Football: Taylor's task to lead Wolves out of wilderness: New job for former England manager

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The Independent Online
GRAHAM TAYLOR will today return to club football with Wolverhampton Wanderers - less than six months after resigning as manager of England.

Taylor flew home from a working holiday in Spain yesterday to meet the First Division club's chairman, Jonathan Hayward, near London. He was promptly offered the job vacated a fortnight ago by Graham Turner and, after a press conference this morning, is expected to take charge for tonight's match at Bolton.

Wolves' decision to grasp the nettle with Taylor follows a waning of antipathy from supporters, who initially bombarded the club with faxes and phone calls hostile to him. The post was then offered to Gerry Francis, while Bryan Robson was also interviewed. But once Francis had decided last week to stay with Queen's Park Rangers, the Molineux boardroom swung behind Taylor.

His appointment had been expected later this week. However, the haste with which Taylor cut short his foreign trip indicates that Wolves' owner, the multi-millionaire Sir Jack Hayward, still believes that promotion to the Premiership is not beyond the team. Saturday's victory at Charlton left Wolves in 13th place - but within five points of a play-off spot.

Taylor will be allowed almost unlimited funds as he strives to build a team worthy of the reconstructed Molineux. Turner had spent pounds 3.5m since last summer as part of an overall outlay of pounds 7m, and the Premiership success of free-spending Blackburn has shown the Haywards what is possible with major investment.

Despite the demise of Taylor's England career, and the Channel 4 documentary which portrayed him as a swearing, swithering tragi-comic figure, Wolves are attracted by his impressive club pedigree. He led Watford and Aston Villa out of the division in which Wolves have been trapped for five seasons, then took both to runners-up position in the top flight.

Taylor, who will be 50 in September, becomes only the second former England manager to return to club football in this country. Sir Alf Ramsey, then 57, had eight months in charge of Birmingham City during the 1977-78 season.

Kenny Hibbitt, the Walsall manager and a former Wolves player, is favourite to become Taylor's assistant, although an appointment is likely to be delayed until the Third Division promotion race is resolved.

Fulham yesterday 'parted company' with their manager, Don Mackay. The assistant manager, Ray Lewington, has been put in charge of the team.

The Lazio president, Sergio Cragnotti, went some way to clearing up the uncertainty surrounding England's Paul Gascoigne's future with the club yesterday. 'I liked the way he played on Sunday and especially the way he tackled back,' Cragnotti said.

Internazionale have appointed Ottavio Bianchi as coach for next season. Bianchi, who took Napoli to the Italian title in 1987, replaces Giampiero Marini, who took over when Osvaldo Bagnoli was sacked in February.

The Manchester City goalkeeper, Tony Coton, is set to miss the next four matches in their relegation battle after undergoing a knee operation.

A delighted ITV yesterday announced impressive viewing figures for the Coca-Cola Cup final. Aston Villa's 3-1 victory over Manchester United attracted a peak audience of 12.9m, with an average audience of 11.9 million, according to unofficial overnight figures. This topped last year's BBC audience for the FA Cup final.

Arsenal's challenge, page 35