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Joe Royle Interview

"Be Patient"

An Interview with Joe Royle

On Monday, 12th February 1996, Joe Banerjee secured a dream interview with Joe Royle in his office at Goodison Park.

Joe Royle: Fire away. I've just got an appointment to see a house. I'm trying to move over here as soon as I can.

Joe Banerjee: Where do you live at the moment?

JR: I'm living in Oldham at the moment and I'm travelling everyday, which is a nightmare. It's an absolute nightmare.

JB: First of all, thanks very much for even agreeing to see me. I can see you are very busy.

Joe Banerjee interviewing Joe Royle

JR: No problem. We help where we can.

JB: I've prepared my questions because I'm not a journalist.

JR: Good.

JB: I've been out of the country for almost ten years so if my questions are a little uncoordinated, you'll have to forgive me.

JR: Fire away, that's no problem

JB: First of all a question about you. When you started off your managerial career were Everton the team you had your sights on?

JR: Well, I asked Oldham for a one year contract and received a one year contract, because I didn't know how I was going to suit them, I didn't know how they were going to suit me. So I thought I'd try it for one year and see how it goes. A bit more than that - I obviously had an enthusiasm for it. It wasn't a last resort. But then once things started to go well at Oldham, this was probably the only club that I would have left Oldham for.

JB: Really?

JR: Well, I had 12 years there and I had a number of chances to move, but this is the one I always wanted.

JB: I've heard somewhere that you were third in line for the England job.

JR: I don't know about third in line. I was asked to interview for the job when Graham Taylor got the job. Myself, Howard Kendall and Graham Taylor were all asked to interview, and I declined rather than refuse. I said that I don't think I'm ready for the job, and also that I'm not ready to give up the day-to-day involvement with running a club which I enjoy. The buzz of going to a ground and getting out on the training ground every day. So that was the reason really that I declined. Graham Taylor got the job and the first thing he did was ask me would I take the under-21s for a couple of games. I took them for three games and we won all three. So I'm very proud of that.

JB: So you've got a 100% England record.

JR: Yes.

JB: Does that mean there is only one other job that you'd leave this one for?

JR: No, I'm not really sure that I would be interested in the England job anyway.

JB: At anytime?

JR: I don't know. I think it's for a man in his 50s, because it's a strange job. It's not necessarily a coaching job, because you're dealing with top class players. It's not necessarily a managing job, because it's not managing a club on a day-t o-day basis. It's somewhere in-between. A bit of both and I think it's a nice job, a good job, a great job for the right person who has finished with club management. So at the moment I wouldn't really consider it.

JB: Is there any name you would put forward for the job now?

JR: There are moves to make Terry Venables carry on and that would be a good idea for me.

JB: The style of football that Everton played last season, and I'm thinking of the midfield especially, did you call them the "Dogs of War"?

JR: Yes, I said it jokingly one day. I also mentioned that I thought that United, with Ince and Keane, had been the ultimate "Dogs of War". What I meant really was combative midfield players who could both pass the ball and win it. And if you lo ok at successful sides over the years, whether it be Liverpool with McMahon, Souness, Whelan; whether it be Everton in '63 with Dennis Stevens, Kendall, Ball and Harvey, they could all tackle as well as play. And it was said in that fashion really, but th e press picked up on it. The fans picked up on it. A lot of fans didn't like it, but a lot of fans did and there were even T-shirts going round with bulldogs on them. So it was said in a complimentary way, but it was not taken that way and I suppose at th e end we've rid ourselves of the tag now, no one says that any more. But we had to be aggressive. We were in so much trouble we had to be strong and aggressive. We didn't deliberately go out to maim anybody or to be dirty, using the old-fashioned word, but we certainly had to be strong and aggressive and hard to play against because the team had become a soft touch. They'd become the easy-beats.

JB: That's what I was going to ask, that it was necessary to keep us in the Premiership and a lot of people were saying that Everton were changing from the "School of Science" to the "School of War", but when you signed Kanchelskis.....

JR: Well, that's exactly the point to me. Your players decide the way you play in actual fact. You can forget about tactics worked out on the training pitch, which is very important. You can work on a shape, but every time you buy a player or bring another player in, he puts his own stamp on the way you play. In other words if you put Glen Hoddle in any team they would be a passing team because that's the way Glen Hoddle plays. But realistically bringing in Kanchelskis, making Duncan permanent, bringing Craig Short in to make us strong at the back, strong in the air. They've all put their little stamp on things.

JB: So we've stayed in the Premiership, we're heading for Europe.....

JR: Hopefully. We're heading in the right direction.

JB: What's the type of football that you want to see Everton play? Do you like, for example, Dutch football?

JR: I don't think that week after week the English fans would accept Dutch football. Whether or not they would take Ajax football, who are very successful and probably the best side, or certainly the second best side, along with AC Milan, in Europe – whether or not the British fans would accept that on a week-to-week basis I am not quite sure. But certainly I want to see us win with style. The first thing is you have to win. You have to satisfy your supporters, and then to win with style. But we 're only just over 12 months into the process of what's taken Newcastle four years and 47 million to get to where they are. It took Manchester United seven years and 50 million. That's a lot of money. We've spent up to now probably 11 million on surviving and going on. And that's what we are – we are very transitional at the moment. But I told the Chairman at the start of the season, I said "Listen, we're not ready yet to win the League. There's people getting carried away after last year. But, having said that there will certainly not be a problem at the other end this year", and without being a smarty pants, up to now its been fairly true.

JB: Absolutely.

JR: But the whole thing is changing all the time. And the next player that we bring in is very important because he too will put his own stamp on things.

JB: I was going to ask, if you could strengthen the squad further .... who is this new player?

JR: Well we can't name names at the moment because it would be embarrassing if we didn't get him, but certainly we're in negotiations with the club at the moment that would give us a player that I think would add something to us.

JB: Are we talking domestic or foreign?

JR: Domestic.

JB: And are we going to be breaking any record fees?

JR: No it won't be a record fee, but it will certainly be substantial.

JB: That's related to another question I wanted to ask. You've just mentioned Newcastle spending that amount of money and United, now do you have an open cheque book or as close as possible to such a thing?

JR: No, never at all. It's run like a business and it has to tally. The 11 or 12 million that we've spent up to now we've got a little bit of that back with selling one or two off, but realistically that had to be done to keep the club up and to go forward, and to justify the faith of a lot supporters in us this year who have put their money into season tickets. So the Kanchelskis thing was a big one, was a really big one, because he's not only an effective player but he will put bums on seats anyway. And he's already started to pay off with two goals against Liverpool.

JB: Is he the most skillful player you've seen at Everton?

JR: Not the most skillful, but he might just be the most exciting. It's a different thing. If you're talking in terms of absolute pure skill, on a skill factor I've never seen anybody like Anders Limpar. But he doesn't always match that skill with consistency, the little fella. Sometimes he can be brilliant and sometimes you can't find him with radar. That's the essence of the lad, but in terms of actual ability, as to what he can do with a ball with either foot, I've never seen anyone like him either as a player or a manager. But if you're asking me about pace, power, excitement – I've never seen anybody hit the ball harder than Kanchelskis. Nobody's, certainly, going to run away from him. He's got a sprinter's pace, he's got excellent control. He's got great ability, don't get me wrong, he's got great skill and great ability, but the little fella (Limpar) in terms of raw ability is really something special.

JB: I'm glad to hear that, flair players get such a lot of stick.

JR: Yes, I mean Anders on Saturday (against Man. City) first half was magnificent, second half touched the ball twice. And that's the way he can be at times, but I would say also that I'm a big fan. He's done ever so well for us. His contribution, particularly in the cup games last year, was outstanding.

JB: We picked him up for a fairly reasonable price.

JR: 1.5 million. He was a deadline thing, when Beagrie was going to Manchester City Mike bought him. When I came here, the first time he came to see me he was telling me that he was going to Japan. He was all lined up to go to Japan, Anders, and I said "well just give it a little bit of time and wait and see". I saw him play in a reserve game at Anfield which we beat Liverpool 4-0, and I had him sub for the first game against Liverpool. He came on and he's hardly, really, been out of the side since then.

JB: He would do very well in Japan. That's the sort of players that are doing very well out there.

JR: Well he's a class act believe me and it might suit him too, the less aggressive side of it out there, and of course it would give him a nice little bit of a payroll.

JB: It certainly would. Again that leads me on to another one of my questions. There are a lot of foreign managers out there in Japan and you must have heard of J. League. I'm sure Gary Lineker has come back and talked about it.

JR: I know about the J. League. I speak to a fella called Stuart Baxter, he used to play for Preston. Stuart Baxter has been quite successful out there.

JB: Yes, I think he won the first half of the two-part J. League season two years back with Hiroshima San Frecce. Once you've achieved everything you want to achieve at Everton and if an offer came from Japan, and the offer would undoubtedly be very big because there is big money out there, would you ever be interested?

JR: I don't know. You can never say at the time. There's still so much to do here really. But I don't know whether you can ever achieve everything you want with a club this size. This is one of maybe four, five clubs in Britain that is big enough to go on and win the big one - to go on and win the European Champions League. That is certainly an ambition.

JB: That was going to be another question further down my list.

JR: Well, I'm anticipating you.

JB: Yes, you're doing well. The European Cup is one we've never won.

JR: No. We've got to win the League first. As I say, I think that we would be a decent outside bet next year because we'll add one, maybe two players to the current squad. And we've got one or two very exciting young players coming through so I' m quite happy now that we won't be looking over our shoulder. The next step is to go on and threaten Newcastle, maybe Liverpool next year if they continue their development as well. But we've come a long way in 12 months and I don't say that conceitedly. From a side that was three years in a row relegation fodder, we will be, I am sure that we will be top six this year. I am sure that we will. We'll have to wait and see how far we can go next year. I've had a bet on us for the Cup as well, which is the kiss of death, but I got 33 (to 1) so I'm quite happy.

JB: Why do Everton have difficulty dispatching the minnows like Stockport and Port Vale, and yet we can thrash Middlesbrough 4-0, the best defence in the League at the time, and Leeds with ten men?

JR: Yes, that may be a little inconsistency on our behalf. At the moment we are two defeats in 18 games, so we've been very consistent, but we have made hard work of lesser sides. It's a puzzle, but it's not unique to Everton and it's not unique to football. It's what makes the FA Cup so great. You know that Stockport played us twice and could have beaten us in both games, and yet either side of that they lost three games in a row to Swansea, Bradford ... they were losing to sides that you would n't expect. So what had happened was they'd raised themselves to such an extent to play us here that they found that hard to keep it going. But yes, we are going a rather long way in the Cup this year.

JB: Good. This morning I read in a back edition of either the Echo or the Post that when things were getting rough for Man. City you rang Alan Ball and offered him any help that you could. What can you do for someone like Alan Ball and did anyone ring you last season when we were in trouble?

JR: Well, no because that was my fourth year running. I'd had three years at Oldham struggling to stay up so I'm bit of a relegation struggling expert if there's such a thing. All I would have said to Ballie at the time, and I remember the conversation, is "Just keep faith in yourself". Ballie is a fiery man anyway and all I said was "Just remember they don't play badly deliberately". You have to sometimes show a little tolerance as well as all the spirit. You know we're good friends, we go back an awful long way. I know this is the job that he would always have liked as well.

JB: This morning I was writing my questions and I was looking up the thesaurus for a different word for "moody", because I've read somewhere that you get very upset when Everton lose. Is that because you hate losing, is it because you get disappoint ed in yourself or the players?

JR: No, you've read it wrong quite honestly.

JB: That's good.

JR: I'm seldom upset. I'm often described as "Genial Joe", equally I'm not totally genial. I'm a little bit of a philosopher in so much as at quarter to five on a Saturday, if we've lost, that game ceases to be important. What's most important i s the next game then. So I don't dwell on ... I don't take things home with me. Obviously I might have a sleepless night, I might have a couple of drinks to try and relax because it will be inside me. But we never have inquests in the dressing room. There 's no point in it because you're talking about the past. You're talking about sterile zone, something that's gone. The minute that match is finished we are then thinking about the next game. The next game is important, the last game isn't.

JB: Daniel Amokachi. What position do you prefer playing him in? I know he has said that he prefers to play just behind the front two, but I get the impression you want him to be the out-and-out striker that we paid three million for.

JR: We can't afford him to play in a free role. Particularly in our position last year when I came here, it was important that everybody had a role and knew what they were doing when we didn't have the ball. Now, Daniel being a continental player, and an African player, has been brought up on total free football, and quite honestly he's hard to tie down to a role. So the best role that he can play for a team is as near to their (the opponents') goal as possible, where his strength, which is immense, and his pace, which is considerable can do the most harm. But one of our problems is, at times, that as I've tried to take us away from three in the middle to two in the middle and two wide men, is that three of our forwards, namely Anders, Andrei an d Duncan just switch off completely when the opposition have the ball. And you can throw Daniel into that as well. So you're effectively defending only with eight men at times, and you'll find all the successful sides have 11 men defending when they have the ball. The best defender in the country I've ever seen is a fella called Ian Rush. Everybody says he is famous for goals, which he is, he is also the best finisher I've ever seen, but what they don't realise is that as soon as the opposition get the ball he defends. He sets traps and closes people down, and if Duncan Ferguson can find that side to his game and a little bit more consistency he can be the biggest centre forward this country's seen, and I don't mean just because he's six foot four. But he has all the ingredients to be the biggest.

JB: You say they go to sleep. I can see them just lounging around in the front. How as a manager do you change that?

JR: Just keep reminding them. Don't rant and rave, just get back. Show them on video, "Duncan you should do this, Andrei get back". All I've ever asked the wingers to do, Andrei and Anders, is to make sure that when they (the opponents) get the ball you are from here to that door (about 3-4 meters) away from their full back and facing him. Don't worry about what goes on back there because we'll handle that. We've got midfield players in there and defenders who'll handle that, but you make sure t hat their full back isn't running past you and giving us problems. Anders finds that very hard. And Andrei can do it, but doesn't want to do it.

JB: What about our backs? You want to buy Hottiger.

JR: Yes, Hottiger, I'm sure that will go through in the end. I'm very confident of that, only because there's too many precedents set. There's too many people that have already got in with less qualifications. So I'm fairly confident that he'll be OK.

JB: Who do you think is the best team in the Premiership?

JR: The best team? Newcastle. There is no doubt about it. They are the best team at the moment. They are where they are because they are the best team. You don't get to the top and nine points clear on luck, and over this season they've been the best side.

JB: And potentially?

JR: Potentially, I think that Manchester United with their crop of kids, and Alex is going to sign one or two I'm sure, I think they can be a big threat. I think Liverpool in cups, although not really a championship side at the moment. You've go t to be wary of Tottenham also in cups, Tottenham have a good tradition. And Everton.

JB: If your entire squad was firing on all cylinders, and you probably won't want to answer this question, but if they were, what's your first 11?

JR: Well that never happens for a start, and you're right to an extent, I wouldn't want to say. I wouldn't want to name individuals. But there would certainly be certain players who would definitely be in it, of which Kanchelskis, Ferguson, Joe Parkinson who has become essential to us, Neville Southall, obviously, at the moment still a very creditable keeper, Dave Watson, Craig Short, so right down the middle we will be solid and I think we can work around that with a combination of different pl ayers for different games. So it's not necessarily knowing always your best 11, but your best 11 for a particular game. I hope that doesn't sound too evasive.

JB: No, no that was fine. The point is you are the Everton manager, and what I would imagine all Everton fans want you to do is pick the team that is going to win on the day.

JR: Yes, we have to. We played a little bit of a strange system on Saturday because I wanted Andy Hinchcliffe to play one further forward and stop Summerbee who is the only player they have on the right hand side. And it worked a treat in so much as they hardly had a chance in the whole game and Summerbee is their main provider. We didn't play particularly well, but nevertheless we've had games where we have played well and got nothing out of them. So it equals out over the season.

JB: Everton are a club that doesn't get as much press coverage as I would like, because if they don't get coverage I don't know what's going on being in Japan.

JR: Well, it's coming. Believe me it's coming. That comes with success. The media have had Manchester Uniteditis for a number of years.

JB: Yes, someone called Sky TV, Man. Utd. TV. I've never seen it, but...

JR: Well that might be slightly bitter, but at the same time the press have gloried in Manchester United. And they have been the best side for a number of years let's not kid ourselves.

JB: Our youth development. You don't have an open cheque book. It would be preferable if we could nurture a crop of good young players.

JR: Well we've got some good young talent coming through. We've got a very exciting striker called Michael Branch who is a local boy. He's playing in the reserves at the moment. He is only a first year YTS player, so he's playing at a high stand ard. He's just 17. He's very, very quick and very exciting around goal. And then we've got three outstanding centre halves. We've got a good crop of young centre halves coming through. John O'Connor, an England captain at every level up to youth. Graham Allen, a lad I tried to sign when I was at Oldham – sat in his house for two hours with his dad – he signed for Everton and I'm glad. And a big Irish lad called Richard Dunne who has not long been over here. He's only 16 – looks like the Honey Monster, but he's got amazing pace and skill. So those four are four to watch for and around that there are other good prospects, but they would be the four likeliest at the moment. That can change in a week.

JB: Neville Southall. Has he signed a new contract?

JR: No, but don't read anything into that because Neville is an old walrus. Neville's a law unto himself. I have a great relationship with Neville. We'll laugh and smile at each other and we'll get on with it. I've never known anyone quite like him. He's totally eccentric. Mad. He can be either charming or sometimes you'd think that he's been kicked back by the charm school. There's no level to Neville at all except that he's been a great keeper.

JB: Having him play for Everton for the next couple of years is excellent, but he is getting old. You mentioned some youth players, but what about a goalkeeper?

JR: Well we'll be bringing a keeper in this summer.

JB: Good. Domestic? Foreign?

JR: Domestic. Oh, no we don't go for foreign keepers.

JB: Everton will probably play Leeds at Elland Road in the FA Cup 5th round.

JR: Well I hope so.

JB: We haven't won at Elland Road for ....

JR: ... a long time ...

JB: a long, long time.

JR: Till the semi-final....

JB: when we played Spurs. Are there any grounds you don't like to visit for whatever reason?

JR: We've bust a few hoodoos this year. I'd never won at Wimbledon - at Selhurst Park or Wimbledon as a player or manager until we won there. I'd only ever won twice at Arsenal in all my career, both as a player. So to win at Highbury and at Wimbledon in one season is good away form believe me.

JB: The Highbury result, I think, was one of the best this season.

JR: Well, it was because we were one down to a brilliant goal again by that fella. Instead of kicking off with nil-nil, it should start with Wright one against Everton (Wright 1 Everton 0), because he scores for fun against us. We kicked off and we were one down first half when we had done OK. We had a little word with one or two at half time, changed a couple of things around tactically, and second half we could have scored three or four. We've looked promising away from home. That's why I'm so optimistic about next year, because away form is the sign of a good side developing.

JB: Of all the players you've bought in your career, who was the best value for money?

JR: I would consider five and a half million for Kanchelskis as great value. I also got Dennis Irwin on a free from Leeds, the United full-back. Richard Jobson for 400,000 at Oldham who they've sold at 32 for a million. They've all been outstand ing, but Andrei's not been here long enough really to qualify for the title. I would probably say Andy Ritchie for 50,000 from Leeds, because for a club that had had no history, no success, nothing at all, he put bums on seats. They came to see Andy Ritchie and then he became part of a successful side and a very, very talented player. He could pull a hamstring getting out of his car, but when you got him on the pitch, he was a very, very talented act and great value for Oldham.

JB: As a player who was the best centre-half you played against?

JR: The best centre half I played against was Roy McFarland who was very quick, outstanding in the air, good on the ball and mean. He'd kick you if it needed to be done. I scored a couple against him, but not many, and Roy, but for injuries, would have had a hundred and something caps.

JB: I thought you might say Mike England at Spurs.

JR: I enjoyed playing against Mike England. I always scored against Jack Charlton of Leeds. Great centre halves, but you know we all have centre halves that we do well against. I never did very well against John Talbot of West Brom., which would surprise people because he's not a household name, but Roy Mac. was the best.

JB: Is that why we didn't win the '68 F.A. Cup against West Brom.?

JR: No, I don't think it was down to just one person. We had done quite well against them in the League. We'd won 6-2 at West Brom either that season or the season before, and we'd beaten them four at Goodison, so I think we had a lot of young l ads that froze on the day.

JB: Were you disappointed to leave Everton for Man. City?

JR: No I had to go. The time was right. There had been a change of manager. I'd been out the best part of 12 months with a back operation and Billy Bingham had arrived and started to bring in his own people, and quite honestly when you gotta go you gotta go, and the time was right.

JB: Finally, if there was something you'd say to the fans at Goodison what would it be?

JR: Be patient. Be patient. And its hard, because expectations here have been so high since the summer, since we won the Cup and got out of relegation trouble with top six form. Our form from the Liverpool game onwards would have seen us sixth i f it was projected over the full season. People were talking about us for the Championship, which was really not quite on. But I'm saying be just a little bit patient and bear in mind that it took Newcastle four years to get to where they are. I don't think it will take us that long.

JB: I'm sure if I'd prepared properly I would have had more questions, but I know you're busy. Thanks very much once again.

JR: You're welcome.

Who is Joe Banerjee?

Joe Banerjee is an Evertonian living in Kyoto, Japan. Joe left England in 1986 and is only now able to follow Everton effectively using the Internet.

Joe works for a company that is based in Liverpool, but has a strong marketing operation in Japan. Before a recent visit back home, Joe hit on the idea of getting an interview with Joe Royle, for the burgeoning Japan branch of the Worldwide Fan Club. The interview turned out to be so good that Joe chose to share it with Evertonians everywhere, via the Internet.


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