The Joe Royle column

I REALLY thought the kind of game we saw on Monday in the Birmingham/Villa derby match was behind us. We all like to see passion in matches, especially derby games but when it spills over as it did then that is wrong.

I REALLY thought the kind of game we saw on Monday in the Birmingham/Villa derby match was behind us.

We all like to see passion in matches, especially derby games but when it spills over as it did then that is wrong.

I have not seen such intense hatred among fans for a long time, with people covering their faces so they can't be recognised for what they are doing. It was slightly worrying and I sincerely hope it was a one-off.

I appreciate it was special circumstances with Birmingham winning the first game after not playing each other for a long time, and there was a lot of gloating going on, but let's hope we don't see that sort of thing again.

When we have spent so much money in the game putting our stadia right and attracting families, that is not the sort of thing we want to be exposing children to, that sort of hatred.

Also, when we are usually quick to criticise referees, you have to give Mark Halsey 11 out of 10 for finishing with as many players on the pitch as he did.

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My only criticism was that he showed a yellow instead of a straight red to Joey Gudjonsson – but at that stage he was probably applying common-sense as another straight red might have escalated things. As the lad had already been booked the second yellow had the same effect in him being sent off.

The players have to take responsibility and big Dion Dublin, a lovely man who has been a credit to the game most of his career, must have woken up on Tuesday and shaken his head at what he did. I'm glad to see he has apologised for his actions and I'm not surprised.

There were so many niggles going on even the ball needed intensive care at half-time. Football was the loser and from a disciplinary point of view as Birmingham players kept their heads then I was glad they won.

I can understand Graham Taylor not wanting to speak to the media straight after as he would only have inflamed things more.

I worked for Graham when he was England manager and I was Under-21 coach and I know he is a great lover of the game, so I know he will be upset with what happened.

I thought our derby last week, for all the rivalry, was well-attended by both sets of fans. They can both give themselves a big tick.

There were a lot of jibes and chanting but there was never any danger of it spilling on to the pitch, and that is the way it should be.

I hope I won't be accused of gloating but I want to commend our fans for the way they conducted themselves at Norwich.

It has been a hard time for us and I know defeat at Carrow Road would have been the last straw for them.

And I was delighted with the way they got behind Andy Marshall. He has not had that too often this season so I hope it carries on again at home on Saturday against Stoke.

IT is not inconceivable that Manchester United will not win anything this season but never, ever rule Sir Alex Ferguson's team out.

Love him or hate him you can not deny his record at Manchester United and Aberdeen. When it come to big games, he has a fantastic level of success.

He has been accused of all sorts but he is right up there with Bob Paisley, Brian Cough, Sir Bobby Robson, all the great managers.

Arsenal have taken their game on to another dimension and for the first time since United went so far away from everybody, another team has stolen a march on them. They are playing the sort of passing football you can only admire.

I'm not saying Manchester United will win either the Premiership or the Champions' League – Arsenal have to be big favourites – but you write United off at your peril.

I love what Newcastle are doing but United are still the big challengers to Arsenal.

IT is totally understandable that only one club, Newcastle, who won't even need to go into it, have applied to enter the InterToto Cup.

As far as I'm concerned you are welcome to it. We have enough games in this country as it is and it seems ludicrous that we add an extra cup competition.

Sure, the revenue from playing in Europe is important but we don't get the balance right. We complain about too many games but then find more.

Playing in Europe can be very difficult for clubs with small squads. There is the risk of injury, there is the fatigue, not just with the playing but with the travelling back and then playing so quickly – it can cause problems. It is all very well for Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, with two first teams, but it is very difficult for the others.

No, I'm no fan of the InterToto Cup.

TONY Pulis and I have a special bond after that most dramatic of play-off final wins at Wembley when I was Manchester City manager and he was boss at Gillingham.

I felt great compassion after that game towards Tony. He was three minutes away from promotion to the First Division and two-nil up and had taken both his strikers off to bring on extra defenders to kill the game off. But we got two goals in the time remaining and he went into extra time with no strikers and we went on to win.

My first thought was for Tony and I said to him I was sorry, it was a lousy way to lose.

He was angry and frustrated at what went on with Gillingham after that but he kept his counsel. We stay in touch and I always have a lot of time for Tony, everything he did at Gillingham was good.

I was asked if I was interested in taking over at Stoke when Gudjon Thordarson left and even though it was only 45 minutes from my home in the north-west it was not right for me at that time.

They are a club with a big stadium and a big fan base, but they have not had success yet. The answer, as it is for many clubs like them and us at Ipswich, is to produce from the youth ranks, developing them from the local talent.

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