MANY many years ago when I had just started working at Southampton, the front page headline at this time of the year turned out to be the shock and horror that Sheffield Wednesday, the club I had once worked for, had sacked a man called Derek Dooley.

Derek had been a legend at Sheffield Wednesday as a player, and sadly in a very bad accident on the pitch eventually had a leg amputated.

This week a similar sacking has hardly made the back page. That is the difference in football now. When someone like Paul Clement at Swansea is shown the door it hardly warrants a mention.

His chairman went out of his way to stress that the club were trying very hard because last season they had three managers all together, and are determined to give people a better chance. He must think people will say ‘well done, you gave Paul Clement nearly 11 months.’ It proves just how important it is for clubs to stay in the Premier League.

At the moment they are bottom of the table and as I’ve said before this time of year can often dictate who will be battling at the top or the bottom when the end of the season comes, but it is rather cruel to do it before the holiday period.

However, between now and the end of the year each club has three important games, and Swansea will hope whoever comes in will have that magic effect which happens with a new manager when players should be out to impress.

If that happens Swansea can catch up with the clubs, and there are quite a few, not too many points above them.

  • Christmas time is more often than not one for celebration, and many annual functions are held around about now.

One I have been attending for many years is the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

I go way back with that one as for many years, along with Bobby Charlton, I was a pundit and covered four World Cups for the BBC.

In those days the annual ceremony was held in a studio in London, but about four years ago it was decided to take it out and about.

It has been to Scotland, Ireland, Birmingham and, this year, Liverpool.

It is getting bigger and bigger and apart from the ground floor the upper echelons in the Liverpool venue had more than 10,000 people in on Sunday.

Personally I think it has lost its original glamour, and it wasn’t helped when the eventual winner was announced as Mo Farah, who hadn’t bothered to come as he said he thought he had no chance.

They got him on his sofa in London and they were lucky to get two or three minutes from him before an unfortunate technical error cut him off and the presenters had to bluff their way to the end of the programme.

The after programme get-together is often quite interesting.

I think personally it has got too big but you still have the opportunity to bump into people you maybe only see once a year.

More often than not they are from other sports and you are more like a goggle eyed supporter when you come up alongside these heroes and heroines.

Every year I have the chance to speak to a lady called Mary Peters, who back in the 70s won an Olympic gold medal.

Amongst the many interesting characters I met, I finished up walking out to the taxi rank at the end with a gentleman who was immaculately dressed and was very nice and charming to everyone he spoke to, but you certainly wouldn’t cross him. It was Mr Chris Eubank.

We had met over the years but I was surprised when he remembered my name.

We talked about his son who is now in the boxing business and is doing very well, with his father of course guiding him along.

  • After Liverpool I paid my annual visit to Gateshead to give medals out to Special Olympics athletes.

The number since it started four years ago has gone from 20 to 162. Fantastic.

The next day I had been invited by Greg Baker, head of the Saints Foundation, to be a surprise guest at an afternoon Christmas tea party he was putting on for pensioners around our area, many of whom live alone. There were about 150 in the room.

I brought along three of my Cup winning team – the goalkeeper Ian Turner, full back David Peach and skipper Peter Rodrigues.

I was able to introduce them of course as fellow pensioners, which went down well, but the common denominator with everyone in the room was they could all tell you they were either at the game or watching the open top bus go round all those years ago.

It made their day to mix and mingle with three of the players who will go down in history.

Well done the Saints Foundation and Happy Christmas, not just to the pensioners but to all six of my readers.

Seriously, let’s hope we all have a happy time and a good 2018, particularly the football club who we all support so strongly.