Football: Troubled Taylor wields his axe

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ENGLAND'S besieged manager, Graham Taylor, has gambled with his own future by making widespread changes for today's US Cup encounter against Brazil. Another humiliation here followed by defeat to the Germans next Saturday would probably force his resignation - or the sack.

The changes from the last ignominious defeat by the United States include giving an unenviable debut to the Southampton goalkeeper, Tim Flowers, and dropping John Barnes, whose most outstanding international performance, ironically, came nine years ago against Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. Taylor says that in spite of all the pressure to produce a victory and turn the tide of criticism, he is committed to using the US Cup as experience for as many players as possible, but the side he has chosen suggests he may have made himself a hostage to his own good intentions.

He says England will play a 'tight' 4-4-2 formation, with Earl Barrett brought in at right back and Andy Sinton and Lee Sharpe giving width in midfield. Nigel Clough is retained, but now as a striking partner for Ian Wright - the only man in the side to have scored an international goal. There is again no place for Paul Merson, perhaps the one player here who could approach the level of skill expected of the Brazilians.

Conflicting reports are reaching the England camp concerning the Football Association's intentions regarding their manager.

Officially, the FA are standing by Taylor, but the chairman, Sir Bert Millichip, has made no secret of his acute embarrassment at witnessing England's hugely criticised failure to beat the States in Foxborough.

Taylor continues to be outwardly phlegmatic, but yesterday, looking more careworn than usual, he came nearer than at any time to confessing that the sack was in his mind. He said: 'I've been in danger of the sack before. On a couple of occasions we were down low at Watford, but ever since I first signed for Grimsby I have got used to living from contract to contract.

'I suppose people could say if you're going to get the sack it's not a bad job to get the sack from, but I don't see it that way'

Brazil are fully expected to increase the malaise. Taylor can expect no respite today, defeat by the South Americans now being anticipated following their sumptuous first-half performance against Germany on Thursday.

Although the Germans eventually hauled themselves back to draw 3-3, the style of the Brazilians was more impressive than had been anticipated, since several of their leading players had been retained by their clubs at home and in Europe. It seems that the depth of their talent is limitless.

It would be possible to name a full team of current internationals who for various reasons did not play against Germany, yet inspired by the astonishing skills of Careca they often toyed with the world champions, and look capable of developing into a team to match that seen in the 70s.

ENGLAND: T Flowers (Southampton); E Barrett (Aston Villa), G Pallister (Manchester United), D Walker (Sampdoria), T Dorigo (Leeds United), A Sinton (Queen's Park Rangers), D Batty (Leeds United), P Ince, L Sharpe (both Manchester United), N Clough (Liverpool), I Wright (Arsenal).

BRAZIL: Taffarel (Parma); Jorginho (Bayern Munich), Valber (Sao Paulo), Marcio Cafu (Sao Paulo), Dunga (Pescara), Rai (Sao Paulo), Luisinho (Vasco da Gama), Elivelton (Sao Paulo), Careca (Napoli), Valdeir (Bordeaux).

Ruud Gullit, the Dutch international, is expected to announce today that he has left Milan to join Bayern Munich. Gullit recently retired from international football for the second time, but he is now reconsidering his decision.

Taylor the Irrelevant, page 26