Joe Royle column

I HAVE long been in favour of appointing a Minister for Common Sense and the recent debacle concerning the England cricketers and Zimbabwe highlights how much we still need one.

I HAVE long been in favour of appointing a Minister for Common Sense and the recent debacle concerning the England cricketers and Zimbabwe highlights how much we still need one.

Personally I agree with the England cricketers about not wanting to be there but this really should have been sorted out a long time ago and it should not have been left to the players themselves.

The Government and the ECB should have made these decisions and shown better leadership.

There are a lot of things which concern me politically when our governments get involved and, as I say, I would advocate hiring a Minister for Common Sense but it would probably be hard to find an applicant.

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There has been plenty of time to get the cricket sorted without having to go to the 11th hour but that would have meant using common-sense.

There are a lot of countries around the world with civil rights problems who are still participating in sport against the rest of the world.

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What is happening in Zimbabwe is terrible and I'm not supporting Mugabe's regime in any way but there are also problems elsewhere.

It would be good to be able to separate sport and politics but they are inexorably linked. I can remember back in the early 1980s after my first season with Norwich and I had been asked to go out to South Africa to coach with kids which seemed a great idea.

It was a chance to see South Africa, an opportunity to coach kids which I enjoyed and make a few bob. But when I got out there it transpired the agent who had organised it had also arranged to play games against a black side, a white side and a mixed race side in front of sell-out crowds.

This was in the middle of apartheid so we inadvertently ended up on national and front-page news and it caused quite a row.

In the end we did neither, we wouldn't play games and didn't do any coaching. We went to an organised session in Soweto and no one turned up. It was a wasted week. We were the innocent victims of the politics as a lot of sportsmen end up. There are political issues to address but there must be principles too.

There are dual standards everywhere and people do turn a blind eye when it suits.

We never stopped playing in Northern Ireland, even with the IRA atrocities, and when George Best was threatened to be killed games still continued – so football can carry on if it suits.

Just recently I saw a photograph of the England team raising the Nazi salute just before playing the Germans in Germany in 1938 on the instruction of the British ambassador, so football and politics have mixed for a long time.

It is part of the real world that footballers are targeted and receive death threats, Victoria Beckham, with the alleged kidnap plot, South American players shot because they score own goals – we should no longer think that football is totally immune to what is going on in the rest of the world.

Administration is not as big a shock as it would have been a few years ago. The PFA have been working overtime financially supporting clubs or giving out advice to players on a number of technicalities when it comes to wage deferrals or in Leicester City's case wage reductions.

The PFA representative who came down to talk to our lads, Mick Maguire, told us he has been involved in these sort of talks at more than 30 clubs, who have been in some financial difficulty in one form or another.

I have said before in this column that it all adds up to us creeping towards having two full-time leagues and part-time regional divisions. The fans would still support their clubs, there would just be less professionals.

And it is not just smaller clubs that are struggling. I can see for example if West Ham or Sunderland were to be relegated they would be in the same financial embarrassment as we find oursleves in at the moment.

This club is well-run, despite this past 12 months, or annus horribilis, for the chairman and the board. It has happened to us due to a cocktail of circumstances due to relegation, the collapse of the transfer market, the window restricting sales but the natural remedy will come with more sensible wage demands and transfer fees.

I know that sounds two-faced because we are a victim of more sensible transfer fees, but on the other hand it is the future.

Rio Ferdinand cost £30m yet Jonathan Woodgate went for £8m but that shows the way football is going which will be seen to be for the good of the game. There will be further casualties but at the same time there will also be a market for top players and top home-grown talent.

But we still need to look at the money going to agents, for example the £3m that went to an agent in the Rio deal goes out of the game. That needs to be looked at, as do a lot of other factions, and we need to get the game back on the rails financially.

AS with everything there is always a silver lining. And at Ipswich we know the squad is intact and that means we can make a big assault on the table. We have come from fourth from bottom to be challenging for the play-offs despite the set-back at Bradford.

The Crystal Palace game being moved means we have had a few days extra before our game with Wolves next Wednesday.

If this gap had been earlier in the season the players would be working extra hard on their fitness but at this stage of the campaign they will have a couple of days off.

They have played 30 league games, been in three cup competitions and pre-season and with internationals as well for others that takes them over 40 matches already, so they need a rest.

They are a good bunch of lads, no wild men as such, so I'm quite comfortable at letting them off the leash for a couple of days over the weekend.

I WAS delighted to see Matt Holland captain the Irish team last night. He is a great lad and deserves the honour. I understand he will make his 300th appearance for Ipswich against Wolves on Tuesday – if I pick him. He is a phenomenal servant who has not only delivered consistency in two divisions and for his country, he has remained, and I'm touching wood as I say this, relatively injury free.

The Matt Hollands of this world are vital. He is an excellent captain who leads by example and is also a very decent member of the human race.

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