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.

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future