The Joe Royle Column

IT never ceases to amaze me that people leave games early. Big mistake. I say that as we go to Gillingham on Saturday and the game against them when I was manager at Manchester City at Wembley will live forever in my memory.

IT never ceases to amaze me that people leave games early. Big mistake. I say that as we go to Gillingham on Saturday and the game against them when I was manager at Manchester City at Wembley will live forever in my memory.

It was almost an out-of-body experience to be two down with five minutes to go, peg it back to go into extra time and eventually come out winners on penalties and be promoted.

It was a totally surreal day, and I can still remember sitting on the bench when their second goal went in and I said to Willy “it looks like Scunny next year then.” But thankfully someone had a greater plan for us.

Along with our Ipswich win over Sheffield United recently it will stay with me for the rest of my life as a fantastic game to be remembered.

My eldest son Lee is a nervous watcher at the best of times and he left the stadium at one-nil down and by the time he got across the car park to the hotel in Wembley he found City fans dancing in joy and it was 2-2 so he watched the penalties in his room.

Another couple left at 2-0, sat in silence in the car without the radio on feeling really depressed, and it was only when they got to a service station to fill up and the attendant said they must be delighted, that they found out what had happened.

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But that day at Wembley has formed a special bond between Gills and Manchester City supporters.

Andy Hesenthaler is now player/manager there and I have to say what a determined little beggar he is. He is doing fantastically well as a manager and is still a big asset to them as a player. Andy is something of a rare case as he seems to be getting even better as a player now than when he was in his late 20s at Watford.

He seems to have found something more in his game and he has done a great job at Gillingham. They will still dream of reaching the play-offs and it is important for us to keep winning so it promises to be quite a game.

But just remember - don't leave early.

GETTING rid of Terry Venables with just eight games to go seems a bit of a risk to me.

He has not had a great time at Leeds and even though I'm pleased for my old mate Peter Reid, it seems a harsh decision to get rid of Terry.

Some people believe the buck stops with the chairman, others the manager but what I'm sure about is the most important relationship is that between manager and chairman, and Peter Ridsdale obviously felt that it wasn't right.

Ninety minutes on a Saturday can change you from being totally blameless to it being all your fault, but that is the nature of the game we are in. It has been a strange season with so many players going but they still have about 15 internationals at Elland Road so they are not bereft of players, but perhaps they lack a bit of spirit.

Terry is an experienced coach and all the players who have worked with him have thought highly of him. Not too many complain about him. They cannot see why Peter Ridsdale did it but I feel it was in haste and the weekend's results brings Bolton nearer to them.

So Peter Reid has eight games to recover a disastrous season. He will get them up and at it and won't tolerate any shirkers. His record at Sunderland looks better every day, because people are now beginning to see how well he actually did there and I'm sure he will do well at Leeds.

It is hard to explain in foot-ball how teams can get themselves on a glass mountain when they have been successful but suddenly find them-selves in free-fall. Every year a team comes through and surprises people, while another team doesn't do anywhere near as well as expected - and this year it has been Leeds.

While I feel for Terry, I'm delighted for Peter Reid. I spoke to him on the day and he is really up for it. He was feeling a lot like I did before I came here - he missed the game and felt he could be doing more on a Saturday afternoon than sitting in a commentary box.

It is a great chance for him although he doesn't know what the summer will bring. There is a lot of uncertainty at Leeds which is a club in turmoil at the moment and no one is sure which players will still be there or even who will be running the administration side of the club with Peter Ridsdale.

It is incredible to think earlier last season and the one before that I was following Leeds around Europe in my work on radio and they really looked a coming force. But, for whatever reason, it all went wrong.

As I say, I feel for Terry, he has gone there to win an English championship but has found one by one the players have been sold.

In the end only Peter and Terry will know what has gone on and where blame, if any, should be apportioned.

IT would not surprise me if the FA don't have a quiet word with Sven-Goran Eriksson about his policy of changing the entire team at half-time in friendlies.

It was interesting to see FIFA's Sepp Blatter having a go at Sven over his decision to put on a different XI for the second half in the recent England friendly against Australia.

As I have said before it is a personal choice and I would not do it unless it was the first game of a pre-season against a Third Division Scandinavian side, for example, where I'm more concerned about players getting strains in a first run-out. Then after that, give players longer and longer but I have never seen the sort of wholesale changes Sven makes in friendlies. He swears by it and has his reasons but personally I can't see the value of it.

I can understand the criticism when paying customers come to see their international team trying to win a game and see a complete side changed. They are entitled to gripe.

AS a father of three sons myself I can well understand the anxiety and concerns that parents will have about our boys and girls fighting in the Iraqi War.

It is my fervent hope that all return home safely and swiftly. We don't usually touch on political matters in this column but these are exceptional times and as a parent I can relate to how many people are feeling.

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