The return of the Joe Royle column

IT is certainly great to be back in the swing of things with our league season underway – but what an eventful summer it has been.The big stories have been David Beckham and of course Chelski, what a terrific name by the way.

IT is certainly great to be back in the swing of things with our league season underway – but what an eventful summer it has been.

The big stories have been David Beckham and of course Chelski, what a terrific name by the way.

First of all Becks. The media circus has taken over from the football really, and I wish him all the best because he has probably moved into an even bigger circus with Real Madrid. At some point they are going to have to let his football speak louder than all the commercial activities.

He is a terrific player – whether the tag world class is applicable I'm not so sure – but he is a top player, and a very consistent player, but Alex Ferguson has decided he can do without him.

I suspect that could be more down to the fact they can do without the baggage that goes with him, the whole media circus, the fashion shows, the helicopters to training and so forth, Alex probably got fed up with it all.

But good luck to the lad, he handles it all well – although it is a fine line between whether he can avoid publicity or his wife courts the publicity. It is probably more Mrs Beckham.

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AND then, just as that settled down along came our Mr Chelski. It is a fantastic story really. Just as the transfer market seemingly has collapsed (apart from a couple of small moves) along comes Mr Abramovich and he seems determined to buy two teams of players.

But it is significant to me that although the players he has bought are very good players, only Damien Duff might have interested Manchester United and Arsenal, so they may not feel they are missing out on much.

I have to smile at Alex saying Chelsea are going to win this or do that, he is a crafty fox. Chelsea still have a lot to do to catch those top two. They will have their days when they are nigh-on unbeatable but they have always been vulnerable to losing when they should not and the top two don't do that.

It is one thing to have the players, it is another to have a team. The thing that has been overlooked is that the dynasties at Arsenal and Manchester United have been built on home-grown players. Arsenal had Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Tony Adams, Ray Parlour, Steve Bould, and Ian Wright. Arsene Wenger has very cleverly changed it as he has gone along, bringing in players like Pires, Henry and Vieira slowly.

United's dynasty was built on a whole raft of kids coming in – the two Nevilles, Butt, Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, and they are still coming through and that is what Manchester United have above everyone else. They are a great model even for clubs like ourselves who bring along a lot of good youngsters, and something the others can't match.

I wish Roman Abramovich had been a Blues fan with all his billions, but it will be interesting to see how they deal with the unique problems of keeping everyone happy.

Where is it going to leave their young kids? Because it will block the progress of the young players. Having said that, if you are good enough you will break through, nothing stopped George Best and the talent he faced.

Talking of United youngsters, it was a terrible tragedy when Jimmy Davis lost his life in a car crash on Saturday.

His family have all of our deepest sympathies and best wishes.

WHEN it comes to standing at football I have every sympathy for the fans who want to get up and shout. I really believe there should be areas where people can stand and watch.

I was against it when Lord Justice Taylor's report sent us towards all-seater stadiums and then I saw the new stadiums and thought it was not a bad idea after all. But I still feel we should have terraces for standing and we can find ways of making it safe and comfortable.

There is no doubt lessons had to be learned from Hillsborough from the overcrowding aspect, but there is no doubt there are ways we can make safe areas. There is no doubt that there is a better atmosphere when you can stand as we have seen at concerts and even at football in certain countries abroad there are stadiums where people stand.

And I'm sure the clubs would like it because they can get more people in.

LET me get on my hobby-horse – French air traffic controllers. They didn't ruin my holiday this year but I know some Town fans were affected.

They have my sympathy as I have sat waiting 16 hours with three young kids before now so I know how they must have felt. Mind you we shot ourselves in the foot with a strike at Heathrow which allegedly cost British Airways about £4m, all over how people clock in, which seems absurd to me, but at least it was sorted out again.

I LIKE my tennis and it was great to see Tim Henman do well this summer, although it would be brilliant to see an Englishman win Wimbledon again – I am just about old enough to remember seeing Roger Taylor play.

But at the risk of upsetting half the population I have to say that women's tennis is a complete turn off for me these days.

Not because it has gone all power, or because it is dominated by a pair sisters, but I just can't stand all the grunting.

I can't listen to it any more so I'm afraid until they cut out the grunting then I'm not watching any more.

I can remember the graceful days of Yvonne Goolagong, Maria Bueno, and of course the lovely Sue Barker.

They didn't make sounds like they do these days. I'm sorry but I just don't want to hear it.

AS a player there is no greater feeling than pulling on that shirt with the three lions on the chest, I have never felt prouder than when I had the honour and it is a great honour for the club.

When the England players trot out next week it will be on a wonderful pitch, in a terrific stadium packed to the rafters.

It is a night I'm looking forward to and it reinforces my feeling that we don't need a national stadium.

I couldn't see the point of Arsenal and Manchester United going to Wales when Villa Park is between them and that could hold the 52,000 that they got in Cardiff.

And I know the players quite like the England road-show and I doubt for example we could have come back and beaten Greece as we did at Old Trafford if it had been at Wembley, simply down to the atmosphere which kept us going.

We have that many good stadiums around – Newcastle, Sunderland, two in Manchester, Chelsea – and with television we don't need a 100,000-seater stadium.

FOOTBALL lost a great man and I lost a close friend when Ray Harford succumbed to his illness last weekend.

Ray was a lovely man, a funny man and a very under-rated person. He was often seen as boring but believe me he was anything but. When Alan Shearer says he is the best coach he has ever worked with then you have to listen.

He played a great part in Blackburn Rovers winning the championship, the only other team apart from Arsenal and Manchester United to win the Premiership.

My condolences go to his family. I spoke with Ray about six weeks' ago and he was still battling and hoping things could change even then.

It is a very sad loss to football and to me personally.

Joe Royle was talking to Derek Davis

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