The Joe Royle column

LIKE everyone else I'm looking forward to the derby game with Norwich City on Sunday. Should we win, the last two disappointing results will be forgotten but it will still just be three points.

LIKE everyone else I'm looking forward to the derby game with Norwich City on Sunday. Should we win, the last two disappointing results will be forgotten but it will still just be three points.

I'm constantly being asked which is the most passionate derby and there is no answer because they all mean so much to the relevant fans.

I have played in Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol and East Anglian derbies and you can't take away the special feeling. I know how much is riding on this game for our fans who were hoping to go into it above Norwich in the league and I know what it means on the other side.

I played for Norwich in a derby game against Terry Butcher and company when Ipswich were a top side and Norwich were struggling. It was a tight affair then as it probably will be on Sunday.

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Virtually all the derby games I have been involved in have been close, they tend to be frantic and you can usually throw the form-book out of the window.

There will be a super atmosphere and it will be a great game for us to get a game and 30 minutes out of our system. If a week is a long time in politics, it is even longer in football. From winning the performance of the week against Sheffield United we have gone to seeing headlines as if promotion was out of the question, which is nonsense.

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We still believe and this is a great game for us to use to get going again.

Looking back, as a young slim striker, Big Slim Joe if you like, I can remember playing for Everton against two ball-playing centre-backs in Ron Yeats and Tommy Smith – it was not always the round ball they were kicking. They were great friends off the park but once they put that red shirt on they were transformed.

It wasn't exactly world wrestling, there was football played, but games were frantic affairs, the ball wouldn't get the chance to bounce, and fighting used to take place. That was in the days before deregulation or referees bothered applying the rules.

I used to dread our keeper Gordon West launching into the air as high as he could with big Ron breathing down my neck and Tommy shouting 'snap his back Ron' – and it was me they were talking about.

I soon learnt in those games to keep moving so as to avoid a rabbit punch. It was 90 minutes of madness.

But they were great lads off the pitch and I even went to a club owned by Tommy after one derby after scoring the only goal of the game. He insisted it was an own goal. Discretion told me to let him have it if it meant that much to him and me having a good night.

As manager of Everton against Liverpool we were unbeaten in five derby games and that meant so much to the fans. My first game as Everton manager was a derby and the atmosphere was awesome.

The difference between the Liverpool and the Manchester derby games and the ones here and in Bristol is the lack of humour here.

Between Ipswich and Norwich there is 42 miles, in Manchester it is two and in Liverpool it is a mile.

Familiarity doesn't breed contempt up there while absence certainly doesn't make the heart fonder down here.

I SAW the story in the papers about the poor pensioner who has been arrested in South Africa after being on the FBI's most wanted list, although it appears to be a case of mistaken identity.

While I have never been mistaken for anyone else, we tend to be well known and easily recognised – mind you, when I'm sent pictures of when I was 16 I think it is someone else.

But I can remember a time when I was injured at Everton and sat in the stands with Jimmy Husband, who was also injured. A fan near me on my side of the seats was constantly slagging off the player wearing Jimmy's shirt thinking it was, in fact, Jimmy.

Mind you, that just shows that fans do have their favourites and those they just like to have a go at.

I WAS a bit amazed to hear Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi say he didn't fancy David Beckham much – as a player. He said something along the lines of the women may like him but he's not much of a footballer. Big mistake, as the 3-0 drubbing on their home turf showed.

The game is about opinion and he is entitled to his. He has made that public but I wouldn't mind Beckham being here. I would even change our system to fit him in.

He may not be George Best or a Pele or a Johan Cruyff but he is a great professional and role model.

He has come through the thing against Argentina in 1998 in France and has matured superbly.

Peter Taylor gave him the England captaincy, now he is manager at Hull City which just shows how football is very much for the moment.

You can only admire Alex Ferguson for staying at the top for so long and the success he has had in the game with Aberdeen and Manchester United. You can't question the way he deals with his players. There is no formula in management, it is what works.

FINALLY, can I say a big welcome to Phil Parkinson, who has taken over as manager at Colchester United.

He has come into management at a difficult time for football in general and faces a lot of challenges from which he will soon find out many things about himself.

I don't know too much about Phil but he must have impressed the Colchester board at interview.

Good luck to you Phil, we would dearly love to see our neighbours do well.

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