The Joe Royle Column

WHEN is a contract not a contract? It seems to me the tail is wagging the dog on transfers at the moment.What's happened at Fulham with Louis Saha and what's happening at Charlton with Scott Parker shows that things have turned full circle from the days when the clubs had all the power, and decided at the end of the contract whether a player was kept on.

WHEN is a contract not a contract? It seems to me the tail is wagging the dog on transfers at the moment.

What's happened at Fulham with Louis Saha and what's happening at Charlton with Scott Parker shows that things have turned full circle from the days when the clubs had all the power, and decided at the end of the contract whether a player was kept on.

Now players are deciding, or trying to decide, their own futures while under these long-term deals.

I sympathise with Alan Curbishley and Chris Coleman because they're both losing their best player (if Parker goes) when they don't want to and when they are under contract.

You have to ask yourself what point there is to a contract, because they are becoming totally one-sided. A player will sign a four or five-year deal, and he'll get it because the club, the manager, wants him to do well for the team.

If the player does really well for the team, at the end of that first year he'll be back in for money, but nobody to my knowledge has come in to ask for less money because he's had a bad season.

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I don't know how many clubs can be strong enough to stand this kind of pressure. I believe players sign contracts to do well, but why they then believe they can come and ask for more money or expect a move just because they want it is strange, but it seems to be accepted now.

It's just a little bit disturbing that player power and agent power can hold sway in this.

It's a different thing at Ipswich because I knew we had financial problems and I knew we were a selling club – if we could sell that is.

There was no stage when I could turn round and say "listen, we've got to keep Matt Holland" or "we can't sell Hermann Hreidarsson."

It's a dream move for Saha to go to Old Trafford, but I dare say when he came to Fulham it was a dream move also, and it's the progress of the club under Coleman and the coaching there that has got him this transfer, because earlier in his career when he was on loan at Newcastle there wasn't a queue of clubs waiting to take him.

There's no blame attached to Manchester United or Chelsea in this on my behalf, all they've done is ask the question, but I just wonder about the influence of agents in all this.

Aside from that, I think Saha's move could have a bearing on the title race. We saw on Saturday at Molineux that if Ruud van Nistelrooy doesn't score, then United can struggle. If Saha comes in and fires them the goals to win the championship it's good business.

But if Fulham tumble down the table because of Saha it could cost them more than they receive in transfer fees for him, and that's wrong.

The situation at Elland Road is quite frightening at the moment, where the price for banking on Champions' League football is being paid, and it shows you can't take things for granted.

I've got friends there and I hope for their sakes it doesn't go pear-shaped but they need an awesome turnaround with less than half of the season to go.

They look odds-on to be relegated with £80m of debt round their necks and on top of that contracts. They have almost 20 players earning £1m a year there, so our problems at Ipswich almost pale away compared to that.

They need a miracle run on the pitch to get out of trouble, but they need someone to come in soon because the window closes in eight days and I'd argue they need two or three new players. If they don't they'll go down, and go under.

I take no delight in Leeds' demise but it shows there is a need for a new type of financial sense in the game and it will be a long time before we see the sort of spending spree they went on repeated.

They talk about a renaissance for the FA Cup but for me and most professionals the competition never lost its magic.

I know crowds in the earlier rounds aren't what they used to be – they were always sold out when I was a player – and some of the larger sides have used games to rotate their squads, but it's still the greatest cup competition in the world.

I'd love to win it again. It's only six games, as my chairman at Everton said the season we won it in 1995. Mind you that was afterwards, and I think he felt he'd paid me too much in bonuses that season.

You need a little bit of luck along the way. Luck with the draw, and then there is always one game which you win when perhaps you didn't deserve to.

I've seen at Everton and Oldham the way a crowd can be lifted by a good cup run and I'd dearly love to have another crack at it.

What an incredible game it was at Portman Road on Saturday. As the manager my feelings were all over the place throughout the match.

There were points when I thought we could even lose it, and at 3-3 I was wondering if we'd take a draw.

But given our record as the comeback kings of this division, I never give up on us to win a game because the spirit in this team is so good and they never stop fighting.

I always watch the first half in the stands and I was looking on after 30 minutes thinking 'they can't get near us, we've got the ball, let's get to half time and when the game opens up after that we can pick them off'.

Instead of that we came in at 2-1 with players nervous, and we had to have one or two words because people were going slack mentally, and then it was 2-2 before everyone had made it to the bench after half time.

After the first half an hour the only time I was really comfortable was the last two minutes.

But there were few recriminations afterwards, because you must never dampen the elation of winning a match, and taking three points. Any criticism was saved until Monday morning.

We scored two more goals than the opposition, took three points and no doubt for the fans it was a quite exquisite game to watch.

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