Old friend is the foe for Joe tonight

PERHAPS fittingly the manager who Joe Royle is looking to wrest top spot from today is one of his oldest friends in football.

PERHAPS fittingly the manager who Joe Royle is looking to wrest top spot from today is one of his oldest friends in football, writes Derek Davis.

Reading boss Steve Coppell and Royle went to the same school as each other in their native Liverpool, albeit they were in different years, and the deeply-felt respect is mutual.

Royle celebrates his 1,000th game as a manager tonight and nothing would please him more than to see the Blues top the table and maintain their 100% home record.

But he knows it won't be easy against the Royals, who moved top with their win over Watford on Saturday, and into their highest league position ever in their 133-year history.

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Royle said: “Reading have good players and a top manager.

“Steve is one of the quieter managers who just gets on with it. He does a great job wherever he goes on little or no budget and I'm not at all surprised at how well they are doing. My pre-season tips were Wigan and Reading and I'm doing a little too well because they are where I want us to be.”

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But seven home wins on the bounce - it stretches back further if you include pre-season, all 2-1 and the 1-0 win over West Ham last May - and an indominatable spirit give the Blues confidence.

Royle added: “It is a great chance for us to go top, but we will have to play better than on Saturday.

“That said, when we have been asked questions we have found answers here at Portman Road.”

To move into first place would be a fitting tribute to Royle, who has seen Town hit bottom place, go into administration and lose a team full of Premiership talent.

Then again, it is never easy being a manager, even when you started out 22 years ago at a provincial club like Oldham Athletic.

Royle said: “It is amazing when you think I asked for, and got, a one-year contract at Oldham and yet here I am 999 games later.

“I'm proud of it as in a profession not known for the longevity of managers it is a great achievement.”

The highs have outweighed the lows and promotion this season would guarantee Royle another year's contract at Portman Road.

He said: “I'm fortunate that there have been so many highlights.

“At Oldham we had a League Cup final, a semi-final and three years in the top division, which is akin to Colchester being in the Premiership for three years.

“At Manchester City we had promotion in two successive years and at Everton we won the FA Cup, but probably the biggest achievement to date was staying up at Everton when we only had eight points after a third of the season.”

For the short term three points, the easy way, would do tonight.

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