The Joe Royle Column

IT is a shame to see diving raising its ugly head again with Francis Jeffers the latest to be labelled with the reputation. I would be happy to see referees who know players are divers just not give penalties for them, unless they are 100% sure they have been taken out.

IT is a shame to see diving raising its ugly head again with Francis Jeffers the latest to be labelled with the reputation. I would be happy to see referees who know players are divers just not give penalties for them, unless they are 100% sure they have been taken out. I would even favour them not giving penalties to divers until they have been purged of the habit and lose the reputation.

I have been asking people like Mick Maguire at the PFA for years to get involved and name and shame offenders. They do a wonderful job for their members but they should name and shame because it is their members who are suffering ultimately.

I had Francis as a lad at Everton and I don't think he is the biggest diver in the country by any means but it is something that needs to be addressed.

I can honestly say I have never told one of our players to dive and I can't think of an occasion when one has dived but when you see some of the sides in our division, no names, and you see some of the events on a Saturday night in the Premiership, then you know there are divers.

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Referees, and the players themselves, have got to look at it.

You have to feel for referees because even with the benefit of slow motion you can not always be sure – with Francis there might have been contact, but did he put his foot there looking for it?

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On the other side you get an incident like Hermann's last week when he was being tugged and him being Hermann towed him along for a couple of strides but lost the penalty. Should he have gone down?

Everyone in the game knows the divers and it is not down to me to list them.

Robbie Savage has got to make sure he is now whiter than white and not be at the centre of any more accusations. There have been too many.

Diving really came in with the foreign imports but the English players have taken it on completely.

Having said that Franny Lee won a host of penalties and I can remember a lifetime ago playing in the England under-23s with Rodney Marsh, who had a fantastic technique where he could trip himself up so well you could never be sure and he would say as a professional, and without a hint of conscience, if he could win a penalty it was his duty to do so.

(Who are the top divers in the game? We give you the chance to name and shame. Send us your top five and we will print the names of those who our readers think are the worst offenders.)

IN a strange way Howard Wilkinson's dismissal shows what a fabulous job Peter Reid did at Sunderland.

You could possibly say that 20 games was no great time to change things around but two league wins is not really what Howard would have wanted. And let us not forget he was the last English manager to win the Championship.

Although he has a reputation as being a very practical man and a very organised coach, his appointment was a surprise in the first place.

After having Peter, who is a highly charismatic, motivational 'up and at 'em' type, they decided to go for the complete opposite, for someone who was high on coaching.

But I look at Sunderland players and they have overachieved. Peter had made ordinary players into good players and good players into very good players and turned up a £500,000 striker who banged in 20-odd goals in a season, in Kevin Phillips.

For Sunderland to finish in the top seven two seasons running with the players he had was nothing short of phenomenal but then they couldn't kick on with big spending power, and the daft thing is when they let him have big money it was in the summer before they got rid of him.

They are not bad players but let us face it, for a side still made up of the players who finished seventh twice, there would still not be a queue of Premiership clubs looking to take many of them.

I'm not just saying this because the cultural attache for Merseyside, as I call him, is a mate of mine. I genuinely believe he did a great job there and I don't mean that as a criticsm of Howard and Steve Cotterill.

It is a fantastic time for Mick McCarthy to go in there because they need snookers to stay up and if he gets those snookers he will be an instant legend. If they go down then he starts afresh with his reputation intact and a squad of players who should be strong in this division, providing he can keep them together.

Mick's success will be measured by (a) survival or (b) how he deals with the market of getting players in and out and that is a skill we need to have as managers, unless you are in administration of course.

THIS idea to extend the play-offs to six teams is great but please, can we start this season?

I have seen both sides of the play-offs. I was Oldham manager when we lost to Leeds on away goals and I have gone up in the dying seconds at Wembley with Manchester City.

The fans love the excitement and thrills of the play-offs and you can argue that there are no longer dead games in the division. You look at our table now and even down to seventh from bottom teams are telling themselves a good run can see them get into the play-offs.

After not being in favour of them initially I agree play-offs are a good idea and if they want to extend them then fine, but let us do it this year.

I MENTIONED straight after the game at Palace how brilliant I thought our supporters were but let me say it again. Thank you very much – you were outstanding.

In a crowd of nearly 16,000 our 2,000 could be heard non-stop and I know the players appreciated it. Even when we were a goal down they wouldn't let it go and kept singing.

Not only were they fantastic at Palace but I hear they earned praise from railway staff for their patience during a nightmare journey home.

I understand some people didn't get back until 4am after their train in London was delayed 90 minutes by someone jumping in front of the train ahead of them and then the train which was set alight at Colchester held them up another two hours.

Well done and I look forward to hearing you at Hillsborough on Saturday.

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