The Joe Royle column

THE whole Rio Ferdinand thing has been poorly handled and I'm sure the FA will look back and think they could have done things differently.That is not to say Rio was right to leave without taking his drug test – he wasn't.

THE whole Rio Ferdinand thing has been poorly handled and I'm sure the FA will look back and think they could have done things differently.

That is not to say Rio was right to leave without taking his drug test – he wasn't.

The whole timing of the thing, the lack of discretion, everything could have been done better.

That said it may actually have helped with the team going out saying 'this is for Rio' as I suggested they would in the column last week.


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On the whole I don't think testing in football should change to the same as, say athletics, where athletes can be tested anytime anywhere.

Football is different from athletics when it comes to drugs.

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Athletes have been proven to take performance enhancing drugs and drugs to change the shape of their body but that has never been prevalent in football.

In the past six years in something like 900 tests taken only one has found even a semblance of a performance enhancing drug, so I don't believe football has a drug problem.

If you are talking about recreational drugs then if people do that in their leisure time and feel they can get away with it then this is a wake-up call as testers can turn up at training or after games and if you have had drugs within 48 hours then you will be caught.

The current system of testing in football is fine.

We had a situation at Manchester City when testers turned up on the day we were travelling to a game and poor old Terry Cooke could not provide a urine sample even four hours later. But they learned not to turn up on days when teams are travelling.

I MENTIONED in this column last week that all referees should watch the master in action on Saturday and Pierluigi Collina was magnificent.

He made a powder keg of a game look like a Sunday morning stroll without a flurry.

It would be interesting to see how English assessors would have marked him on his performance because I'm sure there could have been one or two more cards if he had wanted to issue them.

For example Beckham put his head up into Alpay and on another day with another ref he might have been sent off for violent conduct.

But a video should be sent to every referee to show this is what we want. That marvellous mixture of man-management, authority, fitness and knowledge.

Then there was the half-time chat where he took the steam of whatever had gone on in the tunnel with his man-management and the second half was almost a non-event.

I'm sure in England players would have been sent off at half time and an important game would have been played out with odd numbers.

So, please, let us have more of it. Wherever Mr Collina learned his skills our referees should get over there – and the assessors.

We are all supposed to be singing from the same hymn sheet as regards referees but something has gone drastically wrong with the interpretation of the rules in this country.

I'm not knocking all our referees, we do have good ones, and the one we had on Tuesday was excellent, but we do have someone telling referees to book players when man-management would be better. We are in a situation where players are getting sent off for two mistimed tackles and that can't be right.

ALREADY about 10% of the managerial workforce has gone and it is not even Christmas.

I know Theo Paphitis and he cares passionately about Millwall so until we know the full facts it would be hard to say too much about Mark McGhee's departure.

But as I see it with Millwall being eighth and in contention for the play-offs it is not a bad start to the season, so perhaps there is more to it than meets the eye.

They have limited scope because of their proximity to other clubs in London and they are in an industrial area. For me they are doing well really, so on the face of it, it looks like a strange move.

It is even stranger to see an international manager quitting his country to take charge of Stockport County.

No disrespect to Stockport but the whole concept takes some grasping. I wish Sammy McIlroy well, but it shows the problems Northern Ireland have.

It has taken Sammy four years to realise what I realised when I was interviewed for the Northern Ireland job, which is that they don't have a striker who can score at international level. In fact they don't have one who is among the top scorers in the league, which is why I declined the job back in 1998.

Sammy will inherit a decent set of players at Stockport and although they are on the edge of Manchester they are fiercely independent and loyal to their club. He is a hard worker with a good reputation and put Macclesfield on the map so I wish him well.

Sammy must have left when he realised the best he was going to get was a nil-nil draw.

I don't know who will take over at Northern Ireland but it doesn't matter if it was Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Bobby Robosn, Loius van Gaal, or whoever you think is the best coach in the world, you still have no one to score goals and you can't win a game.

Perhaps our own Sam Morrow will be the answer in time.

TALKING of managers, I'm delighted to see Steve Coppell get off to a good start as manager at Reading with a win. Only he will know why he left Manchester City so quickly but he has done a good job wherever he has gone and his reputation and image is fully rehabilitated and I'm delighted for him.

He is one of the good guys with a rare sense of humour and great thinker of the game. It is good to see someone with a good track record getting the job rather than someone whose agent has their name on the back page every day.

THE whole Alpay thing has gone way over the top. He has not done an awful lot different in the game in which he might have been one of the best players on the pitch. But there has always been an edge to his game, a poke or a prod here or there.

I'm not defending him because I don't like that side of his game but he has been hit by a massive wave of emotion and patriotism. What he has done was annoying but on another day it would not have been mentioned.

Taunting someone is not nice but I would rather see some taunting than some of the horrendous tackles which go on.

Let us keep all this in proportion and not make him public enemy No. 1.

There has been alleged spitting at half time, which we hate in this country, but which happens regularly in Turkey and Greece, so it is a cultural thing.

I always hated it myself as a player and for Emile Heskey to get so wound up something horrendous must have gone on.

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