The Joe Royle column

THIS will be my last column of the season and I want to start by saying a big thank you to all our terrific supporters.It struck me as we were leaving on the team bus from West Ham on Tuesday how our fans have great quality, particularly when I saw the reaction of some Hammers followers as we left.

THIS will be my last column of the season and I want to start by saying a big thank you to all our terrific supporters.

It struck me as we were leaving on the team bus from West Ham on Tuesday how our fans have great quality, particularly when I saw the reaction of some Hammers followers as we left. They were not like our people, who are true sporting supporters who conduct themselves in the correct way.

So well done and thank you to all our fans who have followed us everywhere with top quality.

LIKE most of us now I'm looking forward to my holidays and I'm looking forward to spending time with my wife Janet.

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The break though will be brief as I'm working with the BBC in Portugal next month.

I will be desperate for England to do well in Euro 2004, I will be there commentating but now, unfortunately after Tuesday night, I will not be scouting for players.

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There were no surprises in the England squad although I did put forward a plea for Gareth Barry to be included on the left side.

I still have two worries about England going to the finals – the left-sided problem and who will score goals if Michael Owen is not fit for any reason.

Hopefully, Jermain Defoe will not stay on stand-by too long and will make the final squad. Only taking four strikers seems a bit light to me so hopefully Defoe will make it.

I just hope we play Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the middle together and not be tempted to use one of them on the left.

Still, I'm looking forward to it – it should be a great tournament.

YOU can see why chairmen and fans love the play-offs, judging by two full houses and the fantastic atmosphere at both games and they are a drama in their own right.

Yet you can see why I despise the play-offs with the heartbreak at the end. We are two weeks further down the line than the rest of the clubs in terms of preparation for next season with nothing to show for it.

We are starting pre-season on June 28 and the players and the staff have already missed out on two weeks' rest and we are left behind when it comes to getting prepared for next season.

There is also the blatant unfairness of it and I felt so bad for Mick McCarthy on Monday I gave him a call.

After 46 games and two semi-finals and then to lose their opportunity of going into the Premiership and £20m at the last moment due to a referee's error, it can't be right.

Everyone saw Neil Shipperley fouled Mart Poom as he was going for the ball except the man who counted, and Michael Hughes, the man who scored the final penalty should not even have been on the pitch.

I was disappointed in our allocation of decisions on Tuesday, which showed even Premiership referees miss penalties that most people in the ground could see except him.

Although the way we played we probably didn't deserve any better.

I see myself as something of a champion for referees but I can understand why managers more excitable than me get so upset with referees.

As I said, I called Mick McCarthy to offer my sympathies and he reciprocated on Tuesday night.

For me Sunderland finished third and they deserved to go up by right.

THE talk this week has been about Tottenham bringing in Frank Arnesen from PSV and David Pleat going.

There have been success with foreign coaches – Arsene Wenger, Claudio Ranieri, Gerard Houllier – but the common denominator is they have all spent in excess of £100m, so how do you know an English manager would not have done as well?

In Wenger's case he had inside knowledge of the French market and has plundered it superbly.

Houllier inherited probably two of the best English players in the last decade in Gerrard and Owen with Jamie Carragher alongside them. Then Ranieri has been like a kid in a sweet shop.

Equally the most successful buyer of players is Sir Alex Ferguson.

So, for me the jury is out until a foreign coach goes to Rochdale for example and changes 11 free transfers to world-beaters.

At Tottenham they already have the foreign management system with a director of football and are changing like for like.

Many chief executives do that director of football role now in negotiating with players and agent.

For example, if you deal with West Brom you do a deal without talking to Gary Megson. The Thomas Gaardsoe deal was done chairman to chairman and then Gary and I spoke afterwards.

The old fashioned way was a manager contacted a manager and the deal was made through them. But there is no set way, it is a case of whatever works best.

Tottenham are going down an old road but it would seem they are looking to get more into the foreign market of players.

SOUTH Africa was celebrating this week after hearing they had won the right to host the 2010 World Cup.

It has been coming for a long time and they were very unlucky last time. My biggest problem about it will be security, but if they can cope with that then it would be a litmus test for other African countries.

I was speaking to a South African the other day, he told me that everyone who lives there says Cape Town is as lovely as any place in the world, but there is always that lingering doubt about security.

Mind you London, New York and Spain can have their problems and the world is on a security alert, whether it is internal as it is in South Africa or external where Bin Laden's terrorists could strike at any time.

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