Football: Taylor intending to tame Wolves' prize Bull: Clive White looks at today's Endsleigh League programme

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The Independent Online
IT IS one thing for a former England manager to cross swords with an old lieutenant he may have wronged during his international days - as Graham Taylor will be doing with Bryan Robson this season - but it is something else when he finds himself on the same side again as one possibly still embittered former colleague.

It is in just such a situation that Taylor, now Wolves manager, finds himself with Steve Bull as the two embark today on a season of great expectation at Molineux with a visit from newly-promoted Reading.

Bull was just one of many whose international careers suffered from the vacillation of the former national manager. Selected by Taylor three and a half years ago for his first two matches in charge - Wembley friendlies against Hungary and Poland - Bull suddenly found himself dropped, never to return to the England fold.

How ironic, then, that Bull - 10 goals in six pre-season games - should be the cornerstone of Taylor's attempt to resurrect his managerial career. The player's brittle fitness is a prime factor in that consideration and, as a consequence, Taylor intends to safeguard it as best he can by removing some of the bullish qualities from this prolific goalscorer's game; a hamstring strain threatens his presence today.

'Steve has worked very hard and looked very sharp but I would like him to be able to steer clear of injuries a little better,' Taylor said. 'Because of the type of player he is, he is always going to get knocks. But if we can encourage him to be a bit less macho and teach him to avoid unnecessary challenges we will do.'

That is one piece of advice one could never imagine Robson imparting to one of his Middlesbrough charges in this, his first season as a player-manager. Doubtless Robson will expect the same uncompromising attitude from his players as he displays himself.

As Captain Marvel prepared to make his debut - on and off the pitch - against Burnley at Ayresome Park, he put his players firmly in the picture as to what was required of them. 'The first football picture I want to hang up in my office,' he said, 'will be one which celebrates Middlesbrough winning something.'

Robson's is not the only homecoming. Watford-born Dave Bassett returns with his own fancied promotion side, Sheffield United, to Vicarage Road, where he briefly succeeded Taylor as manager in 1987-88. Ever the rebel, he was taking a stand yesterday about having to be seated. The Football League has ordered that all managers must remain seated throughout matches. Bassett described the edict as 'absurd and totally unnecessary'.

Reg Burr, the Millwall chairman, was also in rebellious mood, accusing the Football League of backing down in the face of Premier League pressure and accepting only one automatic promotion place from its First Division this season.

The Premiership will reduce from 22 clubs to 20 at the end of the season and Burr, whose club missed out on promotion in the play-offs last season, believed that the League was 'weak' and 'stupid' in allowing the main sacrifice to come from themselves.