The Joe Royle column

NORMALLY we avoid talking about Ipswich Town in this column as you get enough of me during the course of the week talking about the side but I would just like to point out a few positives that I have seen since arriving here in October.

NORMALLY we avoid talking about Ipswich Town in this column as you get enough of me during the course of the week talking about the side but I would just like to point out a few positives that I have seen since arriving here in October.

I have long admired this club from afar and while the chairman and the directors accept they are going to get flak for what is happening in terms of the administration, I feel we need to be a bit fairer about the whole thing.

There are a lot of good things at this club and there has been for some years now. You can't ignore the things that have been done in terms of getting into the Premiership and playing in Europe, and the improvement of the stadium and the facilities – and a great set of fans.

I do feel for the supporters who are upset and the creditors, in particularly the smaller businessmen, as they are suffering but the club does need to go on.


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We are sad to lose Darren Ambrose, and indeed Hermann Hreidarsson who is a bit older, but if you look at the emergence this season of Matt Richards and Dean Bowditch (below) from the Academy things look bright.

We have six, hopefully nine games left of this season and a couple more may come through. We have seen Ian Westlake push in and we still have high hopes for Nabil Abidallah.

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Another good thing has been the re-discovery of Richard Naylor who has converted successfully to a centre-half.

It is not all doom and gloom. We have a lot of good things to appreciate and look forward to.

We need to remember the directors are fans also and I know how much this is hurting them personally. Granted, they had a lot of praise when things went well and they accept they will get criticism now, but the good times outweigh the bad times. These people brought that and have been desperately unlucky in the mistake they made in the last 12 months has come back to hurt so much.

They have had triple bad luck when you think about how things worked out. A bad run on the pitch, coupled with the collapse of the television deal and the uncertainty in the transfer market, all conspired against them, as well as one or two contracts they are left with.

It is hard for people to be optimistic but believe me, the sooner people look for the sunshine the sooner we will go on.

The players have been terrific through all this by staying focused while there has been uncertainty and I can say after my time at quite a few other clubs that this has so many good things going for it.

Not very long ago this club was held up as a paragon of how to run a football club and without doing anything desperately wrong, a succession of bad throws has seen them in the financial mess.

It would be a shame for people to give up on the club after one bad season.

We need the fans behind us and they have been behind the team since I have got here. Now they need to get behind the club as well. It is their club, it will be here long after I have gone and long after David Sheepshanks and John Kerr have gone.

GIVEN the vivid television pictures we were shown regarding the violence which erupted at Villa Park in the Birmingham derby game I'm a little surprised to hear no further action will be taken, and indeed Aston Villa received a letter praising the way they handled things.

Having said that I'm not always convinced clubs are always to blame. If a riot is going to happen there is not a lot you can do to stop it, especially without fences.

Clubs elsewhere have been fined but personally I feel the FA have made the right decision. Clubs generally do control their fans and this was perhaps a one-off there as it was the first derby game at Villa Park for many years and the passion was high. You can see that when a gentleman like Dion Dublin gets carried away as he did, and we said at the time he would regret his actions and he did. You can see just what the atmosphere was like that particular night.

But I do worry that one day a lunatic with a knife is going to get on the pitch and do a player harm.

We saw what went on in Georgia last weekend.

Unfortunately football mirrors society. I used to be able to go into the town in Liverpool and be with working class lads because I was a working class lad myself. But nowadays as players earn more money and their status changes so it becomes more difficult, especially in some of the bigger cities.

It is shame that the fun and banter is being eroded at our grounds. Just recently I was having a bit of a laugh with some Norwich supporters when we played up there, cocking a deaf ear occasionally and they were having a laugh back, particularly with me being an ex-Norwich player, but the crowd supervisor was soon over asking me to sit down so I didn't incite any trouble. That was a shame but that is what we have to deal with.

Unfortunately things at grounds have changed but not for the better. I remember the days when all the fans would applaud both sets of players off the pitch and someone like Thierry Henry would have been clapped off in appreciation of his football.

These days it is more about intimidation and it can't be right when cigarette lighters are thrown at players as they go up for a corner. I had not seen anything like that before I went to Greece as a player, to play in the quarter-final of the European Cup. I can even remember the date, March 24, 1971, because it was the day my first son was born.

We were spat on and had the bus rocked as we went to the hotel, then they drove motorbikes around all night to keep us awake. When we got to the ground, which was caged, they were slitting throats at us saying 'you will die' and years later crowd violence gets tagged the 'English disease' which was unfair.

Greece and Turkey have been notorious for violence for years and we are seeing it across Europe now. There are splinter groups and extremists who use football for violence but on the whole though I have great faith in the genuine football fan.

Thank heaven at Ipswich we have a great reputation with our fans and long may that continue.

THANKS to Paul Evans from Sudbury who sent in his team of divers, unfortunately they were all goalkeepers. I won't list them all but suffice to say Mike Salmon was No. 1 while Jacques Cousteau was also mentioned.

I imagine it was an early April Fools gag. Talking of which I have only ever been caught once and that was when I was at Bristol City and I had a message to phone a Mr C Lyon at Bristol Zoo. The keeper was very polite and explained it was probably the oldest gag in the world.

I read about the Nottingham Forest story, which tricked supporters into thinking their game with Wolves was going to be postponed after the groundsman found a rare flower on the pitch which was not allowed to be disturbed. It reminded me of the time we turned up at Sheffield United to find the game called off as workmen digging in the car park had unearthed a World War Two bomb.

Do you have a question for Joe? Write to Derek Davis, Sports Desk, EADT, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4 1AN or e-mail derek.davis@eadt.co.uk.

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