Paul Stewart column: A warning for Manchester City to heed?

The defeat by Lyon was unpleasant viewing for Pep Guardiola, who was confined to the stands
The defeat by Lyon was unpleasant viewing for Pep Guardiola, who was confined to the stands

As we embark on the Champions League programme, what have we concluded after the first round of matches?

Everyone will be astonished at Man City’s defeat by Lyon, a game many thought was a foregone conclusion.

With Pep in the stands, City spluttered and stammered, and never really got out of first gear against a Lyon team short on confidence and not really setting the French League alight.

It wasn’t until the introduction of Sergio Aguero and the out-of-favour Leroy Sane that City showed an appetite for the game, but even they were unable to oil what we come to expect as a real F1 engine.

What City have got for consolation is time and a fairly easy passage to the last 16, and as one of the early favourites it is still hard to bet against them progressing.

However, Wednesday’s defeat is a warning that, at elite level, even heavy favourites can come unstuck if they are not at the races.

In stark contrast was Liverpool’s win at Anfield against big-spending PSG.

You could argue that Liverpool have not been shy of splashing cash this summer themselves, but PSG are the club with the neverending pot of money and they have spent it in abundance.

Have they spent wisely? I’m not sure.

With a forward line boasting Neymar and World Cup sensation Kylian Mbappe, I expected them to beat Liverpool at Anfield, despite my prediction that they will be the main challengers to City for the Premier League title.

But with PSG’s superstars blatantly not playing as a team and Anfield’s electric atmosphere like their European nights of old, the Reds outplayed and outclassed PSG in all departments.

It was evident that Neymar and co are not prepared to do the ‘dirty’ side of football, which is needed for any team to win silverware, even with a huge wealth of talent.

My old team Spurs have lost three games on the run, and Mauricio Pochettino may not be there to lead the team out at their eagerly-awaited new stadium.

With a number of players looking leggy, he may well rue his decision – if it was his – not to spend in the transfer window in the summer.

They looked set to win comfortably against Inter Milan but then Spurs’ inability to see out big games caught them out again.

Some tough weeks ahead for Poch, I fear. Will he be the first casualty of the Premier League season? Possibly.

Last week, I invited you to get in touch with questions and comments. Thanks to David Reidy for this question: After your shocking revelations about football, do you think enough will be done to make sure this can never happen again?

David, all I can assure you of is that my colleagues David White, Ian Ackley, Derek Bell and I are working tirelessly to make sure this does not happen again.

However, it is the responsibility of all and a change in mindset is needed to be completely sure this does not repeat itself.

I am convinced the professional game is now far more capable of eradicating such predatory people.

But we have to understand that even back in the early 1970s, when I was preyed upon, it wasn’t in a professional club’s surroundings where the abuse took place.

The individuals that perpetrated these crimes may have worked or scouted for professional clubs but it was grassroots football where they infiltrated and carried out their perverse deeds.

We need to look at what we are all doing to prevent this from happening again.

What I mean by this is that parents should take responsibility and question who they are leaving their children with.

I hear that, far too often, parents are still dropping their children off at training and at games as a convenient babysitting service, without ever asking who they are leaving their children with.

It is essential that everybody at a junior football club knows who the club’s welfare officer is and what policies and procedures are in place at the club.

In answering this question, I could fill many pages with what needs to be done at regulated children’s activities to ensure their safety and well-being.

But I would ask parents to start by asking three simple questions when leaving their children at any setting: Who is the welfare officer or safeguarding officer? What are his/her contact details? What should I do if I have a problem?

I would challenge any reader to tell me in all honesty that they have ever asked even one of the three.

Your questions and comments can be sent to me via The Gazette sportsdesk at tango@blackpoolgazette.co.uk

You can join me tonight for ‘An Evening with Paul Stewart’ at Viva Blackpool on Church Street (7.30pm, including a comedian and hot food).

For ticket details contact the venue via (01253) 297297, www.vivablackpool.com or @vivablackpool