SniperTube episode 5: Man Utd Special

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? On the wrong end of an absolute tonking. By the time the 5th or 6th one goes in, you’re so far beyond caring that you’re busy chatting to the bloke next to you about politics or kabbadi. What’s that, we’re down to 10 men as well? Ah well.

Yep, we’ve all been there. Some more than others, it has to be said. And when the most domestically successful team in English football gets a jolly shellacking, we have to savour the moment, since it happens so very, very rarely. And then dredge up and bask in a load of other whuppings for good measure.

After three years of treading water in Division 1, Crystal Palace would finally be relegated in 1973. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom at Selhurst Park, where one of their 7 home victories was against one of the less well-remembered Man Utd sides (they finished a lowly 18th that season). And what a victory it was, too:

Apart from the pure joy of listening to Brian Moore saying “Manchester United simply don’t know which day it is”, it’s also great to see moustachioed genius Don Rogers (“…in a way, doing a Pele”), Palace’s rather dark red and light blue striped kit, and rubber “goalie gloves” taken straight from the washing up bowl and onto the pitch.


Man Utd walked the league in the 99-00 season, 18 points ahead of nearest challengers Arsenal come May. Here though, it’s early October and the season is still very much finding its feet. And as soon as you hear Martin Tyler say something about “Phil Neville’s been put there to do a job on Gianfranco Zola”, you know the United defence is going to be in for a long afternoon:

There’s so many things wrong in this video. Jody Morris scoring, then doing that trombone celebration; Chris Sutton scoring, who cost £10million (30YS Videprinter: Ten); and finally the conclusive proof that all ‘keepers who wear jogging bottoms are ultimately doomed to fail.


Post Love it Newcastle under Kevin Keegan were something of a busted flush, but no compilation of teams beating Man Utd 5-0 is complete without Little Kev’s moment of small revenge. Fergie’s men famously overhauled the Geordies 12-point lead to take the title in 1996, but then Shearer was bought for £15million that summer in what was really Keegan’s last throw of the dice. He would leave the job just a few months later, but not before this:

Keegan’s last hurrah showed just how wonderful that Newcastle team could be on occasion. Everyone remembers Philippe Albert’s chip, but David Ginola’s strike for 2-0 was almost as incredible. Keegan resigned in January 1997, saying that he’d taken the club as far as he could; Kenny Dalglish took over and Newcastle finished 2nd behind Man Utd, just as they had the previous year.

Elite Selection

The 72 clubs of the Football League today voted in favour to set course for Oblivion Central, having departed Common Sense (East) some time ago, after a stopover at Blackmail Town forced chairmen to repeatedly smash the panic button.

It’s the arrival of the Elite Player Performace Plan, a plan devised by the Premier League (originally titled Let’s F**k Football – Together) to ensure they can get the best players off lower division clubs for next to no money. If the Football League had rejected the proposals, the Premier League would have withdrawn the current £5m it donates to lower leagues – that’s £250,000 per club, or an eye-watering 0.5% of the money they receive for TV rights alone. It’s little wonder they’re trying to ensure they get better value for money with such a huge outlay whilst receiving so little in return.

“There is always the danger under the new scheme that larger clubs will become more predatory but we hope we don’t see that,” were the pie-in-the-sky words intoned by football league chairman Greg Clarke after the motion was passed. The EPPP removes what little protection smaller clubs had against getting their best players stolen by larger ones. The only possible outcome of all this is that big clubs will become more predatory. Hope doesn’t even factor into the equation, the whole thing is designed so that big clubs put less effort into getting the better players for less money. Why in God’s name have the clubs agreed to this? In what realm of warped fantasy are you living, Mr. Clarke? And whatever you’re taking, please can I bloody have some?

The youth development of a club will be categorised into one of four sections. Category one, the highest level, will cost up to £2.5m. 46 clubs voted in favour. Statistically, most of these clubs can’t afford to put 50p in the electricity meter; what chance then, of multi-million pound investment in youth development when the maximum fee that can be recouped for a player under 17 is £100,000? Category three and four clubs will no longer be allowed to sign players under 12. The more you look at the figures, the more it becomes incomprehensible that the people in charge of their clubs would make such a decision.

I’m loathe to bring partisanship into the argument, but my club, Crystal Palace, have been stung before, and there is still a lot of resentment about the way the authorities handled the whole affair. The transfer fee for 16-year-old John Bostock was set by a tribunal at £700k, with the fee rising to £2m – when the moon loses her child in a week when two Mondays come together, or something equally as likely (Bostock starting 40 league games for Spurs and playing for England – I think I’ve got as much chance of doing that as he does).

Palace were looking for a fee of at least £2.5m, having rejected a £900k bid from Chelsea when he was fourteen. “It’s beyond me and it makes me question why I bother with football,” said then-chairman Simon Jordan. “One of the reasons the Premier League is the best in the world is because it’s made up of 50 per cent foreigners. So when big clubs buy our young and don’t use them, how the hell does that benefit the national game?” Unusually prescient and wise words from SJ at the time. Bostock has since played just 3 times for Spurs. Jordan gave up bothering not long after.

And that’s exactly what’s going to happen when these rules come in. Chairmen, coaches, young players – they’re all going to give up bothering because it simply isn’t worth it. Clubs have no reason to develop their youngsters for fear of being pillaged by the big boys, shedloads of kids are going to miss out on the chance of becoming a professional, and our national game will suffer as a result.

Of course, some clubs make a hell of a lot better use of their academies than others. But leaving youth development in the hands of each club is by far a much more natural, organic way of producing players. Forcing these categories on teams creates is just arbitrarily restricting their ability to be remunerated for nurturing young players. How can league 2 clubs like Torquay or Morecambe, with average gates of 2,500, be expected to fund a £2.5m spree, just so they can have under 12’s on their books? It is absolute madness.

The last thing clubs in the Football League need is more of a talent drain than there already is. The clubs who voted in favour of this have been banjaxed by some incredible financial short-termism. It is stupidity, denial and ignorance of monolithic proportions. We’ve seen many clubs on tip-toes at the brink over the last 10 years; soon I fear there’s going to be a lot more going over than before.

EDIT 21/10/11: James Daly’s song about the whole saga: