Joe Royle Column

MANAGING football clubs these days has changed from when I first stepped out of my playing days.Having said that, in my first day as manager at Oldham I found a bailiff in my office eyeing the table up, so finance-wise it is not so different.

MANAGING football clubs these days has changed from when I first stepped out of my playing days.

Having said that, in my first day as manager at Oldham I found a bailiff in my office eyeing the table up, so finance-wise it is not so different.

My mandate then was that I had to sell a player straight away and I had to make do with 16 players - and we finished seventh in the table.

So working on a budget and closely with the chairman is nothing new.

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The big difference is the media hype is now all-enveloping and the thirst for conjecture and controversy is greater than ever.

For me the Leeds situation has been hyped out of proportion. I know Leeds fans will feel let down but there are parallels with our own situation. Their Holy Grail was continuous Champions' League involvement, while here at Ipswich we tried to improve on fifth in the Premiership. We had a particularly bad fall-out with relegation and there is a price to be paid.

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The loss of Rio Ferdinand was a blow to them but a new manager going in calmed that anger down to an extent. However, the departure of five more players, and Woodgate in particular, has re-ignited the fires of discontent.

I thought Peter Ridsdale spoke very well to explain where and why but sometimes punters don't want to hear where and why, they just want to see a winning team and I can understand that.

But they will still turn out with 10 internationals in the side. Apart from Woodgate, the ones they have lost may not be such a bad thing. Robbie Fowler was down the list of starting strikers, Dacourt was hardly getting a game, Bowyer was going at the end of the season anyway, so perhaps it is natural wastage.

I can sympathise with both Peter and Terry's differing points of view. I'm good friends with Terry and although he has won cups abroad he has never won the league here and he must have seen Leeds as his best chance of doing that, but player by player he has seen that chance diminishing.

Peter backed David O'Leary to the tune of nearly £100m and it didn't work. So the failure to find the Holy Grail has cost and people will learn lessons from that.

ALL this snow and rain is a far cry from the summer, when I had a wonderful adventure with the BBC working at the World Cup.

I went out initially to work on 'B' games with Steve Wilson, who was relatively unknown at the time, but who I believe will go all the way to the top. But on our first night I was told they wanted me to do the opening game between France and Senegal as Paul McGrath had gone home and people were being shuffled around and instead of Trevor Brooking doing the opener I did it with John Motson, which was a fabulous experience.

I then went to Korea and joined Steve and I found out just what hard work it was. We were issued with two encyclopedias, one of every player and a pronunciation book, which was every useful.

I worked with Steve, Barry Davies and John Motson and they have three different styles. Young Wilson is great to work with - nothing escapes him on the pitch.

Barry is very informative. He has his own way, he tends to let the game do his talking for him at times.

And Motty, well the amount of background knowledge he has is something else - he literally knows what they had for breakfast.

They were the stars, I was just there to add some technical expertise.

I also worked with a lot of radio people, including the infamous Alan Green and I have had my fall-outs with him.

He once accused me of being over-sensitive to criticism. I replied by saying he could have a party in a phone box and invite all his friends.

We worked together on a game at Newcastle and, I must say, like him or hate him, his professionalism on the job is outstanding. He has a great voice for radio, although sometimes the professional in me thinks he does voice his opinion too loudly.

We met and were totally professional for the 90 minutes of the match and for 30 minutes either side of it.

That game at Newcastle really made me decide I had to have one more go at management. The atmosphere of the derby game with Sunderland convinced me.

I saw my old mate Peter Reid and within five minutes Craig Bellamy had scored and five days' work and coaching went out the window and I felt for him. But at the same time I knew that I should be doing something else on a Saturday afternoon rather than holding a microphone.

The media work meant I was able to see Ipswich a couple of times in the UEFA Cup, which was brilliant and I met some Town fans and got on well with them.

For Ipswich to play in Milan was fantastic and I was full of praise for them on the television but it was not the junket people think it was. For me the trip to Moscow consisted of two flights, a minibus to the hotel and a game but no time for sight-seeing.

During the World Cup I did 16 games in 29 days and 15 hotels and it was arduous. In fact BFJ lost six pounds of weight out there.

Mind you, I did manage a night out with Andy Gray and Ron Atkinson but I'm not going into that.

I also had a night out when England beat Argentina and that was fantastic. The Koreans celebrated with us and as a patriot the drinks were on me.

John Heath e-mailed to ask me why, with so many injuries to the defence, I decided to let Justin Miller leave.

Well John, there were two factors. First you have to ask will he ever be regular in the first team?

He is not going to overtake John McGreal or Thomas Gaardsoe, isn't better at reading the game than Matt Holland and even Bam Bam was ahead of him with his power - and there are other young centre-halves behind coming through.

The other staff gave me their opinions and I watched him and that confirmed what we thought.

I would love for him to go on and prove me wrong. It happens all the time - David Platt was released by Manchester United, Martin Dobson went on to play for England after a free transfer, Mick Mills came here on a free from Portsmouth.

I have had a few letters about this, including one from an Orient fan who asked why I didn't let him join them sooner, but Justin wanted to have a chance at proving himself here.

GOOD Luck to Sheffield United, who are sunning themselves in Spain this week. It is something we would like to do but you can only judge if it works by the result when you get back.

I have seen it work both ways. At Manchester City we won four in a row when we came back but the second time we lost three in a row.

Let's hope we catch the Blades cold.

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