The Joe Royle column

I KNOW that this season is one that Ipswich fans will want to forget. There have been too many if-onlys with a change of manager, administration, injuries, suspensions, goals missed and goals given away.

I KNOW that this season is one that Ipswich fans will want to forget. There have been too many if-onlys with a change of manager, administration, injuries, suspensions, goals missed and goals given away.

But I can't wait for the new season for a fresh start with most of the players we have now and hopefully a couple of additions, and the knowledge that at our best there was no one better in this division.

What we have to do is find a level of performance for when we are not at our best which means we won't lose to Bradford and Rotherham and won't surrender home points to Brighton, Grimsby and Stoke.

When I was at Oldham I used to think 'I hope we don't have another relegation battle' but I can't envisage that here.


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I know we are going to get stick for our current position, I know the players are going to get a hard time but in fairness to them there has been a lot of things going on.

They are well paid but even so no one likes to hear and read bad things said and written about them so they have done well to rally round and come as far as they did. That hangover from relegation is a terrible thing, believe me, and they felt it and did well to recover.

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We will build on this next year and with the injection of youth we aim to be up there, right up there from the start.

IF we think we have had a bad season look at Sunderland. I feel for Mick McCarthy and their fans who are on their third manager in a season. They are great fans up there but they really have been on a glass mountain. A record 13 defeats in a row and not knowing who will be there next year. There best players will probably be gone and they will find out, as we did, the consequences of relegation.

This wind of change in football means, and I don't get any delight in saying this, there are bigger falls to come than Ipswich Town, you can only wonder what is going to happen at West Ham if they get relegated.

I have said before, well done Sam Allardyce, he has a team of free transfer and loans, short contracts and no outlay and that is fantastic.

Well done to Steve Bruce at Birmingham as well, who has taken his team away from trouble. He made some clever buys in the transfer window, including Jamie Clapham, who by all accounts has been outstanding. That is no surprise as Jamie was terrific for me. I had views on players when I came here and I thought Jamie was a decent player. But that is unfair because he is more than decent. He has a quality about him and is a thorough professional and I miss him about the place here.

WE have had a bit of fun since the column stated in picking various teams. Now it is your turn.

Pick a current World XI and the one that tallies the nearest with mine will, along with a friend, be my guest in the Directors' Box at a home game early next season, and I will even introduce you to the players before the match.

Send your selections to Derek Davis, EADT Sportsdesk, East Anglian Daily Times, Lower Brook Street. Ipswich IP4 1AN. Or e-mail derek.davis@eadt.co.uk

The Premiership title decider is boiling up quite nicely now but I see just one winner – Manchester United.

My father always told me to vote for the man who has got it and not the man who is telling you he is going to get it. At the moment Manchester United have it and they looked awesome last week against Tottenham.

They had forward passing, forward running and everyone working for the team and you can tell the strength of their squad when they can bring in David Beckham after he was a sub the game before.

Arsenal are looking a little jaded at the moment and they looked a tired team when they conceded late goals at Bolton. You can't argue that this is the most free-flowing Arsenal team, but at the moment it is not the tightest defensively that we have ever seen and the loss of Sol Campbell will tilt the title race in United's favour.

And psychologically Manchester United are the masters. Alex keeps on telling everyone they are getting stronger and I smile, I know what he is doing he is playing his games. Arsene says it doesn't bother him, which it may or may not, but at this stage of the season United taking a five-point lead looks proof to me.

AS for our division, and who will get the third spot? Reading and Sheffield United have had fantastic seasons and exceeded their own expectations, especially Sheffield with their cup exploits.

Forest had their best form early on but they don't seem to have had many clean sheets of late, while Wolves are coming into their best form coming into the play-offs.

I'm not saying they would be my preference as I have a lot of time for Paul hart, Alan Pardew has done a great job at Reading and I'm not Neil Warnock's biggest enemy, he can actually be quite charming one to one.

But Dave Jones' side seem to have a purpose about them at the moment and I was impressed with their victory at Norwich for more than one reason.

The big difference between them at the end of this season than last is Mark Kennedy's fitness. There is no better crosser of the ball in the game and he has probably been involved in 50% of their goals this season. So for me Wolves have to be just favourites.

Equally I would not be surprised if Sheffield United rally themselves or if Reading continued to surprise or Forest recapture their early season form, especially if Darren Huckerby is available – and I'm not promoting two of my former buys, Huckerby and Kennedy.

But whoever goes up, their problems will then start.

If Denis Irwin and Paul Ince were being stretched at Premier League level a couple of seasons ago it is not going to be any easier for them. As for my old Mate Mark Kennedy he still has not totally proved himself at the top level.

Others have played there before. Michael Brown and Stuart McCall have played there before and come out. It is a nice problem for them to have and I'm a little envious.

Having said that it also highlights the daftness of wanting an extra two teams in the play-offs and the possibility of the eighth best team in this division going into the Premiership cheapens the Premier League.

I have never been a lover of the play-offs and now that we are not in them, I'm still not. When a team that finishes 20 points behind the champions gets promoted then that is not rewarding excellence, it is rewarding statistics. The team that finishes eighth would be down by Christmas if they did get up.

I would still prefer the third-placed team to go up but then play-offs are here to stay and it keeps the season alive for many fans.

JAMIE Lawrence, 14 from Colchester, wants to know if I'm a Royle Family fan and if my Royle family is anything like the one on telly.

Well Jamie, sadly, I have never actually watched the programme but I do know that Ricky Tomlinson who plays the dad, is Mike Bassett the England manager.

If you have ever seen that film I can assure you Ricky's just like that.

FINALLY, my best wishes go to local journalist Dave Allard who is recovering in hospital after an accident at home. Get well soon mate and we look forward to seeing you back for the new season.

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