Football: Taylor in step with different rhythm

Steve Tongue tips the former Under-21 coach for club success
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AT THE most depressing moments of England's World Cup campaign in France last summer, Peter Taylor was the man who could be relied upon to whistle up a chorus of "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life". Having subsequently lost a job he described as "very enjoyable and a great honour" as coach to the national Under-21 team, he has needed to seek out the silver linings recently and might have to do so again for his first engagement of the new season on Saturday week, when taking his Gillingham side to Bury for a Second Division game.

After doing duty on the touchline and in the dressing-room as one of Glenn Hoddle's loyal lieutenants for matches like the epic World Cup tie against Argentina, then winning six successive European Under-21 Championship matches for his country, Gigg Lane was not quite the sort of gig he had in mind even a few weeks ago.

If the theme from Howard's Way is no longer in his repertoire, however, he may well be sitting at the front of the coach whistling "Don't Look Back in Anger". Having made his annoyance clear at the time of his fall- out with the Football Association when the Technical Director, Howard Wilkinson, decided to rotate coaches for the various national age groups, Taylor now sees no point in picking over the past and is concentrating instead on future chapters of his twisting career.

"It was an honour and such a nice job," he said of his previous employment. "The three years were terrific, but no job lasts forever. All I'm doing is looking forward. I've got to say to myself that I can't do anymore about that, so let's change."

In changing, he is returning to a level he has worked at before, as manager of Southend, and is therefore not concerned about suddenly adapting from working with material less gifted than the cream of the nation's young players.

As a player he had been used to high standards after graduating from Southend, his home town club, via Malcolm Allison's Crystal Palace - where he won his four England caps, all of them as a Third Division player - to Tottenham. White Hart Lane, under Keith Burkenshaw, proved a fruitful training ground for would-be coaches; of Taylor's generation, people such as John Gorman, Colin Lee, Terry Yorath, Ossie Ardiles and, most significantly for him, Hoddle and Steve Perryman, stayed in the game.

Perryman it was who took him back into League football as a coach at Watford, after spells as manager of Dartford for four seasons, then Enfield. The next step was to stand on his own feet back at Southend, although with a hands-on chairman threatening to nudge him off balance. "I just wasn't allowed to manage the club the way I'd like to have done," he says. "It was a good learning experience, but the wrong job at the wrong time."

Returning to Conference football on a part-time basis with Dover did not appear to make him the obvious candidate for international coaching, but Hoddle had not forgotten his former colleague and after being appointed as England manager shrugged aside jibes about jobs for the Spurs boys to bring in the man he felt best equipped to handle the Under-21s.

According to his infamous World Cup diary, Hoddle regarded Taylor as "a very funny guy whose Norman Wisdom impression is legendary". That was not his only qualification: "With his character, personality and coaching ability, he was perfect for the job." Wilkinson had other ideas. So Taylor finds himself back in the Second Division with a club whose chairman, Paul Scally, and previous manager, Tony Pulis, finally fell out once too often after the awful blow of losing a play-off final to two Manchester City goals in stoppage time.

Taylor will be working for a chairman bold enough to have titled his recent brochure on the club The Path to the Premier League, for Gillingham's ambition now matches the club's vast catchment area. Whether or not they immediately hit the high notes - which will be difficult with the two main strikers, Robert Taylor and Carl Asaba, both likely to miss the start of the season - Taylor will continue to whistle a happy tune.