Here's why the fire still burns inside Joe Royle

Tuesday, 18 December, 2018 40comments  |  Jump to last
Joe Royle is returning to the game, four months shy of his 70th birthday, as a Director at Wigan Athletic. ‘People say you must be mad going back in at 69 — I have wondered that!'

Last month, the Everton great became a director at Wigan Athletic after a Chinese takeover brokered by his son, Darren, who is now the Championship club's chairman. ‘My boss,' he says with a smile.

Royle, who will work on transfers at the DW Stadium, left his last role nurturing talent at Everton a year ago. At the time there were rumours that it was down to the arrival of Sam Allardyce.

‘It wasn't so much that,' he explains. ‘It was more a personal thing. The analogy I use is that it's hard being on the backbenches when you've been Prime Minister. I'd seen it with (previous managers) Roberto Martinez and Ronald Koeman, and with Sam coming I thought it would be a nice time to come away from it.'

Everton remains his true love.

‘I am an Evertonian,' he says. ‘I first started going when I was seven or eight with a tugboat captain from over the road. We used to go in The Paddock.

‘If you look at Goodison now from the Main Stand, there's still a wooden panel where the clock used to be and that's where we stood.

‘There was an FA Cup tie we lost against Aston Villa, when we went behind the goal. It was at the time when a lot of coins were being thrown. This tugboat captain hoisted me over the barrier and said “go and get all that money”.'

There would be more silverware at Goodison as a player and manager, including an FA Cup and First Division title. But for Royle, who made his debut at 16 and would go on to play for England, two memories stand out:

‘My first game as manager in 1994 when we beat Liverpool 2-0,' he says. ‘I know science will tell you it can't happen but when we scored the second I could swear the roof lifted and I'm sticking by it.'

The second was in the yellow of Norwich City. ‘My last game as a player was at Goodison. I scored and Norwich won but I still got a standing ovation. As I came off the Norwich manager at the time, Ken Brown, said he'd never heard anything like it before.'

Royle's time as Everton Manager came to a premature end, following a 6th-placed finish the previous season. A sadness over his departure lingers. ‘I fell out with the local paper — I always said I gave them a silver service but unfortunately they used one of the knives to stab me in the back. It came from nowhere.

‘I still see Peter Johnson (then chairman) on holiday and we usually end up with a glass of wine, shaking our heads at what happened.'

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Reader Comments (40)

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Jim Bennings
1 Posted 18/12/2018 at 08:32:46
The last manager who I believe truly knew what it meant to the fans.

Big Joe gave us unbelievable memories in such a short time and during such an emotionally turbulent era and for that I’ll always thank him.

Joe McMahon
2 Posted 18/12/2018 at 08:41:47
Nice article that. I remember Joe's first game also. I was at Hull Uni then, the roof also lifted off above the large screen in the union bar when the 2nd goal went in.

Happy Days and a true gentleman of a manager. Interesting that 50 neutrals packed in the uni bar were gunning for Everton then; sadly, they would all be plastic reds now.

Joe McMahon
3 Posted 18/12/2018 at 08:44:48
500 neutrals not 50, it's my stupid Huawei phone.
Jim Bennings
4 Posted 18/12/2018 at 09:58:47

I think it was an Everton team (arguably the last Everton team to do so) that really hit that connection with the fans.

When Royle took over we were properly in the shit, in a far worse place than we had ever been and the chasm between fans and players was huge but Big Joe came in and instantly changed all of that.

The attendances shot up and the feeling around the club was pride and enthusiasm from supporters and the heart and soul we seen from a limited group of players was evident.

1995 saw the arrival of the most exiting signing I still believe to this day, Andrea Kanchelskis and for that first year he surpassed every expectation I had of him.

It was a travesty that Joe was not at this club longer when you consider the dross that followed him.

For a while after winning the Cup and finishing 6th in an otherwise terrible decade, I believed anything was possible.

Mark Andersson
5 Posted 18/12/2018 at 10:19:12
True blue and decent man with a great sense of humor.

I knew we would win the FA Cup that day against Man Utd.

Joe was a great motivator and the fans love a True Blue.

John Raftery
6 Posted 18/12/2018 at 14:27:22
A very good player, a very good manager and a great guy.

As a young player there were doubts among some fans as to whether he would be good enough. At one stage we were linked in the papers with Colin Stein but Catterick stuck to his guns and kept Joe in the team even when the goals were in short supply. His hat-trick against Leicester settled the argument once and for all.

As a manager he did really well for two years until he and the club lost its way in the winter and spring of 1996-97. From being touted as ‘dark horses' for the League title just before Christmas things fell apart after Joe Parkinson was injured and Kanchelskis sold. The last few signings were stop-gap acquisitions to shore up the squad when what we needed was one or two top class performers to keep us in the top six. We needed someone at senior level within the club to press the pause button and take stock rather than change the manager.

Jim Bennings
7 Posted 18/12/2018 at 16:21:34

I'd have loved to have seen the team that finished 6th in 1996 really push the boat out and sign a 20-goal striker. Imagine where we would have been if we had signed say Les Ferdinand, Ian Wright or Alan Shearer.

I was a huge fan of Big Dunc but he was never the lethal goal scorer we craved and missed far too many games but having someone to compliment him would have made a huge difference.

Royle signed some gems, from Gary Speed to Nick Barmby to Andrei Kanchelskis, and had a nice little balance of goal scoring central options with one of my favourite players “Diamond” Graham Stuart.

I think it could have really taken off for Big Joe with one or two really key signings and maybe those dark horse predictions for the title wouldn't have been a world away.

Steve Brown
8 Posted 18/12/2018 at 16:47:32
Joe was the last Everton manager I genuinely admired. There hasn't been one since.
Jim Bennings
9 Posted 18/12/2018 at 17:20:28

He knew what it meant to fans and despite limited resources at times we always played the game heart on sleeve and with passion, in Big Joe's own words:

“If a crisp packet moves, tackle it”.

Genuine Everton Legend.

Steve Brown
10 Posted 19/12/2018 at 00:21:51
Amen, Jim!
Steve Croston
11 Posted 19/12/2018 at 12:44:24
"I first started going when I was seven or eight with a tugboat captain from across the road"... I don't know why, but that line made me spit my tea out laughing.

Good old Joe, legend. Brought me my best ever Everton moment in '95.

Peter Gorman
12 Posted 19/12/2018 at 15:45:16
Jim, the signing of Kanchelskis was like the equivalent of signing De Bruyne now. Unbelievable stuff.

Weirdly, Stuart was possibly my favorite player of the overall period. Him and Kanchelskis both scored on our last ever win away to Arsenal when I was but a lad.

Michael Kenrick
13 Posted 19/12/2018 at 16:44:08
Loved Joe. Those 2 years were so full of promise... until it all fell apart. The Everton Way.

Him and Kanchelskis both scored on our last ever win away to Arsenal when I was but a lad.

Great memories, Peter... but what an indictment of the crap we have suffered since. The Everton Way.

Jay Wood

14 Posted 19/12/2018 at 17:01:33
Am I correct in recalling that, following the 2-0 derby win at Goodison in Joe's first home game, six days later in his first away game at Chelsea, a Paul Rideout goal gave us a 1-0 win...?

I'm guessing, in all probability, that win at Stamford Bridge was our last out-and-out away win down there (discounting the penalty shoot-out win in the FA Cup a few years ago).

Not too shabby for a team rooted to the bottom of the table under Mike Walker.

The stuff of dreams, these days...

John Pierce
15 Posted 19/12/2018 at 17:09:41
It's so hard to reconcile how Royle left. I've heard loads of stories, and sure Joe is no angel. To lose a guy who we'd courted for years so easily when he had the whole club going in the right direction was a travesty.

No-one phased him, the pre cup final interview with Ferguson is gold. He pressed Fergie's buttons with glee.

His side echoed that of the '80s – direct, fast, and hard. The shame of it lasting only 18 months.

Kieran Kinsella
16 Posted 19/12/2018 at 17:17:14
The Echo had a summary of this last week that linked to a longer version. Their summary omitted the fact Royle blamed the Echo for his sacking in the long version their summary linked to.

Personally, I think Royle's demise began when we beat Soton 7-1. I was in Gwladys Street when he subbed in Duncan Ferguson — back from jail. The return of Big Dunc disrupted our free-flowing attack as we went back to long balls.

In his absence, we played a bit like the current Liverpool team with Barmby, Speed and Kanchelskis doing a Salah, Mane and Firmino. Andrei having his mafia induced exit worsened things. Then the board thought Flo wasn't a good buy, even though he was a success at Chelsea, so that was that.

Dave Abrahams
17 Posted 19/12/2018 at 17:17:21
I've got to say that as a player Joe was a disappointment to me. He had everything, good control, two-footed, absolutely brilliant in the air, but he never worked hard enough at his game. Even allowing for his later injury, Joe should and could have been so much better.

He had more natural talent, in my opinion, than Alan Ball and Kevin Keegan, but they worked, day-in & day-out, to improve their game, which they did. Ball used to scream and rant at Joe in training to get more involved; he never did.

Maybe it was Joe's nature: easy going, amiable, just too nice. I liked him a lot, it was hard not to, but, Joe, you could have been up there, right at the very top.

Rob Dolby
18 Posted 19/12/2018 at 17:23:43
The only Evertonian in charge of the club in my lifetime. He got it, fans got it, players got it... shame the hamper salesman didn't.

Travesty he was allowed to leave.

Kieran Kinsella
19 Posted 19/12/2018 at 17:35:31
Joe's backbencher analogy is also interesting. I remember in the Watford game last season, he walked over to the dugout and had a word with Unsie. He could have been saying anything – "Do you want tea or coffee at half-time?" but the commentators interpreted it as him stepping in to help the struggling Unsie.
Jay Wood

20 Posted 19/12/2018 at 17:55:03
Dave @ 17.

I agree with you to a point, Dave. But I ponder on a couple of things.

I believe Joe played through a lot of pain with his back injury, often taking days to recover after every game. That had to impact on his performance and ability to train between games.

Billy Bingham decided very early on, after signing Bob Latchford, that Big Bob and Big Joe couldn't play together and Joe was sold, for me, too prematurely. If he had stayed at Everton, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be Sharpy occupying the number two slot as Everton's leading goalscorer.

I also remember, when Joe and Brian Kidd (then of Man Utd) played together at U-21 level (or whatever it was) for England, they dovetailed beautifully. I always thought they would be a fine strike force together at Everton.

Ironically, they were united together at Man City for a season or two, before Joe went off to Bristol City, before (very late in his career) Kidd found his way to Everton. If memory serves me right, he is still the only player – EVER! – to be sent off twice in a single season in the FA Cup, including being dismissed in the losing semi-final vs West Ham Utd.

Darren Hind
21 Posted 19/12/2018 at 18:12:46
The bit about being stabbed in the back by the Echo?

If this was common knowledge it certainly got under my radar. I thought his falling out with Peter Johnson was purely down to not signing Flo and I think Dion Dublin was the other one.

Can anybody shed any light on the part our local rag played in Big Joe's departure ?

Tony Abrahams
22 Posted 19/12/2018 at 18:20:23
If my memory is correct, I'm sure I remember Royle banned the Echo from Bellefield, Darren.

Last Evertonian to get under Liverpool's skin, and the last one to give me real joy, especially the day he told the press, “Well bollocks to your dream Cup Final” on one of my favourite ever Everton days.

Paul Tran
23 Posted 19/12/2018 at 18:27:28
If my memory's right, Darren, the Echo started having regular pops at Joe when the momentum stopped and the decline started.

I remember the summer after we won the cup we got Kanchelskis and later went in for Collymore who then went over the park. We didn't get the striker we needed and I think Joe's limitations caught up with him.

I had the impression Johnson didn't have the balls to sack him, so Joe ended up half resigning, half being sacked.

What a wonderful two years it was. Whenever anyone on here drones on about relegation, I think of that mess Joe inherited, points adrift at the bottom of the league. That was a team going down.

One of my big all-time EFC heroes. I don't think he could quite hack it at the top managerial level. Great while it lasted, though!

Dave Abrahams
24 Posted 19/12/2018 at 18:37:14
Jay (20), yes you are correct: Joe's back injury had a big influence on his career, but I'm talking about his career before he had this back injury.

I remember him playing for Everton reserves one night in a midfield position, this was under Harry Catterick and I think it was an attempt to get Joe more involved in the game.

I think it would easier for me to leave Joe and let him get the praise he deserves for his very good career but I firmly believe that with the extra training and effort, Joe would have found a little bit of extra devil in himself and become the top player he should have been. I know if I would have related to Joe I'd have been onto him day after day telling how good he would be with that extra effort.

Darren. (21) It was Kendall who resigned over Dion Dublin.

Tony (22) Joe banned Phil McNulty from Bellefield, he threatened him with a hedgehog that was passing by. McNulty knew Joe and laughed it off, didn't feel under any danger, but he was still banned. if Joe had shown that temper on the pitch he would have been all the better for it!!!

Tony Abrahams
25 Posted 19/12/2018 at 18:50:10
I think Paul T, calls Royle, the same way as I do with regards how good of a manager he really was.

I think he could gee up his team for any given game, and I understood why, when I read Willie Donachy saying that rather than having an overall plan, they preferred to go “horses for courses” against most opponents?

You could tell he loved Everton though, especially when it came to playing Liverpool, with his clever little one liners, getting the right response, because they could never get the better of Big Joe Royle!

Darren Hind
26 Posted 19/12/2018 at 19:18:03
Dave A @24

Thank you. I stand corrected.

Dave Abrahams
27 Posted 19/12/2018 at 20:58:44
Darren (26), you're welcome, that resignation came as a surprise because I think we had just won the latest game at Goodison 1-0. (Was it against Coventry?) This was Howard's second spell at Everton.
Kieran Kinsella
28 Posted 19/12/2018 at 21:07:28
Funny how we lost two managers to some extent over signing strikers that board/owner viewed as dodgy but went on to be successful elsewhere.
Jay Harris
29 Posted 19/12/2018 at 21:57:23

I think Johnson refused to sign Flo as a way of undermining Joe and forcing him to resign.

The Echo and some of the fanbase were complaining about the dogs of war style and criticising Joe so Johnson used the "Flo" business to give him a vote of no confidence.

That is how I remember it anyway.

Dave Williams
30 Posted 19/12/2018 at 22:56:06
I met Joe at an after show party in London and spent a couple of hours drinking with him and Mike Summerbee. What a thoroughly nice and decent bloke and he included Andrei in his all time Everton team when the conversation inevitably got round to that.

I went to every game in the late sixties as my uncle had season tickets and Joe was very underrated. Marvellous in the air, he was skilful with his feet and brave too. Probably lacked natural aggression but was cut down in his prime by the back injury in 1971-2(?) after which he was never quite the same again.

As manager the loss of Joe Parkinson was a huge blow as he was fast becoming one of the best defensive midfielders in the league. Andrei completely lost form after his stellar first season – whether due to the Russian mafia, gambling or whatever other rumour was around at the time) and I think it was McNulty and Len Capeling of the Echo with whom he fell out. He also had difficulties with Southall who was not happy at approaching the end of his career at the club so Joe had a lot to put up with.

I always thought he should have been given the job earlier- what he achieved at Oldham was outstanding- and he will always be one of my favourite Evertonians.

A truly great man who should be a figurehead with us, not Wigan.

Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
31 Posted 19/12/2018 at 23:28:22
Jay Wood #14 – yes you are right, next game was Chelsea away and a 1-0 win and yes the last time we won at the Bridge.

The Liverpool win was 21 November 1994. My wife had taken me out for dinner and I came home and thought oh yeah –- better check, how many did we lose – Yeah! We won 2-0. Anyone else had a better 40th birthday?

I actually put the decline to the injury to Andy Hinchcliffe as all of a sudden we lost a very potent left side and dead ball specialist with the likes of Ferguson and Speed in the middle. Can we get Andy Hinchcliffe back to teach the current team how to cross and take a corner? Joe Parkinson was injured the following season.

I also believe that in the 18 months he was here we did not lose a derby, home or away, first team or reserves.

Paul #23. When he took over we were not too far adrift as we had beaten West Ham and drawn at Norwich in the previous two games and were on 8 points. The three points against Liverpool took us to 20th and the win at Chelsea to 19th (out of 22).

I also have a letter from him dated 11 May 1995. I sent a congratulatory fax (remember those things?) to him immediately after we beat Ipswich and guaranteed safety (yes, immediately so it was the first on the fax machine when they got back from East Anglia!). After thanks, he said "Let's hope that next year we're talking about Championships and Cup-winners cups." That was such a buzz.

After the heartache and worry of the previous two seasons, Joe was looking up and positive and challenging and not content just to never go through those depths again.

Peter Gorman
32 Posted 20/12/2018 at 02:31:41
Fax machines!? now I'm even more nostalgic, Phil.

I will also never forget when we beat Ipswich as it was the day my Tamagotchi died.

Michael, were you at Highbury for that game? My old man could only get us tickets with the Arsenal fans so sadly we were at the wrong end for the goals.

I think I've still got the match programme somewhere. The middle pages featured a poster of Glenn Helder so it is probably worth a pretty penny.

Jim Bennings
33 Posted 20/12/2018 at 12:19:11
In a strange kind of way the 1990s was a more enjoyable rollercoaster of a decade than the mundaneness predictability we now are accustomed to.

Despite the horrid relegation scare of 1994, when Big Joe got the job in the November of that year, the two years that followed brought some of my finest memories watching Everton.

Back then it felt like we were still a big club that had just fallen on a few hard years. But we won the FA Cup (beating Man Utd in the Final) which I still believe was quite simply arguably our greatest ever Cup triumph.

To win that trophy in 1995, just 8 years after lifting the league title proved we could still mix it up with the best and the run from the Quarter Finals we had was incredibly tough, what an achievement to win that Cup

Add to the fact we went to venues and won regularly, there were no hoodoos at Anfield or Stamford Bridge or Old Trafford back then, as someone pointed out, the last time we won at Arsenal was also in this little period.

It just felt like anything was possible back then even after two or three bad years. It was only from 1997 onwards that we started going on this spiral of failure and I don't think we have ever really come out of it.

These days it seems so long since we had any success now, one Cup Final since 1995 (woeful that).

Can't ever win a big match hardly, never beat Liverpool anywhere, home or away.

It's virtually set in stone that we can't beat the top six these days (should we just ask for 26 games on our fixture calendar next season?).

It's weird that the '90s was remembered for the dark days of relegation looming but somewhere down the line managed to fit in so many feel-good factors, probably far, far more than we have had in the last decade of somewhat predictable monotony.

We have Big Joe to thank for that.

Martin Berry
34 Posted 20/12/2018 at 12:22:03
I met Joe the Gent at an Everton's players lunch, they used to have them for the fans in the '90s, where you could have a meal and meet the players for photos etc.

This was in 1995 and Joe got the FA Cup out of the cabinet and everyone could have their photo taken with it individually. A fantastic day out, thanks mainly to Joe.

Also a great centre-forward and Manager to boot. I wish he was still at the club but wish Joe and his son success at Wigan.

I will never forget him being sat on the bench in the 95 FA Cup Final and winking at Alex Furguson, and that was prior to us scoring, he must have known what was coming!

He is also a big Sinatra fan so he knows class.

Jim Bennings
35 Posted 20/12/2018 at 13:01:02
I remember that game at Highbury (when grounds still had character).

We were 1-0 down at half-time thanks to the customary Ian Wright goal but second half we were excellent that day and Kanchelskis scored a typical snapshot that caught Seaman out with the surprise element.

I was there at Hillsborough when we demolished Sheffield Wednesday 5-2, crazy game!

Also when we trounced Blackburn who were the Champions back then, 3-0 in their own backyard.

Of course Anfield in '95 when we turned them over with two goals in front of the Kop (Blues celebrating all over it by the way) simply nothing beats it!

Beating Newcastle on the opening day when it was all about Shearer in '96.

As for the getting under Liverpool's skin, remember after a 0-0 at Anfield, Big Joe responded to Roy Evans who wasn't happy with our style that night and started questioning the School of Science.

“Sounds like a few dummies have been spat out the pram.”

Haha – priceless!

Peter Gorman
36 Posted 20/12/2018 at 14:44:19
For those who never caught it, here is a vid of Amokachi pretty much explaining why Joe Royle made Everton special:


Such a close bunch of players, the foundation of any team.

Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
37 Posted 21/12/2018 at 09:59:43
Just an update on the timeline comments about the reasons for the demise of Joe.

Andy Hinchcliffe was injured against Leeds on 21 December 1996. At that point, we were 7th in the table (28 points from 18 games).

Joe Royle resigned in the week following a home defeat by Man Utd, by which time we had fallen to 13th (8 points from the 13 games since Hinchcliffe was lost to injury).

Joe Parkinson's last match was 9 April 1996 having missed 5 of the previous 15 games since Andy Hinchcliffe's injury.

We finished 15th on 42 points, so 14 points from the last 20 games... and we wonder why Howard Kendall Mk III didn't do very well. We might suggest that 40 from 38 was a minor miracle!

I have also just watched the video link on Peter's post.

Chairman: "Joe, do you think we can get a point tonight against Liverpool?"
JR: "I am expecting a win Mr Chairman."
Chairman (under his breath): "Oh, I was hoping my team would win."

Jim Bennings
38 Posted 21/12/2018 at 11:47:00

I always believe the downfall began with the injury to Hinchcliffe in the Leeds match. I was sat in the Gwladys Street that day and Andy went down and kind of knew there and then it was a potentially long-term injury.

Hinchcliffe was instrumental when Big Joe arrived and equally so in 1995-96.

I think Joe Parkinson's last ever game was later than that though, Phil, because he scored the winning goal against Aston Villa on the final day at Goodison in May 1996; I remember that game well as I only just got in on kick-off. But I think Parky left in the second half of 1996-97 season (can't recall what his last ever appearance was). Anyway, we never seen Parkinson play for Everton again and it was another huge loss because he was a vital cog in that team.

That, along with the declining form and ageing of several other key men like Dave Watson, Big Nev, Paul Rideout and Anders Limpar plus Kanchelskis being sold proved costly in the end and that was around the time when we failed dismally to replace our better players.

I still can't believe to this day in late 1997 Kendall swapped Graham Stuart for Mitch Ward and Carl Tiler. Around 1997... that's when the decline set in.

Jim Marray
39 Posted 02/01/2019 at 12:55:45
My understanding of Joe's departure was the unwillingness of the Board to back him for Tor Andre Flo. They were happy to bring Flo in but unfortunately there was a second player in the deal.

Had they supported Joe and brought both players in, we would have had the 20-goals-a-season striker we needed and history may well have been different. Such decisions often lead clubs down the wrong road...

Alun Jones
40 Posted 16/01/2019 at 12:19:58
We may have won the FA Cup under Joe Royle but we played dreadful football all long ball kick and rush. At the end of his tenure in the third season we were awful.

I remember he signed a guy called Claus Thomsen from Ipswich and I watched him at Highbury where we were predictably beaten, the guy was truly out of his depth.

I think we would not have progressed much further under Joe, no matter what the reason for his departure.

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