By The Boy Wonder
From Issue 49, Winter 2000
He’s just about ready to snap, he really is. Now if you mention that someone in football is about to go stark raving mad, you would assume it to be Stan Collymore. I’ve ranted and raved myself in a previous issue about how wonderful Stan was, is and (in my eyes anyway) always will be, so I will relent on boring you with my side of the story again. For a few paragraphs at least.
No, what’s really eating me up at this precise moment in time is this; apart from Liverpool fanzines, just when is someone in the media going to expose the rampant rage of insanity that is Joe Royle? It’s a story as old as the hills, and it’s our own fault I suppose. Scousers, I mean. A cheeky little grin and a little wisecrack, and you get away with anything. Ask that git from Big Brother. Joe’s been doing this for what seems like centuries, and no-one has ever said “Erm, Joe……… what colour is the sky in your world?”
It’s okay to do all that “everyone’s against me” shit when you’re at Oldham. Plucky underdogs can get away with murder sometimes – do you remember Barnsley and the BBC whitewash? When Athletic were last at Anfield, winning 1-0 with a couple of minutes left, Fowler jr scrambled home an equaliser. A barely deserved winner followed a few minutes later. Got that? A few. Not according to Joe. At the time, he was squawking about 5 minutes of added time. By the return game, he’d got it up to 6. By the time he was with Everton (the marriage made in hell) it had risen to eight.
This was the manager so lacking in self awareness that he could refer to Evans’ legitimate complaints about McManaman’s treatment in one derby as “dummies being spat out of prams” and not even suffer a microsecond of shame or regret for his outrageous double standards. This was followed by a rare success for the shite in the FA Cup. After beating Spurs, he crowed (for the third time? Oh sorry, that’s cocks, not dicks) “sorry about the dream final, lads” to journalists who’d predicted a United-Spurs final. And there’s the rub: dogs of war, proving hacks wrong and gloating, Royle’s entire style should have been called the Underdogs of War. I’ll bet he had newspaper clippings pinned onto the dressing room wall, too.
But that can only take you so far. As soon as Everton started rising up the table, so did their expectations. Shorn of their underdog status, results soon slipped. It was Joe Royle who began Everton’s annual humiliation against lower league opposition, while the universally reviled Spice Boys only ever lost to Premier opposition. Local press mutterings became outright criticism, and it was then that Royle fully defined the phrase “spat out his dummy”. To this day, he believes the local press got him the push from Red Johno, despite little or no evidence.
Now he’s back in the frame with City, and guess what? He’s more bonkers than he ever was. Ironically, it was a Manc who always rings into phone-in’s (think ‘Ian McDonald hanging out the end of a sheep’………on second thoughts, don’t!) that got in touch with Radio Merseyside and told gullible Evertonians that Joe had to quit Goodison because “he was really ill”. Which part of him was ill? The lad wasn’t forthcoming, but I’ve got a pretty good idea.
We’ve had his “I’m no sexist but” routine, but while City were mercifully floundering down below all was relatively quiet and still. True, we did play a friendly at Maine Road and he had the Echo man thrown out of the press conference afterwards. Chris Bascombe (who looks about twelve) must have been heartbroken not to listen to Joe’s lecture that his team had just beaten “a team of 16 internationals”. That was nothing. City were promoted again, and now they are back in the top flight. Despite the lack of a trophy for 25 years, and the lack of a title for 32 (which didn’t stop them taking the piss out of United back in ’92 for going without the championship for ten less years), it won’t be long before City fans start having those damned ‘expectations’ – and Joe will be well and truly fucked.
Already this season, they’ve lost to Charlton Coventry and drawn at home to Middlesbrough. Short aside; a City friend told me that Boro’ (We’re as big as Liverpool – © Bryan Robson) took three hundred supporters to Maine Road. Christian Ziege will be kicking himself for leaving, I’m sure. Anyway, Joe’s new Underdogs of War beat Leeds away and almost beat us, if we’re honest. The savagery of Dickov and Prior (amongst others) came as no surprise to experienced Royle Observers. The Don Quixote-style ranting after the match by Fathead was also to be expected, even to the extent of arguing about HOW a penalty was given to the away side. Experienced psychologists will tell you that when someone starts going all biblical on you, there’s a crack-up just over the horizon. The cock crowing for the third time caught out one of the Apostles in a shameful lie – how apt, Joe. One day, you will reap what you sow………ahem.
Heskey has fallen over too often and too suspiciously to garner much sympathy, but it isn’t beyond a sly manager to get his players to kick seven shades of shit out of him and instruct them to do the praying/diving gesture that defenders have perfected throughout the years. Do I think Royle did this? Check your past issues of TTW&R and find out what he used to tell Joe Parkinson and John Ebbrell before a game (by Porkinson’s own admission/confession) and then we’ll talk. If the lad in issue 48 was right, and he tried to have Chris B chucked out of our press room, that shows he’s on the verge. I heard he also called Ric George a twat, but this came from the same source who told me Zidane was “signed and sealed”, so make of it what you will.
But Joe’s piece de resistance, his Moaner Lisa, came at Highbury. I was taping Match of the Day because I was on the piss that Saturday night (the derby was the next day!), so I’m a lucky so-and-so because I can bring you verbatim the full interview with Gerald Sinstadt on MOTD after Arsenal 5 Man City 0. Remember that, 5-0. It helps to make the following even funnier than it seems.
GS: “Joe, it’s not easy to play Arsenal with eleven men. With ten, it became impossible”
JR: “Well, eleven versus eleven was fine. When it went to ten v twelve, we had problems”
GS: “It sounds as though you weren’t too happy with the sending off”
JR: “That’s an understatement. It wasn’t just the sending off, we should have been playing ten men anyway at that stage. Thierry Henry has just lashed out at Spencer Prior in front of the referee, in front of the fourth official, but of course you don’t send Arsenal players off here do you?”
GS: “You had actually broken up their rhythm pretty well until then”
JR: “We were fine, we were comfortable, for 43 minutes it was comfortable. The first booking against Tiatto was at least dubious, the second one maybe contentious, the fourth goal he only handled it with one hand in controlling it and the fifth goal might have been three maybe five yards offside. But these things happen. I’m not happy but I can’t say what I really want to say about the performance of the officials because I will be in trouble”
Back to the studio, where an incredulous Gary Lineker says “Just as well!” and Trevor Brooking and Mark Lawrenson are laughing their heads off.
Well, where can you possibly begin? The idea that Arsenal have some sort of immunity from referees (someone told Patrick Viera?) or are protected by officialdom? I’m sure Arsene ’12 Match Ban’ Wenger will be amused by that one. The idea that poor lickle Spencer Prior needs protection from wild maniacs like Henry? The idea that the fourth official has any part to play in the game, apart from holding up the electronic indicator? That City were okay until then (most reports said Arsenal had missed several good chances)? That Joe’s arithmetic is as bad as it ever was? Henry’s last goal was borderline offside, but by the time Fathead’s finished it will no doubt emerge that Henry was 70 yards off – despite one half of a football pitch only being 55 yards long at the most!
In the short term, he’ll get away with it. It’s an (inevitably bitter) irony that we played Everton the following day, because City fans are just as bad. They honestly believe the superiority of their neighbours derives from corrupt officialdom and boring football, even though no-one has done more to drive fans out of football grounds than Joe Royle. If they get away with their thuggery, it’s the other lot who can’t take it. If they don’t, there is a football conspiracy to deny them their true greatness. They’ve won fuck all for years and give lectures on loyalty to your team that would be laughable if they weren’t so pathetic. Despite all that, even City fans aren’t so gullible that they’ll put up with Royle for much longer. His days are numbered.
I don’t often agree with ‘The Liverpool Way’, but they hoped that the idiotic idea that Joe could possibly manage England would somehow come to fruition because you’d soon see some dummies spat out then. The continuous invective poured on the England manager would have Joe in a straight jacket by Christmas. Judging by his more recent press conferences he’s halfway there already, and if he couldn’t handle McNulty and Capeling he’ll be foaming at the mouth after slimy gets like Jeff Powell, Rob Shepherd, Harry Harris and Nigel Clarke have got through with him.
Which brings me to Stan. Another year, another change of manager, another club – and Bradford, at that. My heart bleeds for him. Right from the off, Peter Taylor showed he wanted no part of him. At least John Gregory made some sort of effort. It was further complicated by Taylor signing Akinbayi for a large sum (for Leicester, that is). The more he failed, the more he stuck with him and the more Stan’s nose was put out of joint. Houllier did the same with Heskey, though he’s finally got some reward for that. Past experience shows what was bound to happen next. Players fall out and have squabbles all the time, but they become War Crimes whenever Stan is involved.
So he scores an absolute blinder on his debut, and everyone wants him hung for his celebration in front of the Leeds fans. If these are the same twats who moaned about Old Trafford making fun of Istanbul, despite their continuous abuse about Munich (I’m not sure which century Leeds thinks it is in, but it ain’t the 21st) then I’ve no sympathy at all. If I did, I would also wonder how Beckham can get away with gestures when he (or his wife) get shit off Leeds fans, but Stan can’t even though I can just imagine what he had to endure that day. Hypocrites, all.