The Joe Royle Column

I SEE my old mate Alex Ferguson's impish sense of humour has landed him in hot water with UEFA. The printed word sometimes comes across differently from the spoken word and knowing Alex he was probably cursing the draw and he will have noted that sides were kept apart that some people wanted keeping part but I don't think for one moment that he ever really thought there was a fix involved.

I SEE my old mate Alex Ferguson's impish sense of humour has landed him in hot water with UEFA. The printed word sometimes comes across differently from the spoken word and knowing Alex he was probably cursing the draw and he will have noted that sides were kept apart that some people wanted keeping part but I don't think for one moment that he ever really thought there was a fix involved.

I can imagine him sitting with a couple of pressmen and saying it with a grin but unfortunately that grin doesn't translate on to a back page and with a bit of spin and sensationalism it comes out as a major issue.

And it backfired a little judging by the game. I only saw a bit of it but Real Madrid looked pretty good to me and it doesn't really matter which round you meet them in.

We all smile and say it is Alex when he comes out with that sort of thing domestically but UEFA have got on their high horse and have a different attitude than the FA or Premier League might have adopted.


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Alex loves baiting people. We all remember his skirmishes with Kevin Keegan and these days it is Arsene Wenger, although Arsene holds his own with him.

In this country we laugh at it a little but it has touched a nerve abroad and while not apologising he has said he didn't mean it, which from Alex constitutes an apology.

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I even saw one suggestion that said to take his knighthood off him, which is somewhat over the top. He was tweaking UEFA's tail but it backfired on him. Although I'm sure it will soon be forgotten.

SORRY Dave, but the secret is out and Wayne Rooney is national property. I have not seen such an impressive international debut made by anyone at anytime. Taking away his age, his size and the fact he has only started a dozen league games, just look at his quality and his arrival was a fantastic statement.

I can understand Everton boss David Moyes trying to keep him under wraps and I have to admit I didn't think he was ready but I have done a massive U-turn now. After the disappointment of Liechtenstein I said we needed something to lift us and he might do that, but the way he came in as if it didn't matter, like it was a stroll in the park, it was brilliant to see.

The Turks have always been up to their tricks, arms across you, little tugs, anything to put you off but he saw one coming and just checked him. He has a great temperament but he will face a lot of difficulties. I was brought up a mile from where he lives and know the problems. We have seen lads like Robbie Fowler, Danny Cadamarteri, Richard Dunne and Francis Jeffers come through there so I hope Wayne's people can get him through.

He is the nearest thing to Gazza we have seen but I hope we give him a chance. When he sips a beer on holiday, or is on a beach, I hope there isn't a camera. When he makes mistakes as we all do growing up, I hope the people who are putting up on a pedestal now won't be lining up to knock him down.

I see Dave Moyes is hoping he won't be included in the next England friendly but he has no chance. It will be Wayne Rooney and 10 others.

He is a 17-year-old with a 27-year-old's temperament, nothing bothers him. I was Everton's youngest ever player at 16 when I made my debut against Blackpool in 1966 but I really was a boy.

I made my international debut as a 21-year-old and was a nervous wreck but he didn't look fazed, it was fantastic.

I'm not claiming him as he was just coming into the Everton system when I was manager and I can remember him as a mascot for a Liverpool/Everton game and it is a remarkable story.

It is interesting how mature some of these young payers are these days. We have a few here who have stepped up and they do come through with a good degree of confidence and the progress to the first team is rapid. But to think Rooney is stuck in age between Dean Bowditch and Matt Richards yet is playing for England.

As I say I feel for Dave because he is trying to keep a lid on it and keeping the lad's feet on the floor but sorry Dave, the secret is out. We have all seen him now.

AFTER years of fighting people off about writing an autobiography I finally gave in and now I'm delighted to say it is finished.

I was reluctant to do another after writing one when I was just 19, with the corny title of The Royle Flush, which my team-mates soon dubbed the Royle Blush because it was so bad.

I was probably ill-advised to do one at the time but everyone was at the time so I did.

This time Bill Thornton, a journalist I have known for a long time, persuaded me that I should and I thought I might have something to say.

It is a recollection of my career as a player and manager and BBC Publications now have it and it is being filleted by the players and should be out in September.

There is no real financial gain involved, unless you are a Roy Keane or an Alex Ferguson, but I will be proud to give one each to my three sons.

We still have not got a title yet so perhaps one of you readers might like to suggest one.

BILL Edwards from Manningtree, asked me to choose the all-time greatest English footballer as being requested by UEFA for a Hall of Fame.

For me it is quite easy - Bobby Charlton.

He is known all over the world, you go to the tiniest town in the most far away place in the world and mention football and they will say Bobby Charlton.

He was one of my idols as a kid, after someone called Dave Hixon, an all action centre-forward who I watched at Everton. He came off every game covered in blood, and not his own. He still looks fantastic now at 70.

But Bobby was something else. I have met him and he is a real gentleman, the first gentleman of English football.

He was a great player, with a marvellous touch. He played in three positions for his country, an out-and-out striker, an outside-left and a midfielder. He has a World Cup winner's medal, a European Cup, leagues, cups, the lot and I don't think he was ever booked. And all of that after coming through the Munich disaster. It has to be wor Bobby.

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