The Joe Royle column

AGENTS are not necessarily the enemy any more, it is brokers. I say this, as I see the Football League is calling for more transparency in deals done between Nationwide clubs; not only do I welcome the initiative but all deals should be totally transparent.

AGENTS are not necessarily the enemy any more, it is brokers. I say this, as I see the Football League is calling for more transparency in deals done between Nationwide clubs; not only do I welcome the initiative but all deals should be totally transparent.

I know some of the figures on money which has disappeared from deals over recent years, but while it may not stop it happening, it will at least make the public aware of what is going on at clubs.

The money some people are 'earning' for making a phone call during a transfer has been astonishing and for too long now football has been a fountain too many people have been drinking from.

But again I would emphasise this is not 'let's all knock agents' because there are good agents, but there is a new thing now – brokers. These people earn a fortune out of players they don't actually represent; they just broker deals and are taking abnormal sums out of football.

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It is not like a transfer where it moves round the pot, it goes out of the game and never comes back.

There are a lot of good agents who work on sensible percentages but there are people who just think of a number, double it and say 'This is my fee.'

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I blame the clubs, and the chairmen in particular, who allowed this to start and develop and they could find it is too late to bolt the door now the highwayman's horse has bolted.

The book Broken Dreams has shown there have been many things going on in football which it won't be proud of so I hope these new rules can go some way to cleaning things up.

WE have a rare weekend off this Saturday and despite some offers of media work I will be spending time with my wife Janet and my two sons in the north-west.

They were both down for the game last week and are threatening to come every week because they love it down here so much.

Like me they have fallen in love with the area and with the club. It is just a shame at the moment that things are not going the way we want but I'm convinced it is only a temporary thing and we will push on.

I can remember a time at Everton when Howard Kendall kept telling the punters they were on the verge of great things. But the gates had dropped to 12,000 people and his garage was being daubed with 'Kendall Out' slogans, his kids were being abused at school and it was grim.

The team then went on a run, which hinged on a back-pass at Oxford when Adrian Heath ran on to it and scored and they went on to win the FA Cup and then the next season the League Championship.

Football is very strange, I never thought for a moment at the beginning of the season we would go on and not win a game in five, even if we have just lost by one goal in the three we have lost.

Equally it does not alter the fact that we know we need to start winning.

But those that are painting doom and gloom around us should go steady because I have a long memory and I will remind you of what you have said and done.

TALKING of turning things around, I was delighted to see my old mate Nobby (Brian Horton) win the manager of the month award at Port Vale and seeing them top of Division Two.

Nobby is one of soccer's great soldiers. I can remember when he got the Manchester City job and was, notoriously and wrongly, christened Brian Who? by the City fans because they said they had not heard of him. But he did a good job there and has done a good job wherever he has been. He manages like he played – with a great deal of passion and I'm pleased to call him a friend.

Gary Megson won the award in our division and West Brom are probably the prototype for clubs who get promoted these days. They went up with an attitude that if it does go wrong we are not going to make ourselves skint so accordingly when they came back down they were prepared.

My congratulations to Brian Flynn and Graham Turner in Division Three and the Conference too.

WE are one of those clubs that took advantage of the loans system by allowing Marcus Bent to go to Leicester City.

Him going allowed us to save on our wage bill and enables us to bring in new players and save us money. That is in no way detrimental to Marcus, we just had to do it and that shows the changing times in football.

The loan system is important to the Nationwide because, taking out Wigan who seem to have dough to spend, the lower you go in the league the greater the money problems are.

Loans allow you to get players off the wage bill and get other players involved, playing where they might not otherwise.

But I don't see the sense in Premiership clubs loaning to each other. Chelsea, for example, have four players out on loan at different clubs and come the end of the season those players could be involved in four games which could have an influence on Chelsea's destiny, so this has a certain double jeopardy about it.

It is good for the clubs to take Carlton Cole to Charlton, Mikkel Forsell to Birmingham, Alexei Smertin to Portsmouth and Boudewijn Zenden to Middlesbrough – I would have loved to have taken Zenden by the way – but if one of those sides ends Chelsea's chances there will be a Russian summit somewhere, or someone will be off to the salt mines.

I looked at the list of people moving and they are mainly frees or loans and that shows the changing times in football.

What it also does is it narrows the field for Nationwide clubs to take players from the big clubs, players like Francis Jeffers for example who a few days ago may have been within our scope, albeit on a sponsored basis, now is not and that sort of thing doesn't help the Nationwide.

I WILL sit where I want to sit. I have one fellah who shouts at me every game that I should be in the dug-out but I prefer to be up higher, especially in the first half of a game.

Well I do sit in the stand in the first half, I used to sit next to the chairman in the Directors' Box but I sit even higher now, one so I can stretch my gammy knee and two, so I get a better picture.

Almost always I sit in the stand because you do see more. The dug-out is for passion, not constructive thinking and you can see the dug-out madness which happens every week.

Being down below, all you get is a mass of legs and a flat picture instead of a 3D picture.

If the view in the dug-out was so great why don't visiting scouts ask to sit down there when they come?

So to those people who think I should stay in the dug-out, I thank you for your opinion but you are wrong. I'm not actually there to enjoy the game so I will continue to sit in the stand and carry on seeing things so I can go in at half time to correct what is going wrong or comment on what we are doing well.

GOOD luck to Peter Ridsdale (pictured right) now he has taken over at Barnsley.

He is someone I have always got on well with and I know he loves his football.

He loved Leeds United so it will be interesting to see how he gets on with their great rivals the Tykes.

Barnsley is a lovely club, one of the sleeping big clubs, and I hope it goes well for them.

I am also constantly monitoring the situation at Oldham and I would dearly love someone to come in and save them. I used to call us the wart on the backside of Manchester, not in a disrespectful way but it is geographical as Oldham is fiercely protective of its independence as a town and has a hard core of support, which would be decimated if their club ceased to exist.

It is the same at our Carling Cup opponents Notts County, who are on the brink and it would be devastating if the oldest club in football became extinct.

It is not that long ago when County were up in the top division under Neil Warnock and it would be really sad to see them go. They were also a nice club with good people.

Current manager Billy Dearden worked with Brian Horton for a while and is another of football's great unsung heroes.

But with all the uncertainty we have in football you wonder how long we will continue to have 92 league clubs.

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