Comment: One mission too many

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A WEEK that saw Graham Taylor resign as England football manager also saw Bernard Gallacher reappointed European Ryder Cup captain. There's no justice, the beleaguered Taylor must feel. After all, he lost only once to the United States. A cheap shot, maybe, but it contains a shred of truth.

As was made clear at last Thursday's announcement that Gallacher, a losing captain in 1991 and 1993, would do the job again in 1995 at Oak Hill in upstate New York, the decisive factor in his retention of the post was the overwhelming backing of the players who were on the losing team at The Belfry two months ago. Much was made of the fact that the Masters champion, Bernhard Langer, had declared his support in writing.

But why should we take players' opinions so seriously? If it had been up to the England footballers - including estimable performers like David Platt - we might still be saddled with Taylor. The players don't necessarily know best.

The question is this. Should Gallacher be commended for nearly winning or condemned for narrowly losing in both '91 and '93? Given that he has perpetrated more questionable decisions than inspired ones, the answer is surely the latter.

In 1991, he paired the rookies Colin Montgomerie and David Gilford in the opening foursomes and then put Gilford with an out-of-sorts Nick Faldo the next morning. Everyone knew both matches would be lost. They were. Similarly, no one could understand why Gallacher did not use the in-form Paul Broadhurst until the Saturday afternoon. He won both matches he played.

This year, there was no doubt which selectorial judgement drew most flak - leaving out Ballesteros and Langer, at their own request, from Saturday afternoon's fourballs with Europe holding a three-point lead. Tony Jacklin, Gallacher's successful predecessor, said: 'Langer often told me he didn't want to play but I always told him I needed him.' Handled differently, Saturday afternoon could have rendered Sunday almost irrelevant.

Gallacher got the job for 1995 because there was allegedly no one else suitable. Is that really the case? Irrespective of his forthcoming participation on the US Senior tour, Jacklin is a proven winner in the Ryder Cup. Sam Torrance would also have been a popular players' choice. Manuel Pinero might have been a viable two-term candidate. Despite all that has been said, Ballesteros will probably not want to be captain in Spain in 1997 if he is on the team as a player.

And Nick Faldo? It seems accepted wisdom that a playing captain is a non-starter. But why? As Seve showed by in effect dropping himself on Saturday afternoon this year, we had one anyway. If you add Faldo and Langer, we probably had three.

Bernard Gallacher is a good, decent and honest man, a fine professional golfer and a tenacious competitor. That does not make him a great Ryder Cup captain.