Note: This interview was conducted prior to news last week announcing that Joe Royle joined Norwich City as a football consultant
Everton legend Joe Royle recently announced via his blog that there have been talks about a possible return to Goodison Park after rumours emerged in the press towards the end of April. Joe was kind enough to meet me to discuss whether his return to Goodison Park was a possibility, what the position might entail and his views on what he’s seen this season.
Joe’s relationship with the club has been on and off for the best part of 50 years and ended rather abruptly in 1997. After disagreements off the pitch, Joe parted ways much to the disappointment of fans who just two years earlier had seen him lead the club to F.A. Cup glory in his first season in charge.
So, fast forward 19 years to the end of April when newspapers began speculating that there was talk of a position for Royle in the new Martinez set-up. The rumours were later confirmed by Joe himself via his blog but said that no decisions had been made yet. When I asked him whether there was indeed the possibility of a new position for him within the Everton set-up Joe explained the situation: “I spoke with Roberto I think back in January or February. We had a good chat about things but I think he wants to get the season out the way before it goes any further so quite honestly when it appeared in the press last week I was both pleased, because it didn’t come from me and excited because obviously I want it to happen. I’d love to do it and to help in any way I could. I still think I’ve got something to offer. I’m 65 but I’ve still got my marbles and Everton has been a great part of my life, a massive part of my life, so I’d love it to happen.”
As far as what the responsibilities would be in the potential new position, Joe explained that he wouldn’t be playing a direct role in the everyday training of the youth teams but would be more behind the scenes in the development and loaning out of the younger players:
“It would be working with the U21’s. I wouldn’t be practically working on the training ground with them but being aware of the players that need to go out on loan. There’s no reserve league anymore… there’s U21 football which doesn’t really prepare them for first team football, and that’s why academy football at times is a disappointment. But, nevertheless it recognises the players who will be going on with Everton and who maybe aren’t going to go on with Everton, to try and find them a club if possible and to get the right players at the right clubs on loan while keeping in touch with their loan clubs. “In other words I’d be working with Alan Stubbs and David Unsworth who will be doing all the coaching, and I would be liaising with them as to who is ready for what and where and trying to get the players out on loan and covering them.”
Clearly excited at the prospect of working with the club that he spent a large amount of time at as a child watching the games, then as a player and later on as manager, I wondered what he’d made of the last season and our first under Martinez;
“Terrific. We’ve played some great stuff and done well- probably better than a lot of people expected, and we got our record points tally in the Premier League which is a great start for Roberto. We all wondered to start with. Everyone knows he’s a lovely man, and Wigan played good football but I would say he came with the FA cup in one hand and relegation in the other, so the question was could he work with better players and get the same product, and the answer’s been yes and we’ve been terrific.”
He continued; “The way they’ve played has been great to watch and they also had a great window bringing in Lukaku and Barry on loan, who is my idea of player of the year, and then signing McCarthy, who’s been outstanding. A manager is judged on two things. Primarily, results and then the players he brings in, and both have been terrific.”
Joe’s relationship with the club started when he was a small child, with Everton being the team he supported growing up. “Everton were my team although my father, who was a Manc’, was quite thrilled about Manchester United and then without meaning to be immodest the interest grew and grew and in the end most of the big clubs were interested in me, but I wanted to join Everton.”
From hearing about the love of Everton that Joe had from an early age, I was interested to know how he would like to see the squad strengthened now ready for next season, which will of course involve the added (but welcome) strain of European football on the squad;
“As a fan I would like to see us bring another forward in but if Lukaku does go then probably 2, although I’ve got to say Naismith has won me over completely. At first I was unsure but he’s turned out to be a clever little player. Sometimes you get players that don’t quite look what they are and he’s one of them. He’s a far better player than he looks sometimes.”
He Concluded; “We have to be very aware that our first choice centre backs are both in their 30’s and when we haven’t had them is when we’ve leaked 4 goals at Liverpool, 4 goals at Arsenal, and when they were both missing at Southampton we looked a long way off it so personally I would be a little bit concerned there. I don’t know an awful lot about Robles, Roberto knows much more about whether he’s a natural successor to Howard but Howard’s recently signed a new contact and that’s great.”