Football: Undoing of Taylor the trier: Henry Winter on the warts and all documentary shadowing the fall of England's former manager

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The Independent Online
THE vacillating mandarins of Lancaster Gate had hoped to announce Graham Taylor's successor yesterday; instead the only unveiling was a televised dissection of the ignominy involved in managing England.

Sensibly scheduled for well after the 9pm watershed next Monday, Channel 4's expletive-filled Graham Taylor - The Impossible Job is a melancholic, occasionally comic, study in human humiliation at the hands of domestic reporters and foreign players and referees.

Miked up throughout the pressing moments of a progressively depressing World Cup qualifying campaign, Taylor comes over as an honest trier increasingly out of his depth at a level where few survive for long.

'You've got to be mentally tough and I understand how managers are brought down,' Taylor explains to his shadow from the production company Chrysalis as the documentary opens. 'I don't intend that to happen to me.' The following hour shows why it did.

England's players, boisterous off the field, often let him down on it. Not through lack of effort - clenched fists and sweat-stained shirts pay tribute to their pride - but through a shortage of skill. These technical flaws provoke a stream of invective from the bench, where a fidgeting Taylor is flanked by his assistants, Phil Neal and Lawrie McMenemy.

The trio often sound like spiced-up versions of the three heroes in Last Of The Summer Wine, debating points and repeating each other ad infinitum. In Katowice last summer, when Taylor's American ambitions began to ebb, he is recorded berating his players in the strongest of terms. 'Fucking hell, we are in trouble - fuck me]'

Des Walker and John Barnes fuel this bonfire of the profanities, their poor link-up allowing the Poles a goal. 'What a fucking ball. You can talk to them till you're blue in the face; they've done everything you tell them not to do.'

In Olso, five days later, Taylor looks to his sole, truly world-class performer, Paul Gascoigne, for inspiration, despite fitness fears. 'He plays, because whether he's 13st or 10st, Norway are in awe of him.' Apparently not. As England's shape and self-belief disintegrate, Taylor laments: 'Where's Gascoigne? He's absolutely knackered.'

But one illuminating training-session scene reveals Gascoigne's influence. Before a doubting Taylor, Gazza explains a free-kick routine. 'This is what we are saying,' Gascoigne declares. 'Rob (Jones) touches and Stuart (Pearce) comes in.' Taylor, seeing how the full-backs can work the ball around any wall, is won over. Match day comes and Pearce repeats the trick.

But the documentary is concerned with the dismantling of a dream held by one man, 11 players and millions of onlookers. Rotterdam represents Taylor's Gotterdammerung, as he cuts a pitiful figure remonstrating with officials and fate following the Ronald Koeman challenge on David Platt.

Taylor, wired up and wild, lets rip: 'Referee, referee. He should be sent off. Is he going to send him off? He's got to send him off. What are they being instructed?'

Unable to lecture the referee, Taylor's anger focuses on his nearest accomplice. 'Heh, linesman, linesman. What sort of thing is happening. Disgraceful. Linesman, linesman.' A Fifa functionary intervenes. 'You know we've been cheated,' Taylor tells him.

The misery continues. Koeman scores, then Dennis Bergkamp. Taylor, his days numbered, prowls the touchline, a stooped middleaged man in a tracksuit too tight for him. Mr Fifa tries to coax him back. 'I'm (within) a metre. (It's the) last two minutes, I won't say anything. Even if he doesn't see it as a penalty, he has to go. At the end of the day, I get the sack now.'

Then the linesman pauses nearby. 'I was just saying to your colleague, the ref's got me the sack. Thank him ever so much for that.' It makes compelling viewing. For all Taylor's tactical errors, here was an essentially likeable man sabotaged by another's mistake.

The nation did not see it that way. Out of the night at Luton Airport comes one voice: 'Do the country a favour and resign.'

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