The Joe Royle Column

GOING to Coventry this weekend brings back memories of our comeback there last season from 2-0 down at halftime to win 4-2, another chapter in the story of Ipswich Town as the comeback kings.

GOING to Coventry this weekend brings back memories of our comeback there last season from 2-0 down at halftime to win 4-2, another chapter in the story of Ipswich Town as the comeback kings.

When I think of all the games we've had setbacks in and come back to win, such as Palace away this season and the home match against Sheffield United this time last year, I have to say the one against the Blades is still top of the list.

When you combine the odds against us with the fact we had a forward missing and the importance of the game it still ranks as the best of the bunch.

More than anything else the crowd participation in the game stays with me. We said at half time we would go for it, and changed things around so Darren Ambrose was on the left wing with Marcus Bent through the middle, but the fans lifted us so much.


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I can seldom think of any game in my entire career where the crowd has played such a part. Maybe the only time is my first afternoon as Everton manager when we played Liverpool and they lifted the roof off Goodison Park to help us to win.

Against Sheffield United we basically tried to split their back four by going to a 4-4-1 formation, which works great if you have the players to do it. I also remember we had a little bit of luck in the last minute with Michael Brown putting a shot wide.

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Coventry was a different matter because the players had essentially gone out and not done what they were told to do, and they were reminded in no uncertain terms at half-time what their orders were.

I'm not one for ranting and raving because it's often more for your benefit rather than the players, but that was a day to be blunt and they went out in the second half and did as they were told, which resulted in the turnaround.

Because of that game, because of the Sheffield United game and the Palace game there is a belief in this team that we're never beaten.

Sometimes we can shoot ourselves in the foot, but I would never accuse us of lack of spirit.

Even against Sunderland last weekend we never gave up and got a goal back, and I maintain we didn't deserve to lose but lose we did and now the league is our only priority..

I don't think it's been a great week for club/fan relationships and the man in the street must be scratching his head when he reads what the agent in the Louis Saha transfer earned.

How can someone earn £750,000 for a couple of hours' work? That's more than the average man or woman earns in a lifetime and people must wonder what these mysterious people do to justify their money.

I would never criticise United or the way they do their business, it's a fantastically well-run club and Sir Alex's purchases have been fantastic, particularly the big ones, but quite what the agent concerned has done to earn that sort of fee I just cannot comprehend.

In my experience they sit in on the day of the deal and talk for a couple of hours about terms and such, but if Manchester United are willing to pay it then who are the rest of us to argue?

The change in who pays them is the biggest factor. If the player himself wants to write a cheque for £750k from the money he will earn in the future, then good luck to the agent and well done the player, but the clubs are being asked to find the money as part of the transfer deal.

The first player I can remember having an agent was Kevin Keegan when I was joining up with the England squad. But he would pay the man out of the money he was earning for him.

The only solution I can see is clubs agreeing among themselves that they will not pay agents more than a certain amount of each deal.

I've read the letters in response to my defence of Mr Kilroy-Silk two weeks' ago. Readers have their right to write in and I respect that.

What I would say to those who have criticised me for getting involved in politics, is that football managers have their opinions on all aspects of life, not just sport, and we are entitled to our views just as much as anybody else. People can criticise my views, fine, but I am entitled to them.

Seeing the snow on the ground again reminds me of a chilly experience at West Brom when I was a player at Bristol City.

It was 1978 around New Year time. I'd just scored a hat-trick in a 6-1 win over Coventry on Boxing Day and was keen as mustard for the next game but when we got to the Hawthorns the pitch was totally frozen, and looked unplayable.

We got out there and had a warm-up and it was clear the pitch was a disaster waiting to happen. I was a big lad, a 14-stone striker, and was like Bambi on ice.

We had rubber studs in those days which were useless, we were slipping and sliding all over the place

But Ron Atkinson was the manager of West Brom - and a good side they were too with Laurie Cunningham and Cyril Regis - and had invested in some new kit from the continent, boots sole covered in pimples, and they were a big advantage.

We could see down the other end they were having a good time in the warm-up and the referee was undecided. I remember saying to him that you wouldn't run a £200 seller at Fakenham on that surface.

Ron was laughing on the other side of the pitch saying 'look at my lads, they're fine to play on it'.

They beat us heavily in the end and days after getting a hat-trick I was substituted with a big lump on my back.

We always laugh about it when I see Ron. He conned the ref pure and simple, and there is no way they would play the game now.

We used to play on all kinds of surfaces back then, but the one at Portman Road now is superb, even at this stage of the season, which is a big pat on the back for Alan Ferguson our groundsman.

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