Football: Touchy Taylor keeps his thoughts under wraps - Joe Lovejoy assesses what a tight-lipped England manager may have learnt from his midweek trip to Oslo

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NORWAY'S manager, Egil Olsen, has signalled England's route to success against his team at Wembley in October. The dreaded long ball. Whether Graham Taylor agrees is a matter for conjecture, and will remain so unless his present sulky mood passes.

After Wednesday's 2-2 draw with Sweden had exposed the fragility of Olsen's defence, he confessed his apprehensions about the power game he expects Taylor to embrace in the aftermath of the European Championship.

The Norwegians play three other World Cup ties, against San Marino at home and away and the Netherlands at home before they provide the opposition for England's first qualifier, on 14 October, but Olsen, refreshingly, is not of the take-each-game-as-it-comes school.

Only too happy to discuss the Wembley visit, he said: 'If England play a direct game, that will trouble us. It is not something we like to play against. We cope well with the technical sides, like Italy, but the weakness in our game showed against Sweden, who were physically stronger.'

A bluff? Kidology? Not at all, Olsen insisted. 'The high ball into our defence causes us problems, and I know England have got players who can play that game well. I think it is the best way for England to play. In the European Championship, they tried to adapt to the Continental style, and it didn't work. They are much better when they play a direct game.'

Music to Taylor's ears? We may never know. The criticism he received during, and after, England's dismal performance in Sweden clearly touched a nerve, and he was not prepared to pass the time of day, let alone talk tactics, with the press corps who accompanied him to Oslo.

A polite enquiry on the way out - 'How are you, Graham?' - drew a discouraging 'Not very well, thank you', which had little to do with his health, and requests for interviews after the match were brusquely refused.

It was: 'You've got your job to do, I've got mine', with an unspoken never the twain shall meet.

Not so long ago, it was impossible to stop the man talking. Now, suddenly, nothing. All was explained before yesterday's return flight. 'Two years ago,' he said, 'I asked the press for fair treatment and look what has happened. I treat people as they treat me.'

In the absence of comment to the contrary, it may be safely assumed that Taylor saw little to fuel his creeping paranoia in a surprisingly low-key Scandinavian derby. As Alex Ferguson put it: 'England v Scotland it wasn't. Nobody will have learned much from that.'

Norway, deployed in a compact 4-5-1 formation, had their moments, but lightweight was the description which kept springing to mind, and it was difficult to envisage how they were able to take three points off Italy in the qualifying stages of the European Championship.

Olsen smiles, knowingly. 'This was a friendly,' he said. 'Our attitude, and our play, will be very different at Wembley.'

Taylor will announce his squad on Tuesday, when he has agreed, with some reluctance, to attend the customary press conference to comment on his choice. There were unmistakeable signs of a persecution complex about his original plan to avoid the journalists who were unanimous in their condemnation of his management in Sweden, and instead release his selection through a news agency.

Lawrie McMenemy, his assistant, convinced him that such a course of action would be counter-productive, serving only to sour still further a relationship which deteriorated almost by the day, as bad in Malmo went to worse in Stockholm.

That the pressure is taking its toll was evident from Taylor's demeanour this week, but there was a certain naivety, real or affected, from those who allow criticism of his managership to spill over into personal ridicule. Did the paper who portrayed him as a vegetable really expect all to be sweetness and light?

That said, Bobby Robson endured worse, over a much longer period, and still dutifully performed the public relations side of the job, and Taylor's employers, the Football Association, will not allow him to do otherwise.

Refusing to comment on Norway v Sweden is one thing; declining to promote the England team is quite another. If it comes to that, the talk will be of heat and kitchens rather than swedes and turnips.

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