Football: Taylor accused by Hughes of tactical betrayal: Football Association's coaching director defends the long-ball game and criticises the England manager. Clive White reports

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The Independent Online
ET TU Brute, Graham Taylor might have murmured yesterday as he was stabbed in the back by the very man with whom he has long shared beliefs in how the game should be played.

Charles Hughes, the Football Association's director of coaching and education, is, like Taylor, an advocate of the long-ball game so this unkindest cut of all was not delivered without some irony when Hughes blamed England's failure to qualify for the World Cup finals last week on not deploying that very same tactic, one which brought Taylor to the fore as manager of Watford in the late 70s.

Furthermore, to rub salt into the beleaguered manager's wounds, Hughes pointed out that Norway, for one, had taken notice of his teachings which he has attempted to spread throughout the world by use of books and videos.

As director of coaching Hughes might have been expected to shoulder some of the responsibility for the plight of English football. But no. He has carried out an analysis of all the most successful countries during the period 1966 to '86 and his message had been: 'Go thou and do likewise'.

'Now if the England team haven't done that on this occasion then that doesn't mean my theories are flawed,' he said, 'it merely means the England team haven't taken it on board. Norway have been successful in qualifying and they and other well-known countries have accepted lock, stock and barrel what I have presented.' He added: 'I think there's an element there of a prophet in one's own country.'

Some, like Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, would say a prophet of doom. Taylor has been deeply critical of Hughes's methods and of his continuing influence on how the game in England is being played. One of Hughes's publications, The Winning Formula, he has suggested was a contravention of the Trades Description Act. Hughes described Taylor's comments as 'mischievous'.

Hughes suggested that 'there are two things which could improve our chances' at international level. 'The first is to narrow our selection down drastically. An international manager will choose 60 players or so over around 30 games, whereas at a club they will use 18-20 or even less for the same number of games. That gives one a certain continuity in the team. The more they play together the slicker they'll be.' Taylor used 59 in 38 games.

Hughes's second criticism of Taylor is over tactics. 'Changing both the method and the players compounds the problem. When you're playing the Germans at Under-16, Under-18, Under-21 or senior level, you expect their system of play to be the same in each team. It means that when a boy goes up from this team to that, he knows what's wanted and how he will be expected to play.'

Hughes, aged 60, is a former Lancashire grammar school teacher of physical education who joined the staff of the FA in 1964 after he qualified as a coach. 'I believe in direct play,' he said. 'But direct play requires very good technical players and they need to be able to play long passes but to play them accurately and at the right time.

'They need to be able to know when to run with the ball, turn with it, dribble with it and when to cross and shoot. All these factors are part of direct play and all the best players you can think of have been good at direct play, whether it's Maradona, Cruyff, Charlton or Best. I think if people like Gordon Taylor are going to dismiss it as kick and rush then he does the game a very grave disservice.'

Hughes, who himself only played amateur football, was talking after explaining proposed changes in the development of young players. The proposals call for a reduction in the number of games played by those in the 9-16 age group. A limit of 60 will be introduced. Clubs would also be granted unrestricted freedom of access to youngsters but associated schoolboys would cease to exist. Where young players moved from one club to another after completing training a compensation fee would be levied.

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THE 12-man FA International Committee, chaired by Peter Swales, will meet in London on 30 November to discuss the England position.

(Photograph omitted)