Royle Looking Forward to Return to Portman Road
Thursday, 13th Dec 2018 14:45
Former Blues boss Joe Royle is looking forward to only his second return to Portman Road since departing the club in 2006 when he makes the trip to Suffolk with Wigan Athletic, where he is now a director, on Saturday.
“I’m really looking forward to going back,” Royle told the Colchester Gazette. “I’ve only been back once since leaving and it’ll be good to see some old faces.
“I’m still in regular touch with [former Town midfielder and coach] Bryan Hamilton [an ex-Wigan manager] and he keeps me updating on the way things are going at Portman Road.
“From what I gather, they’re playing well but without winning games. It’s not like they’re playing desperately badly and we’re certainly not going there thinking it’s going to be a walkover.”
Royle, whose previous visit to Town was to be inducted into the hall of fame at the ex-players’ dinner in 2017, insists it’s too early for the Blues to be written off as relegation certainties, despite their current position bottom of the table eight points plus relegation from safety.
“I really hope they turn things around – after this weekend - but it’s far too early to be thinking about relegation,” he said.
“Everything can change so quickly after two or three wins. That was what happened when I first took over at Everton in ’94.
“We were bottom of the table but won three games in a week and got ourselves out of trouble. Paul Lambert’s an experienced, forward-thinking operator and someone who enjoyed great success as a player. Enjoying back-to-back promotions with Norwich shows his calibre as a manager, too.”
Royle, 69, managed the Blues from 2002 to 2006 and took Town to two play-off semi-finals, losing to West Ham in both of them.
“I really enjoyed my time at Ipswich,” he continued. “We seemed to have a lot of high-scoring games, I remember, and although they were hard times financially, because of the club’s administration, we always seemed to cobble together a side that was competitive in the division.
“I still wonder what might have happened if we’d won either of those play-off semi-finals, against West Ham. Still, there’s no point dwelling on it now. You can’t change the past – only influence the future.”
Royle joined the Wigan board following their recent takeover by Hong Kong-based company International Entertainment Corporation with his son Darren the executive chairman.
“I’m really enjoying it,” he added. “My son is chairman so that helps. It’s a bit of a family affair and when the opportunity came along, it was a no-brainer.
“I’ve tried retirement three times and it’s not suited me. I’ve enjoyed having a little break but then get itchy feet.
“The new owners are very good, honest and humble people and getting involved was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.”
Paying tribute to Royle, current boss Paul Lambert said: “Brilliant stature in the game, which is good him being an ex-manager here as well. But the stature of Joe Royle is huge.
“He had a great career on both sides of it, so I’m pretty sure he’ll get a nice hello from everybody.”
Photo: Action Images
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