Football: Howe set to become England caretaker: Taylor accepts the inevitable and tenders resignation as FA considers its options with chief executive favouring two-tier administration

THE Football Association is planning to invite Don Howe to manage England for the rest of the season after Graham Taylor's resignation yesterday.

Howe, who coached the national team in Bobby Robson's day, is the front-runner among three candidates who will be considered for the caretaker managership when the FA's international committee meets in London on Tuesday.

Taylor is to be replaced on a temporary basis pending an appointment at the end of the season, and the 12-man committee will make their choice between Howe, Steve Coppell and Terry Venables.

Lawrie McMenemy, who would have been in contention, disqualified himself when he resigned as assistant manager, in solidarity with Taylor, yesterday.

The politically correct choice for the interim post was signalled by the FA on Monday, when Charles Hughes, its director of coaching, interrupted a denouncement of the Taylor years just long enough to remind listeners of Howe's contrasting qualities of decisiveness and single-minded dedication.

Conservative by nature, the man who put the Boring in Arsenal is unlikely to make waves by demanding the sort of changes others would lay down as a prerequisite of their candidacy.

The probability is that Howe will be put in charge for the friendly internationals at home to Denmark (9 March) and against Germany in Hamburg (20 April) while the FA makes an in-depth assessment of all its options.

Foremost among these is the two-tier administration favoured by Graham Kelly, the FA's chief executive, which would see a young coach from the same generation as the players - a Glenn Hoddle, Ray Wilkins or Bryan Robson - guided by an eminence grise such as Howe or Bobby Robson.

The apprenticeship system, favoured in Germany and elsewhere, is gaining ground at Lancaster Gate, and a partnership, rather than a one-man band, can be expected when Peter Swales and his acolytes finally get around to making their choice.

An early appointment was discounted when so many good men - Kevin Keegan, Ron Atkinson, Gerry Francis etc - declared themselves to be non-runners.

These three and Wilkins, who is of like mind, may well reconsider now that the job is vacant, but failure to qualify for the World Cup has given the FA breathing space, and it is showing a welcome inclination to put it to good use.

In the eyes of many, prolonged deliberation would be unnecessary if they were prepared to judge Venables on football criteria alone. Unfortunately, while the mud slung by erstwhile friends may not stick, it is probably enough to disqualify the country's outstanding coach in the eyes of a committee which has shown a strange reluctance to consider him in the past.

The smart money is on a double act, with a Robson and Robson bandwagon gaining momentum. Both men know enough about the England set-up, from both sides of the fence, to demand much more than the limited power currently invested in the job.

Taylor called for changes, but was unable to bring them about, and was never specific when it came to exactly what he wanted. It was left to Keegan to spell out the weaknesses in the managerial power base when he said he would not accept nomination, and called for a unilateral boycott, until The Boss was just that. The new manager should be a dictator, he said, with complete control over matters such as the release of players from club commitments and the imposition of a uniform playing style for all England teams, from senior to under-16 level.

Taylor's departure was seen on all sides as an inevitable consequence of his team's inability to qualify for the World Cup. He was damned not so much by England's elimination from the 1994 tournament as by the way they went out - playing kick-and-rush football, devoid of intelligence or finesse.

Mike Walker, Norwich City's innovative manager, summed it up nicely yesterday when he said: 'If a team goes out and plays good football, there is merit in that, even if they lose. The fans will look at it and say: hold on a minute, we can see light at the end of the tunnel. Losing without playing a progressive type of game, or even enjoying it, you are hitting your head against a brick wall.'

Taylor, who has spent most of the last three and a half years in butting mode, had first tendered his resignation last Thursday, on the return from Bologna.

Kelly had urged him 'not to rush into anything' and to reconsider over the weekend, but Monday found his mind made up. He went 'with great sadness', saying: 'No one can gauge the depth of my personal disappointment at not qualifying for the World Cup.'

There had been no question of him wanting to stay on, in any capacity. 'This is the appropriate course of action in the circumstances,' he said. 'If we didn't qualify, it was always my intention to offer my resignation.'

After a brief sabbatical, he will resume his career in club management, possibly at Wolverhampton Wanderers, where disappointing results have put Graham Turner's position in extreme jeopardy.

TAYLOR FACT FILE

Born: Worksop, 15 September, 1944.

Educated: Scunthorpe Grammar School.

Married: Rita, two grown-up daughters.

Playing career: Full-back. Clubs: Grimsby - 1962-68 (189 League appearances); Lincoln - 1968-72 (150 League appearances). Career ended at 28 by hip injury.

Managerial career: Lincoln (five years, Dec 1972 to June 1977); Watford (10 years, June 1977 to May 1987); Aston Villa (three years, May 1987 to July 1990).

England record: England youth, Under-20 and B team manager before being appointed Bobby Robson's successor as national manager in July 1990. Record (as England manager): Played 38, Won 18, Drawn 13, Lost 7. Goals for: 62, against: 32. Players called up 79; players used 59; debuts 29.

Biggest win: 7-1 v San Marino, World Cup qualifier, Bologna, 17 November 93.

Heaviest defeats: 0-2 v Norway, WCQ, Oslo, 2:7:93; 0-2 v USA, US Cup, Boston, 9:7:93; 0-2 v Netherlands, WCQ, Rotterdam 13:10:93.

Your verdict, page 38

Last night's matches, page 39

(Photograph omitted)

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