Phil Parkes: ‘Our league form towards the end of the season was a real worry’

I really hope we don't start the season in the same manner as we've finished it

David Moyes (West Ham manager) at the EPL match West Ham United v Burnley, at the London Stadium, London, UK on 16th January, 2021. English Premier League matches are still being played behind closed doors because of the current COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, and government social distancing/lockdown restrictions.

I was glad that Mark Noble got minutes against Man City at home and then during the final game of the season against Brighton. It was a good way to finish. I wrote last month how I wasn’t sure what Moyes would do in both games but to me, I think Moyes wanted to get Noble on the pitch. Just like Noble, I too played my last professional game at Brighton but unlike Mark, I was in goal for Ipswich.  

As I write this, there’s not been news about what Mark is going to do next but I’m sure once the dust settles, he’ll be thinking about what he wants to do. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I still think he has got enough to offer a Championship or League One side.  

If he enjoys playing then he doesn’t have to stop, and he can be an inspiration to a lot of youngsters coming through. But it is up to him if he wants to do that.  He clearly won’t need to keep playing for the money. I’m sure he has been careful with his money over the years and will be set for life now. Whatever decision he makes will be purely for footballing reasons.

‘Training was like being at school’

For me, the hardest part was not having training. As much as I hated running, I really missed the day-to-day involvement. Training was like being at school. Yes you had lessons but you were with your mates and at break times, you’d be out on the playground. When training stops, you feel like you are on the playground all the time while your mates are in class.

Of course, I also missed playing matches but I found towards the end of my career that there was a lot more pressure on each game. There never used to be that pressure and there never used to be so much onus on the manager to get results. But now the manager is only six or so games away from getting the sack.

Throughout most of my career, managers would be given time but there is so much pressure in the Premier League today and to a certain extent there’s pressure in the Championship too because of what’s at stake. That’s why I think if Noble maybe dropped down to League One, he could become a real mentor because he’s certainly fit enough to continue playing for a while yet.

Disappointing end

Moving on and losing away at Brighton was such a disappointing way to end this season. It was in our hands as Palace did us a favour by beating Man United and it was an opportunity missed, especially as we’d taken the lead. I’m not sure what it is about Brighton but aside from that season in the Championship when we beat them at home and away, they’ve become a bogey side for us.

Even in my time, we never really got many positive results against them. Maybe it’s just one of those things. Their old ground wasn’t a very appealing place to go to as players. There was a slope on the pitch and it was a strange ground. We never seemed to do well there. This game was a bit like a cup final for us with what was at stake. It’s not always that you get to the end of the season and still have something to play for.

It was arguably our most important game of the season after our defeat against Frankfurt as it could have secured Europa League football for next season. It would’ve been great to have leapfrogged Man United on that final day and you’d have hoped the lads would have been really fired up for it. We had such a great run this season in Europe and I’m sure the players would’ve been wanting to qualify again to try and make the final.

‘We could’ve done a Leicester’

It would also have meant if the worst was to happen and we got knocked out in the group stages, we’d have dropped in the Conference League for their knockout stages. We could’ve done a Leicester but now we can’t afford any mistakes in the group stages.

I’ve said it for a few months now but I’ve just been disappointed with our league month. With our efforts in the Europa League, there was a worrying drop in the league. I really hope we don’t start the season in the same manner as we’ve finished it. We had a good start to this season with eight points from our first four games this season with no defeats. We need to make sure we start well again because it lays the foundations and the tone for the rest of the season.

And whilst it was disappointing that we didn’t qualify for the Europa League again, it was important to secure European football again with our hopes of holding onto Declan Rice. He is such an important player for us but he surely wants to be playing European football every season now. If we can keep building on what we have done over the past couple of seasons, that’s going to go a long way in prolonging his time with us.

Where would he go?

Where would he go to right now anyway? It’s only Manchester United that would appear to be his most likely destination and we were 45 minutes away from finishing above them this season. There’s so much uncertainty at Chelsea and I don’t think Liverpool or Man City need a player like Rice. As for his contract situation, I wouldn’t read too much into it. When I signed a contract in my day, we had to see it through.

We had no way out, the only exit would be if the club decided to sell you. I signed a six year deal once and it really meant a lot to me because it took the pressure off and it gave me security. And whilst I get why fans would want to see Declan committing himself to the club for eight years, if someone came along and offered £200 million, he’s gone anyway.

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