Scrap the parachute payments.

Published: Monday, 18 October 2021

It’s was the weekend when fantasy crashed headlong into reality - and not just in Newcastle. It did at Leicester - where all United’s problems were exposed and at Watford. And perhaps at Everton.

Dilly-ding. Dilly-dong. This, of course, is Ranieri’s trademark cry on the training ground when he wants to stop a practice match and do a little bit of coaching. I’ve got a feeling they’re going to be hearing it quite a lot at Watford.

I don’t believe I’ve seen a worse team in PL history. They were shocking against Liverpool. Abject. Lacklustre. Lazy. Lacking even an idea - just one. I feel for Watford fans. It was a good club - but the current owners have stripped it of its soul and direction. Graham Taylor will be spinning in his grave.

What is the point of Watford being in the PL? And Norwich? What are either club contributing? Right now - nothing. We might as well cut the league to 18. And unless Newcastle sort their mess out quickly - make that 17! But I don’t include them in my next argument.

For years now I’ve backed clubs that have wanted to manage finances carefully. I still do. I know how reckless spending can destroy a club. When Coventry were relegated (more than a decade ago now) they went with debts of £66m. That was a huge number then. Chasing an unsustainable dream destroyed the place. Administration was inevitable and a once proud club sunk to the depths of League Two. What a job Mark Robins has done - despite the current owners - bringing back that lost pride - and excitement. And on a shoestring.

I digress slightly. I’ve also always backed clubs yo-yo-ing between the top two leagues. Teams like Burnley for a while - West Brom - Norwich - Watford and Palace.

Burnley were careful first time up - got relegated but when they bounced straight back they had a go - and settled. They weren’t daft - they had budgets and stuck to them, but they also had ambition.

I understood Norwich being careful the last time they were with us. But come on guys - show us something. They’re hopeless and back where I said they would be - bottom. And on the evidence of what we saw Saturday it won’t be long before Watford join them and Newcastle in the bottom 3.

So why is this? At Watford I think it’s very obvious. The owners there simply want to make money - get up - get relegated - take £100m quid. Norwich are doing it. They’ll talk to you about ‘Soccerbots’ and other off-field investments - but supporters don’t want to know about that. They want to see their team win. They part with hard earned money - often twice a week - for a couple of hours when they can forget about how to earn the next admission fee - and dream. See their team ruffle the feathers of the big boys. Look at the middle and top of the table in the programme - not at the relegation scrappers. Brighton have done it - so why not?

Knowing that there’s ‘£100m quid to parachute back to the Championship with is too big an incentive not to have a go.  We’ve known for some time that it badly distorts competition in the second tier - have a look at the top three right now - but it’s not for that reason I want to see the parachute scrapped. It’s because it stops clubs taking their promotion seriously - and that distorts the competition in the PL. Watford give off the air of a club that simply doesn’t care. So do Norwich.

What about Salah? What a goal. How does he do that? I waxed lyrical about the goal v City but wow - I think Saturday’s was better. It wasn’t world class - it was out of this world. There is no argument that right now he is the best player in the world.

What’s a 6-yard box for? According to Benitez it’s a place where goalkeepers should be protected. What nonsense. Of course it’s not. Antonio’s challenge on Pickford was clean. The goalkeeper had the advantage being able to use his hands. You’d have been lucky to get a cigarette paper under his feet. He reminded me of Shilton floundering and failing to get off the ground when Maradona scored the Hand of God. 

Just like last season, Everton had made a good start, but what we saw Sunday won’t do - and I’m afraid there are going to be many more days like that under Benitez. Truth is Everton aren’t very good - but playing the way he does - 7 back - 3 up - won’t do - unless he gets people out of their seats. Two of the three he allowed freedom at Liverpool - Gerrard and Torres - set Anfield alight. I’m afraid Gray, Townsend and Rondon (why on earth did Everton sign him?) won’t.

Who is left believing that Ole should stay at the wheel? Other than Ed Woodward - no-one. What a mess they were again at Leicester. Solskjaer - with his eyes wide open - constantly looks like a scared rabbit caught in headlights.

It’s often joked that Matt Le Tissier invented ‘walking’ football. 😂. United are playing it now - none more so than Fernandes and Pogba. The latter demanded change when he spoke to the media. One I’d make is get rid of him - immediately after sacking Solskjaer. And the honeymoon is over for Ronaldo. I’ve argued all season that he was a romantic signing - not an effective one - and I think that’s becoming evident. He’s not a centre-forward and when he’s got his spanked arse face on he’s a pain. I thought United could mount a challenge this season - but with a clueless coach - whose every sentence baffles me - and players that won’t listen to him - they’re as far away as they’ve been since Fergie left.