This is Set Piece Menu - the podcast where four friends talk about football over food. They are together a writer, a commentator, a presenter and a pundit. Rory Smith is the Chief Soccer Correspondent of the New York Times, Steve Wyeth commentates for BT Sport, Hugh Ferris is a presenter at BBC Sport, and Andy Hinchcliffe is a former England international (seven caps) who is now a pundit for Sky Sports. On each episode they discuss one footballing issue, while digesting a delicious lunch or brunch, and almost never reaching any sort of conclusion.
SPM 226: Agents
The football: Considering that Kevin de Bruyne appeared not to need one, and Erling Haaland is very obviously using one, we thought we'd talk about agents. Is the bad press they get, particularly in England, warranted? What value (apart from the obvious kind) do they add for a player, and how are modern agents attempting to enhance that value further?
The food: Hugh batch-cooked a large cottage pie. Hugh underestimated quite how large the batch would be, and has been eating cottage pie for a whole week.
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SPM 225: Should we expect football to reflect our own moral compass?
The football: With the recent protests by some players against the conditions faced by migrant workers in Qatar, and the conflict some of us feel when considering some of the elements that have helped our clubs be successful, should we expect the game to match our own moral standards, whatever they may be?
The food: There is a worrying theme developing amongst our audience of what we're calling 'food abominations'. After one confessed eating pasta with ketchup, another has compounded that by revealing their guilty pleasure is pasta, ketchup, and hot dogs. Send any you would like to get off your chest to firstname.lastname@example.org
SPM 224: The Sub-Chinch England XI
The football: After an unnecessarily deep dive into the international footballing history of Jonjo Shelvey, a listener suggested we might put together a Select XI of players who have appeared for England six times or fewer, all of whom are therefore, by definition, sub-Chinch. Spoiler alert: six-cap Shelvey misses out.
The food: Chinch reveals his local chip shop includes seared paprika and garlic squid on its menu, which is not at all surprising, on account of that chip shop being in rural Cheshire.
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SPM 223: What is 'International Level'?
The football: For so long, the phrase 'international level' has been used to designate the 'highest level', but is that still the case? Why does a player that represents his club in, say, the Champions League, need to then 'prove himself at international level'? Or is there a more modern meaning, about emotional maturity, tactical versatility, or mental strength that applies?
The food: We've had a listener tell us about the food that divides his household. He puts ketchup, and only ever ketchup, on pasta. Also, his wife is Italian.
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SPM 222: Is football intelligent enough to change?
The football: A year on from the global lockdown, and the football shutdown, why is there no apparent consensus on how to change the game to guarantee for a better future? The pandemic seemed to prove the sport's stakeholders retain self-interest as their guiding principle, but even now, 12 months later, new ideas based partly on that experience are still being dismissed out of hand. So can football find a way to change, and should those making the accusations of self-interest consider their own motivations too?
The food: Divisive foods. For Hugh and Gemma, it's rice pudding. For Rory and Kate, fish pie. Chinch then reveals he takes fish pie leftovers to games, courtesy of his electric lunch box, and to the disgust of his colleagues.
Correspondence to email@example.com - we want your soccer stories!
SPM 221: How much football is too much football?
The football: With nearly a year of every Premier League football fixture being on television, have we reached a saturation point? Are we still enjoying the entertainment, or is it suffering from over-exposure?
The food: A final call for any food poverty charities you'd like us to promote. Please send them, and indeed any correspondence, to firstname.lastname@example.org