking dude chilling on the Southampton coast? That doesn’t make sense at all. Of course, this doesn’t matter, because the doomed are always still gonna be doomed, no matter how much hair gel they wear. Bednarek’s first Polish senior team appearances happened around World Cup 2018, where behind the global prowess of Robert Lewandowski, they were expected to dominate their group. A late goal against Senegal provided little comfort for a 2-1 loss where the first goal for Senegal was an own goal by Poland. Then they got crushed by Colombia 3-0, effectively eliminated from advancing. In that final and meaningless match against Japan, they salvaged a 1-0 win over Japan, with Bednarek’s first international goal in the 59th minute. They were still considered a huge disappointment. And I guess, in that sense, Bednarek fulfilled his Polish destiny perfectly – having his greatest success still be part of a larger metaphysical disappointment. [RAVEN]

#3: RYAN BERTRAND (up 2 from #5 last time; also one previous metaphysical star with Southampton on 15-Jul-2018) – Bertrand is the elder statesmen of the defense, and though he doesn’t wear the captain’s armband, if the press and club are working in tandem to engineer public consciousness about an issue, it’s going to involve a notable quote from Bertrand. Only 31 still, he’s already comfortably entered that realm of players who speak well of other players, and comment on managers that have nothing to do with his current situation. Like last week, before Frank Lampard got sacked at Chelsea, there was Bertrand, in the press, talking about how great Lampard is. And it wasn’t really a threatening quote, like he wanted to leave Southampton, or wished Ralph Hassenhuttl wasn’t his manager. It was just that managerial press politics that certain players start showing a knack for a few years in advance of their declining play, and eventually getting appointed interim manager of Nottingham Forest or Reading one December. [RAVEN]

#4: ALEX MCCARTHY (down 3 from #7 last time) – I watched a couple Southampton matches recently, and wow, Alex McCarthy is kind of a brilliant fuck up. Like he’ll stand on his head sideways for some amazing saves, but then make an absolutely idiotic mistake to give up a goal that shouldn’t have even been contemplated as possible. That’s the perfect GK for a club like Southampton, eking out draws against both the best and worst clubs in the Premier League, confusingly not being really great or really bad with focus, but instead being both really great and really bad, at the exact same time. This is the chemistry that causes a club to be a perennial 9th through 12th place club. [RAVEN]

#5: DANNY INGS (up 4 from #9 last time) – Poor Danny Ings never got through the Klopp buzzsaw in Liverpool, but he’s back scoring goals for Southampton, picking up the pace he established at Bournemouth before Klopp literally kicked his ass out of Liverpool. Okay, that didn’t happen, I don’t think. No, the real sad story is that Danny boy wrecked his knee before he could even be in the plans, and the plans at Liverpool were famously outrageous, with the Reds front line scoring almost at will while young warriors held shit down on the defense. You know all those names now, MO, Bobbie, Sadio Mane… but Danny Ings was supposed to be able to roll with that crew, which is big ticket city, but he’s not at that super level obviously, but Klopp and the boys liked him because he made them laugh in the lockers. A good personality can keep you in the rotation but a bad one will turn you into a diva. Still, while they hate to say goodbye, Danny needed to find his level again, which he has and he is maybe one of the more underrated dudes getting goals out there. That’s all it takes, just find the right level and its buckets. [NEIL]

#6: JACK STEPHENS (same as last time) – Come April, Jack Stephens will hit a full decade of service to Southampton, after a £150K signing fee from Plymouth Argyle back then. Coming up on 100 appearances, and 83 starts for the club, that’s a fairly solid return on investment, and exactly the type of affordable and non-glamorous but ruggedly serviceable type of dude a club like Southampton needs in their defensive line. Factor in the fact he’s a white-appearing conventionally handsome enough Englishman, so the easily xenophobic footballing public at large isn’t going to get unnecessarily riled at him in these trying times, and what you have is a guy who looks perfectly inoffensive in the red and white Southampton kit. [RAVEN]

#7: ORIOL ROMEU (up 1 from #8 last time) – Former Barcelona youth academy and Barcelona B mainstay, who moved to Chelsea for four years, which was mostly spent mired as a back-up, occasionally loaned out for brief spells abroad. Since coming to Southampton in August of 2015, he’s finally been able to play regularly, appearing in the bulk of their Premier League fixtures since then, as well as most of their Cup matches as well, occupying that sweet and steady spot of guy who plays all the time but is not such a superstar that we bench him for cup matches. Part of why Southampton has been so consistent of a club is how many guys like Romeu fall from seemingly greater destinies, like Barcelona, to St. Mary’s. The Saints have a knack for identifying these types, taking them on, and many of them stick. This habit, combined with selling off rising young superstars like Sadio Mane as they arise, can allow a well-managed club to remain plodding around the midfield of Premier League table for a long ass time. [RAVEN]

#8: STUART ARMSTRONG (up 5 from #13 last time) – Paul is overloaded with coursework, attempting to live the academic dream in the declining age of the late American empire. Thus, he didn’t have time to check in this month upon our return, which is weird, because there’s no way I’d be writing about a Scottish midfielder who was part of Celtic’s double treble era under Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers is sort of the unifying managerial presence for the core Football Metaphysics group, as he’s managed notably at Swansea City (my club), Liverpool (Neil’s club), and then Celtic (Paul’s club). I guess we need a Leicester City American degenerate to join our crew now, to help flesh these things out. Armstrong has been a solid presence for Southampton ever since making the move from Glasgow in the summer of 2018, saying not long afterwards that he didn’t miss the rough and tumble world of Scottish club football. He’s knocked in 12 goals for Southampton in all competitions the past two-and-a-half seasons, including 3 this thus far this Premier League campaign, helping the club escape relegation scrum early, and not look to be getting drawn back into it. For a club like Southampton, this is a perfect arrangement, because Armstrong doesn’t really look to be moving to a bigger club, but he’s also excelling well enough he doesn’t need to go back to Scotland just yet. That’s probably why they renewed his contract this past month. [RAVEN]

#9: NATHAN REDMOND (down 5 from #4 last time; also one previous metaphysical star for the club on 15-Mar-2019) – Earlier in his career, Redmond was the metaphysical star for this club, appearing with more regularity than anyone else on the squad. The past couple years has seen injuries slow him down at times, but whenever he’s fit, the Saints benefit from his presence. He’s still only 26, so when fully fit, adds a good pace and flair for creating shit on the wing. He won Player of the Year award at the end of the Saints 2018-19 survival from relegation, both the fans and players version of the award, showing the high esteem he’s held both on the training ground as well as the stands. [RAVEN]

#10: CHE ADAMS (up 10 from #20 last time) – I don’t think anyone should be named Che. It’s too inflammatory. You can’t meet a dude named Che without some preconceived notions, which are probably more about the parents than the dude himself, I mean the dude didn’t name himself. But it’s too late for that and that means that Che Adams is out there as a mercurial weapon, and he chooses to deploy in English rags even though he has Antiguan and Scottish cards to play if he chooses. I can’t tell a man how to live his spirit life, but Che Adams has two get out of jail free cards, or he can go on to rep England and the capitalist empire aka the default setttings. [NEIL]

#11: JANNIK VESTERGAARD (same as last time) – Danish centerback, he came up through the German system, which has admittedly produced a wide variety of artistic expression, the gassers and such probably the most prominent. But whatever he learned in those dark gothic castles he passed on as a good soldier in the Bundesliga before Southampton came in and anchored him as the central defender around which the rest of the squad could do their jobs. He’s 28 so this is his prime, and he’s big, 6’6”. He’s a Dane. [NEIL]

#12: PIERRE-EMILE HOJBJERG (down 11 from #1 last time; thus also one previous metaphysical star for the club, on 15-Mar-2020) – Ahh yes, the goofy-faced wonderkid who was Bayern’s budding young superstar, at least how he was marketed, before cashing him out to Southampton back in 2016. His time at Southampton started promising, helping the club appear to play better, though they had a couple relegation scrums in his time. When Ralph Hasenhuttl showed up at the end of 2019, he put the captain’s armband on Hojbjerg, but had to repossess it after the kid that had Bayern Munich hype in his resume started talking up his desire to leave for a better club. That’s when Ward-Prowse took over captaincy, and in the short transfer season between the lsat finishing 2019-20 season and this one starting, Tottenham Hotspur shelled out the money for Hojbjerg. He’s kinda perfect with Spurs to be honest, joining that collection of assholes like Harry Kane and Jose Mourinho, where it can all just self-implode upon itself in frustrating, overrated fashion. [RAVEN]

#13: KYLE WALKER-PETERS (previously ranked #25 for Tottenham Hotspur on 15-Sep-2020) – Former Spurs hyped hope on the back line, who has gone the opposite way of Hojbjerg. Walker-Peters was loaned to the Saints from Spurs for the second, covid-jumbled half of last season. And once Southampton cashed that Hojbjerg transfer check, they immediately applied a chunk of it to seal a permanent deal for Walker-Peters. His first start after the permanent move is metaphoric for the making the most of a downward trajectory that is a theme with a number of players on Saints, who were potential stars at a younger age for bigger clubs, but have ended up in Southampton. In that first start last September, Walker-Peters got a straight red card during the match with Crystal Palace, for giving Palace’s Tyrick Mitchell some high studs. However, after video review, the ref dropped it to a yellow, and Walker-Peters played on. A decent enough defender who will likely occupy a role with the club for the foreseeable future. [RAVEN]

#14: SHANE LONG (down 2 from #12 last time) – Long is an aging Irish striker who’s been with Southampton for a number of years, appearing regularly, but by no means as a star player. It’s weird to note the trends of where these guys finish on the 25-man list, because this is the fifth time I’ve compiled this list, and Long has finished 11th (August 2017), 13th (July 2018 and May 2019), 12th (last March), and now 14th. This signifies a consistent but not outstanding status with the club, as someone who gets plugged in, but nobody is clamoring to rave about. He’s certainly never come close to matching his 10 goal effort in 2015-16, and looks to be moving to Bournemouth today to aid their Championship cause for the second half of the season. [RAVEN]

#15: MOUSSA DJENEPO (up 2 from #17 last time) – Rapid-paced Malian winger who’s had a bit of a hamstring injury the past month. He’s yet to find his full form with Saints, but signs have been there, and Hasenhuttl certainly would like to see the young winger remain fit and occupy the staring XI enough to get a good rhythm going to enable more regular scoring beyond his PL average of 1 per every 9 appearances. Southampton has had trouble piecing together a good offensive threat, and Djenepo could do a lot to fix that problem. There’s still hope he’d follow the trajectory of the previous young West African star who played at St. Mary’s - Sadio Mane. [RAVEN]

#16: THEO WALCOTT (previously ranked #9 for Everton on 15-May-2020) – Walcott was of course the young English wonderkid at Arsenal all those years, with the expectation he’d be their great hope. Of course that didn’t come to fruition, so he ended up at Everton, which by all means is a pretty nice gig as well, albeit not in the illustrious Big Six heavyweights, at least right there on the periphery. But with Everton’s eternal dreams of moving beyond the periphery, and more and more signings, Walcott was deemed excess value, so off to Southampton for about as high profile a loan as one can be. And while Walcott remains decent enough (2 goals in 10 appearances so far for the Saints), the failure demons of early life expectations are always circling overhead when the now 31-year-old Walcott is on grounds. That’s quite a burden I imagine. Some can seize it, make the most, and become stubborn second-tier spirit warriors or run off to Turkey, Greece, or America, and regain their big fish form in a smaller pond. Walcott seems to just be going gently into that good night of a career though, and I’m sure he’ll plug around for a few years more, just being Theo Walcott, former English wonderkid. [RAVEN]

#17: YAN VALERY (down 2 from #15 last time) – Valery joined Southampton from his native France as a teenager, cracking the senior club in November of 2018 in the classic young dude proving round of the League Cup. A right back by position, who has scored a pair of goals in limited action, and after being intermittently available due to a glandular fevering issue, has struggled to find time after Kyle Walker-Peters’ arrival. He did make his first start of this season’s Premier League campaign last week though. [RAVEN]

#18: ANGUS GUNN (down 4 from #14 last time) – Similar to the downward trajectory of Walcott mentioned above, Angus Gunn had high expectations earlier in his career, as a product of Manchester City’s youth academy after oligarch money made it the go-to destination of schoolboy stars all over the United Kingdom. Never having staked out a spot on that eminent roster, he transferred to Southampton, where he also never really put a chokehold on the starting GK spot, having some highlights but also some boneheaded days in front of the net. He’s had a couple English national team call-ups, of a minor friendly nature, the first of which came when Jack Butland was injured in November of 2017. In a repeat of that status, he was loaned to Stoke City this past October when Butland was injured again. Gunn has done well for Stoke in fill-in duty, and it’s hard not to imagine his dream gig would be to return to his childhood hometown favorites Norwich City, whom he was loaned to previously while still contracted to Manchester City. Gunn is still only 25, so I wouldn’t be surprised if, upon their inevitable promotion, Norwich doesn’t come calling for Gunn as cover for current GK, Tim Krul. Gunn will eventually be the GK at Norwich City again, whether next season, or five years from now. [RAVEN]

#19: CEDRIC SOARES (down 9 from #10 last time) – There’s a certain metaphysical hierarchy to clubs that I’ve always wished could be charted through loans. It’s like cuckold sciences almost, where clubs that build through loans from better clubs are obviously lower on the metaphysical pecking order. This tends to be a one way (downward) flow, but occasionally that is disrupted in the opposite direction by certain players. Cedric Soares was just such a player, who had become a fairly solid but perhaps too exorbitant expense at right back for the Saints. They loaned him to Inter Milan for the second half of the 2018-19 season – an obvious upgrade in club status for Soares. Somehow, the feat was repeated last season, with Soares getting loaned to Arsenal. Southampton had no interest in re-signing Soares, so he made a permanent move to the Gunners, on a free transfer, at the end of his contract. So I guess the lesson of all this is usually the hierarchy of loans flows downward, unless somebody has a price tag nobody of the player’s metaphysical stature wants to pay. So if you can’t find a sucker, you just try to dump the guy off as much as possible, until somebody else inherits your headache. There’s been a lot of press hype this transfer window about how Soares is about to make his name known again for the Gunners, even getting a start last week under Mikel Arteta. But to be honest, it felt like heavy-handed press massaging to try and drum up transfer interest in Soares, as he remains one of the most underwhelming defenders money can be wasted upon. [RAVEN]

#20: IBRAHIMA DIALLO – French midfielder who only joined the club this past October, and made his first outright start on Boxing Day. Hassenhuttl is slowly working him into the rotation more and more. Strangely, as Diallo is a defensive-minded midfielder mostly, not an outright full back, he’s never scored a goal as a professional, either in domestic league play in England or France, nor in cup competitions. As a youth, he followed in the footsteps of his older brother Abdou, at Monaco. Abdou Diallo now plays at Paris Saint-Germain, competing in the Champions League, and had a big transfer fee involved in his arrival. Ibrahima Diallo is just trying to catch on at Southampton. [RAVEN]

#21: MAYA YOSHIDA (down 5 from #16 last time) – Maya Yoshida deserves someone better than me probably writing up his thing here, but just as that is the case, so is his sundowning in Italy after leaving Southampton, but it’s just how it’s done. He’s still the captain of the Japanese national team which means he is the only one allowed to talk. The rest are beaten with exploding fish for every syllable they utter. He will probably be a key “leader” in Japanese sport society going forward, his time with Southampton receding into the comfort of some half forgotten dream. [NEIL]

#22: MICHAEL OBAFEMI (down 1 from #21 last time) – 20-year-old black Irish striker, who became Southampton’s youngest Premier League goal scorer getting the third goal in a 3-1 win over Huddersfield Town back in December of 2018. Still young, a loan move had been lined up for Obafemi to play for Swansea City the remainder of this season, which I was stoked for. Swansea has been getting more goals than historically they do this season, so adding Obafemi was only going to make that more fun to watch. He got injured in training though, and the loan move was cancelled, as there is an injury history with the young man. He’s still out, so depending on his fitness by the end of the season, there may be interest for him in the Championship next season as well. [RAVEN]

#23: SOFIANE BOUFAL (down 5 from #18 last time) – Boufal was the French-born Moroccan striker who arrived at St. Mary’s for an undisclosed but club-record transfer fee in summer of 2016. He never lived up to those expectations, and got loaned out to a Spanish club two seasons back. Last season, he played in the majority of the club’s first dozen matches, but then somehow stubbed his toe on his kitchen table so horribly, the injury lingered and it ruined his season last year. Southampton gave up on him, and sold him back to his first professional club of Angers, in France, where he got one goal in his first five Ligue 1 matches, but then got injured again. I wonder how often Boufal thinks about when he ran into the kitchen table in Southampton though. [RAVEN]

#24: WILL SMALLBONE – Neil originally volunteered for this one, but only sent in an incomplete sentence mocking the surname. I’m not above such immature nonsense gibberish, but also as the sort of chairman of this bullshit, I have to try and steer it a certain direction. Smallbone is a weird ass surname though, an English one, allegedly with an etymology that goes back to a 7th century Olde English word thought to be a term of endearment for a small person, meaning somebody was chill but tiny so they started calling them Ol’ Smallbone. This to me is funnier than a dick joke, so Neil’s nickname is Ol’ Smallbone from now on. [RAVEN]

#25: FRASER FORSTER (same as last time; also one former metaphysical star for the club back on 01-Aug-2017) – A towering former Celtic GK (as recently as last year) mired in secondary status for the Southampton club he used to be the motherfuckin’ man for a few years back – another slot that normally would’ve been gobbled up by Paul. Celtic’s been in disarray this season – way behind Rangers for the first time since multiple administrations for Rangers, and Celtic was allegedly interested in bringing Forster back. Hassenhuttl had promised to keep Forster at GK for the extent of the Saints’ FA Cup run, where he’d already seen them past Shrewsbury Town and Arsenal, with clean sheets in both affairs. Wolves were up later this month, Forster got a chance to prove his status as “number one B”, as Hassenhuttl referred to him, this past month while McCarthy had to sit out a match against Liverpool with a positive rona status. Forster got a clean sheet, 1-0 win over the Reds. This means that for the Saints this season, Forster’s gotten a clean sheet in all three appearances, with two of those three against major English clubs. Alex McCarthy’s got to feel that giant Forster shadow looming behind him. [RAVEN]