REVIEW / Much more serious than life and death

THERE was a rather touching moment in Cutting Edge's much previewed documentary about Graham Taylor (C4), in which the England manager travels to Spain to tell David Platt he's no longer captain. You don't actually see how he does it (the degree of access the film crew were given has been slightly exaggerated) but he's decent and consoling in the immediate aftermath. Pointing across a dusty square at three fat little boys with a beach-ball, Taylor suggests that they 'could go and have a game with those kids now'. He badly needs a win at this stage of the film and, despite being one man down, it looks doable. Platt considers it for a moment, but obviously decides it's too risky under the current management.

What I know about football could be written on the back page of the Sun, but even to an ignorant outsider it was clear there were some problems with Taylor's approach to the game. 'People's judgement will all be based on how many goals were scored,' he complained ruefully at one point, while watching what appeared to be destruction testing of the England netting. 'They'll not look at how we play.' This seemed to imply that he would prefer it if football were scored like ballroom-dancing, with points for presentation and excited press speculation on whether Gascoigne would go with peach taffeta or cerise organdie for that vital third-round fixture in Copenhagen.

By the time of the Norway match, Taylor was beginning to grasp elementary principles, but was still lacking a little fire: 'What we mustn't do against Norway is lose to them,' he declared to the team, some of whom looked a little rattled by this last-minute change of tactics. There's been a lot of publicity about how much Taylor swears in the film but you couldn't help but feel, after watching such underpowered pep talks, that it wasn't nearly enough. It seemed likely that he would rather disapprove of Bill Shankly's famous remark about the game - 'Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don't like that attitude. I can assure them it's much more serious than that' - which was used as an epigraph for the film.

It wasn't that he was without passion entirely. He shares the delusion of every fan that a football team is a mechanism that can be controlled through the vocal cords, leaping from the bench to bellow encouragement and scorn, but even then there was a sense of a man uncertain about how to lead. He turned constantly to his companions for reassurance after disaster, asking them to confirm his angry diagnoses ('We went to sleep, didn't we? Eh? Eh?') as if he wanted to prove that he was in control of what was going wrong, even though he couldn't do anything to stop it.

This sort of pressure can turn coal into diamonds, but it didn't work any such magic on Taylor, a decent man with a fatally sensible perspective on the game. By the end he was even sweating when he was asleep ('I'm waking up with the usual, pajamas wet through') and the anxiety finally boiled over in his touch-line confrontation with a line-judge in the match against Holland. 'I was just saying to your colleague, 'The referee's got me sacked.' Thanks for that.' He probably thought he had nothing left to lose by that stage, before San Marino proved him wrong. 'My advice to the next England manager is just make sure your team doesn't lose,' he said at the end. 'By George, he's got it]' you thought, but by then it was too late.

Horizon's thought-provoking film (BBC2) about the theories of Gerald Edelman included some fascinating footage of robots 'learning' behaviour on the basis of a simple value judgement. Programmed to 'like' light, a robot relatively quickly evolves random movements into a controlled behaviour that allows it to follow a torch beam around. Babies do something similar when they reach out for a rattle - weakening the synaptic links when they get no result, strengthening them when they work. I hope the next England manager is told of this evidence that goal-oriented behaviour really can work.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test