The Joe Royle Column

WATCHING England's win over Wales in the rugby last Sunday brought home to me in spades about how we have gone so wrong in football.What I'm talking about is the attitude shown towards referees in rugby.

WATCHING England's win over Wales in the rugby last Sunday brought home to me in spades about how we have gone so wrong in football.

What I'm talking about is the attitude shown towards referees in rugby. The discipline, the lack of dissent, the lack of foul language, and the openness of the referees.

Even the crowd did not hurl abuse or use f-words. I heard plenty of Swing Low Sweet Chariot, but no obscenities.

It was nice to see the referee quietly explaining his decisions to men twice his size towering over him without an ounce of dissent in return.


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I would love to see our sport get to that point. I don't see why we can't. Football can't claim it is more passionate or more physical because there can be no more emotive or passionate game than England playing Wales at rugby union.

We can't make excuses, rugby is such a physical game and Sunday was no exception with a World Cup semi-final place at stake and yet it was played with a Corinthian attitude.

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Perhaps we should set up a committee to find out why this can happen in one sport and not in another.

As managers we can help, after the rugby the coaches did not comment on the referee or question his performance or his decisions.

I thoroughly enjoyed the game even though England were not at their best and as the patriot that I am I was delighted we got through.

We know against France on Sunday it will be even more physical but we also know that the referee will be the man and he will not be questioned.

We have tried adopting the 10-yard rule for dissent in football but it has not really worked because in a way it can be counter-productive by being too near the goal whereas in rugby it is all about territory.

But I feel it is not about the rules or getting 10 yards it is about attitude and somehow or other we need to change the attitude of our players, coaches and the crowd towards officials.

I love our national game but seeing the rugby just made me think about how good it would be if we could get back to the adage the referee is always right once again.

I HOPE by the time you read this there will have been an international call-up for James Beattie, the Southampton striker.

We have seen this week that it is not just Liverpool who are over-reliant on Michael Owen but England are as well.

It seems if Owen doesn't score no one does. Liverpool have tried Emile Heskey and Milan Baros to try and take the weight off Owen but people seem to want to have a go at Heskey, either with Liverpool or England.

I have a lot of time for Heskey. He is a big, honest lad and he has improved his balance a lot so doesn't go down as easily as he used to which endears him to me.

For me Emile is an important player for England but as to who should play up front with him I don't know.

I will leave that to Sven, that is his problem. I have problems of my own to deal with.

Peter Reid has gone and that is terribly wrong. I also feel very sorry for Nicky Law who has gone from Bradford City.

He has done the dirty work that needed to be done at Bradford yet they are now saying we want to go forward.

It is impossible to sell all your best players and fill the team with young kids or free signings as opposed to the likes of Benito Carbone and Stan Collymore from a few seasons ago.

I just hope the board in both cases look after Peter and Nicky.

Peter kept Leeds United up last season and I don't think clubs should be allowed to appoint a new manager until the old one has been paid up. They willingly drew up the contracts so they should honour it.

I'm not just saying that because Peter is my mate, I have got my Union head on and it's not just the old boys together. I don't know Nicky but I have every sympathy for his situation just the same.

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