The Joe Royle Column

IT was interesting to see thta Pompey goalkeeping coach Alan Knight, no spring chicken, was on the bench for Portsmouth in their Premiership game with Aston Villa this week.

IT was interesting to see thta Pompey goalkeeping coach Alan Knight, no spring chicken, was on the bench for Portsmouth in their Premiership game with Aston Villa this week.

I can remember playing against him 20 years ago when I first joined Oldham so Pompey must be short as he has not played league football for four years.

Though I have to admit when we had a bit of a keeper crisis looming recently it was not totally out of my mind to use Malcolm Webster on the bench.

Malcolm is maybe a bit more rotund than he was in his fittest days but he still knows where he should be and what to do. Goalkeepers do go on to nearer 40 than 30 as outfield players do, although Alan and Malcolm are probably nearer 50 than 40.

IT was sad to see Billy Dearden resign at Notts County this week. I know Billy and his cousin Jack Dearden, who is a commentator in the north-west, really well.

Billy has been around a long time and is a real gentleman. He is one of those people who has always done a good job in football, whether it was managing or coaching. He has never been high profile but wherever he has gone he has always done an honest job.

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It was not easy at Notts County. He had no money to spend, being in administration he could not bring any players in so it was hard. Billy has obviously got fed up with the situation and I wish him good luck in whatever it is he does next. As he is one of the more senior managers it may be that he calls it a day completely.

ISN'T the FA Cup a wonderful thing? The romance of the competition is still marvellous. I mean how can Telford beat Crewe, who beat us earlier in the season?

I have nothing but admiration for the job Dario Gradi does but it shows what can happen on the day. Telford probably don't have one player who could get into Dario's team week in week out, yet they beat them.

That's the beauty of the cup and that is how cup shocks happen.

On that one day passion counts. Quite often the difference between top players and lesser players is not ability it is the capability to be passionate about the game and produce your best every week.

If you look at the top sides like Manchester United and Arsenal they rarely get upset in the cup because they are the best players week in week out.

I love the FA Cup and I know people will tell you it is losing its appeal and point to low crowds but I think it is more a seasonal thing and in the next round gates will be a lot higher.

Talking of the cup and underdogs, James Speare was with me at Everton when we won the FA Cup in 1995.

It is lovely to see him doing well at Accrington Stanley, who have taken our friends and neighbours Colchester United to a replay.

He is a talented lad but I could not see him challenging Neville Southall or Paul Gerrard really so I released him to give him a chance elsewhere.

Nothing would please me more than to see him go on and make a living from the game.

How they will get on against Colchester, I'm not so sure.

Colchester have been giantkillers in their day but I can remember scoring against them for Everton in the round after they famously beat Leeds United.

Graham Smith was in goal for them and I had gone to school with him but Colchester caught us on one of our good days and we put five past him. That shows how players could raise themselves for one game but not another straight after.

Sir ALEX Ferguson will be giggling to himself after hearing what Chris Coleman had to say about feeling bullied over the Louis Saha saga.

It is possible that Fergie will come out with some short sharp retort but more than likely he will just smile and say nothing.

He won't care if he is called a bully or whatever as long as he gets his man.

We have crossed swords over transfer deals in the past, in particular he was not happy about the way I got Andrei Kanchelskis and there were one or two comments made, but we remain good friends.

I see he has also upset the PSV Eindhoven coach but it won't bother him one jot. Alex is obsessed with success at Manchester United and has developed thick skin in achieving as much as he has.

IT is not the agents who are causing problems. A good agent will represent his player and work with clubs and will do deals for their benefit. He will take a sensible commission and look after his client in financial and commercial matters. There are some good agents who care for their clients.

There are agents in all sorts of areas – music, theatre even industry and business – and there are no problems with that.

But football is now spawning not agents, but a deal maker who doesn't represent players but is only interested in making deals to take players to another club and are not interested in the player, or the club, they are only interested in themselves. Unfortunately they are dealing at the highest level.

They are dealing with the platinum three, the wannabees and the strugglers. Perhaps if a deal is brokered by someone that no one else could see and could not make happen then I suppose a fee is appropriate, but it has got out of hand.

It is no secret that some agents have made millions out of one deal and that is not right – that is money that has gone out of the game.

Thankfully, there is a touch of reality creeping into the game now and wages are starting to become more sensible now.

And the rule is coming in that agents' fees have to be declared on the transfer form so it will be a lot clearer.

Mind you it was not unanimously accepted by Premiership clubs and I'm sure if some of them want a certain player and need to use an unscrupulous agent to get him they will carry on doing so.

I hear Manchester United are not going to appeal in the Rio Ferdinand case and I think Leeds are right not to do so after Alan Smith got a two-match ban for throwing a bottle back into the crowd.

It was only right that is was dealt with by the football authorities and not the police, who got involved unnecessarily at first.

In these days when we need to be careful of crowd reaction. It was a silly thing to do but we should not make a mountain out of it.

We need a much tighter set of regulations where everything is covered without argument. If Mark Palios does one thing in his stewardship at the FA then that should be his priority. At the moment there are too many loose ends, too many appeals and we need a code of discipline to end all that.

As told to Derek Davis

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