Football: Taylor calls for caution amid the glee: England look forward to a real battle after winning phoney war while Arsenal count the cost of international success

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The Independent Online
APPROPRIATELY enough, on All Fools Day, Graham Taylor sent England's weary players back to their clubs yesterday with some timely advice about keeping a level head and not 'shooting themselves in the foot'.

A team weakened by injury showed admirable restraint in the face of snarling Turkish provocation on Wednesday night to return with a creditable 2-0 win, but some of their post-match comments, about taking on the world, were as feverish as the Izmir crowd.

England's temperament and application were exemplary, but Turkey are habitual losers, beaten 8-0 at home and away during Bobby Robson's time, and Wednesday's result scarcely warranted the 'Now-we-need-fear-nobody' stuff we had from David Platt and Paul Gascoigne during the return flight. Gascoigne said: 'We are one of the hardest teams to beat in the world. No one can break our resolve.'

In the midst of champagne celebrations, it seemed churlish to point out that Sweden and Spain had managed it too recently for comfort. Better, too, to leave it to Taylor to bring his charges back down to earth with the reminder that the Netherlands will exercise their skill, as well as their spirit, in four weeks' time.

In fairness, England could be excused some hyperbole in their excess baggage, having done a thoroughly professional job in the most trying circumstances anyone cared to remember.

Hostility and aggression they expected in Turkey. They come with the territory. It was the spite which took them by surprise. A malevolent crowd did their worst with a fusillade of coins, cans and any other missile that came to hand. When that failed to intimidate, malicious opponents took over.

Lee Dixon was elbowed in the throat and kicked so badly on the shin that he came home on crutches, Ian Wright was punched in the stomach and winded so badly that he, too, had to be substituted, and Gascoigne was bitten on the shoulder and spat upon time and again in an attempt to provoke the sort of reaction which would have had him sent off.

Disreputable stuff. 'Animals' was one tabloid headline, and if the word was too offensive for some tastes, the Turkish approach was certainly beastly. Taylor was justifiably proud of his players' discipline under fire. 'They all did very well, and were a credit to themselves,' the manager said. Ever the diplomat, he chose his words carefully when asked to comment on the baleful atmosphere in which the game took place.

'In different parts of the world, football is played in different ways,' he said. 'The Turkish people see it through their eyes, and there are things which we find distasteful that they don't'

When pressed, though, he admitted that it had been 'nastier' than he expected. The stiff-upper-lip mentality precludes the Football Association from lodging an official complaint, despite missile hits on two of its party, but Fifa sources indicated last night that there would be an inquiry, which might force the Turks to play their other World Cup ties elsewhere.

From the footballing point of view, the game was no classic, but England did what they had to do. Gascoigne, despite his goal, and Wright, still searching for one, were disappointing, but it was a Tony Adams sort of night, and when the going got tough, Tough Tony got going.

The Arsenal centre-half can never have played better in 23 internationals, and has gone a long way towards making the position his own. He will take some shifting now, as will his closest rival for man of the match honours, Paul Ince.

Honourable mentions, too, for Platt - where would England be without the captain's 10 goals in the last 10 games? - and John Barnes, who did himself no harm in a bit part role on the left side of midfield.

His Wembley ordeal forgotten, Barnes even found time at the end to go over and applaud the team's travelling support. 'Only because the crowd were booing everyone this time,' was a naughty, but nice view.

Collectively, quiet satisfaction was in order after a job well done. Backslapping was not. 'We mustn't kid ourselves that everything in the garden is rosy,' Taylor said. 'When they've had a good win, players tend to go slightly over the top in the things they say, and we don't want anybody getting carried away and shooting himself in the foot. Football-wise, there are still a few things we've got to improve upon.'

The phoney war, against Turkey and San Marino, was over. The real thing was about to start, with the Netherlands' visit on 28 April followed by hazardous trips to Poland (29 May) and Norway (2 June).

The Poles, who have played only two matches, were the 'unknown quantity' in Group Two, Taylor said. 'If they were to win their games in hand, they would be up there with us on seven points.'

For the public, though, the Netherlands' match at Wembley - already a sell-out - was The Big One. 'Because, over the years, they have produced such gifted players, there is a perception that they are a special side, but I think we can ruffle them if we play a certain way.' Adams will need every inch of his towering stature, literal and metaphorical, if it is not to be Dennis Bergkamp doing the ruffling.

World Cup postscript, page 34

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