I SAID recently that the next three games would be important and, having won at Norwich, it virtually ensured our Premier League safety.

Having said that, the home defeat to Arsenal on Thursday put us back a step.

But what I think helps us is the battle at the bottom of the table, where there are teams such as Aston Villa and West Ham.

With Norwich almost down, there are still enough teams battling to avoid the other two places to help keep us clear.

Having said that, Watford needs to be at least a draw because then we have Manchester City, Everton and Manchester United which, in any season, is never easy.

But with Ralph signing for the next four years, I think his attention will already be on next season and working out which players will be coming and going.

I was interested to read his comments recently about his plan to restore the strength of what is now called the academy.

The thing that caught my eye was his comments about it not being too easy to sign youngsters because of the cost.

When I started the youth policy - as it used to be called - many years ago, it was all about signing schoolboys.

I don’t know the age limits now but, in those days, you couldn’t sign a schoolboy until he was 14.

I was interested to read that James Ward-Prowse has been at the club since he was eight years old. Whether that means you can now sign at that age because it stops other clubs coming in I don’t know.

But at 14, they had two years left at school before a decision had to be made about an apprenticeship that would give them another two years at the club.

If that system was still the same today, Ralph and his staff could be signing youngsters at 14 and, as with players like Le Tiss, Shearer and the Wallace brothers, they could well be in his team by the end of his current contract and they wouldn’t have cost the sort of transfer fee we see in today’s market.


TALKING about long service, it was interesting to see that Neil Warnock is back in the game.

Neil, aged 71, is the second oldest manager and is just a year behind Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace.

When you look at Neil’s record in the last 40 years, he’s been involved with around 16 clubs.

He’s a real character and my memories of him go back even to his days as a player.

I remember having vocal rows with him from the bench and his nature is one that loves a bit of a row!

The players at Middlesbrough will be in for a shock when they have their first dressing room meeting because he doesn’t mess around.

He knows there are only a handful of games remaining and he’ll be doing all he can to ensure they stay in the Championship.

If I was a betting man, I would certainly say he would keep them up.

A club of Middlesbrough’s size and potential, with him in charge, I would think would be favourites for promotion next season.

The combination of him and the owner, Steve Gibson, is interesting.

Mr Gibson is someone I have always admired because he is very much like the old-school families and local businessman who have always backed up their clubs in the area.

I think he has made a good choice, so let’s wait and see.


I SMILED a bit when I read that Liverpool supporters had been told not to go outside an empty ground for a game that was being played in London.

The result, with Chelsea beating Man City, ensured Liverpool of their first top-flight title in 30 years.

I think even the police and the Lord Mayor knew what would happen, bearing in mind that Liverpool’s ground, Anfield, is buried in the middle of rows and rows of streets.

All the fans came out to celebrate, singing songs and letting off fireworks – but let’s hope, of course, it doesn’t cause any issues with coronavirus.

When things change, you can be assured there will be the biggest celebration and turn out in the city.

I’m sure Everton fans won’t be there to celebrate though, especially as they are nowhere near the top.

But well done Jurgen Klopp. He has, undoubtedly, changed the club back to what it used to be.

My memories as a manager go way back to being summoned to the boot room after usually losing at Liverpool, where I would be surrounded by Messrs Shankly, Paisley, Fagan and Evans.

The awards on the wall were fantastic and, whilst Jurgen has won cups in his time in charge of Liverpool, this was the main one for him to win.

I’m sure he will be knighted in the eyes of the Liverpool supporters.

However, down here, they will always be called Liverhampton.

Van Dijk played a key role in helping them win the title and is undoubtedly the best centre-half in the world.

Because of this, I’m sure Liverpool will be more than happy to send a portion of their winnings back to St Mary’s!