Football / World Cup: Beaten Taylor to be granted a dignified exit

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The Independent Online
GRAHAM TAYLOR looked and sounded like a broken man yesterday, when he likened himself to a Napoleonic general. England's manager had met his Waterloo on the playing fields of edam, and all that was left was the retreat into exile, in club football.

Defeat by the Dutch in Rotterdam on Wednesday had all but put paid to the World Cup place on which he had staked his reputation, leaving his employers at the Football Association openly discussing severance terms.

Taylor insists he has no intention of resigning until the qualifying programme is complete, but there is little doubt now that he is going - in all likelihood in five weeks' time.

Sir Bert Millichip, the FA chairman, said last night: 'We will do nothing until after the San Marino game next month. Graham will still be in charge for that. Whatever happens afterwards, we will pay up his contract, which expires in June.'

Taylor was at pains to preserve his 'dignity' - he used the word several times - and said he would not cut and run before completing the job he started. That meant staying for the final round of matches in Group Two, on 17 November.

In theory, it is still possible for England to get to the finals, but to do so they need to win 7-0 away to San Marino, which is not out of the question, while Poland are beating the Dutch 1-0, which probably is.

Taylor acknowledged that the combination was unlikely enough to come into the clutching-at-straws category, and made no attempt to play down the significance of Wednesday's 2-0 defeat.

In what sounded suspiciously like a valedictory press conference, he spoke of honouring his contract, and then 'getting on with my life'.

He had told the players to look after themselves. 'It is a difficult period in my life, but I'm sure I will survive it. It is important that the players conduct themselves properly. If a new manager comes in, it is important that he has a good view of them. Their careers go on.'

Taylor thought it would be 'not a good thing' for England to make a change in mid- season, but admitted that 'the decision could be taken out of my hands at any time'.

Whatever was to be done should wait, he said - at least until after the San Marino match. 'Then the qualification period is over, and people will be able to decide with dignity.'

The 'people' in question - Millichip and his cohorts - have probably reached their verdict already, but are prepared to grant him his dignified exit, with the routine drubbing of the feeble Sammarinese.

Did he deserve to go? Had he been a good manager? The reply was disarmingly frank. 'If I'm judged on results, people will say no.'

Sad, but true. England were a little unlucky on Wednesday when they might have had a penalty, rattled the framework of Ed de Goey's goal twice and should certainly have had a numerical advantage after Ronald Koeman's cynical foul on David Platt.

That said, luck tends to even itself out over a 10-match qualifying campaign, and England used up much of their entitlement in escaping from Poland with a 1-1 draw.

It is widely accepted that teams who fail to win their home matches do not deserve to qualify for the big tournaments, and England's present distress can be traced back to their inability to beat Norway and the Netherlands at Wembley last season.

Taylor, though, clearly feels he has not had the rub of the green. 'It's a bit like the Napoleon thing,' he said. 'What did he want from his generals? He wanted them to be lucky.' Was he a lucky general? 'I don't think Napoleon would have wanted me.'

A decent, likeable man, he was not without sympathy in his darkest hour, but the commiserations were muted by the common belief that he has contributed richly to his own downfall. The Taylor years have been littered with vacillation and misjudgment, and the overriding impression has been of a journeyman out of his depth among the sophisticates of international football.

When he lost Gascoigne he needed a player of similar refinement to pass the ball - a Waddle, Hoddle or Wilkins. Instead we got dear old Carlton Palmer to kick and rush.

The only justification for Palmer's return this week would have been his deployment to mark Dennis Bergkamp, and yet, to Dutch amazement, Bergkamp was allowed to float free while the man who had been expected to pick him up floundered on the right side of midfield.

Unable to rise above his past, Taylor has relied too much on the over-the-top spirit which brought him to prominence with Watford and Aston Villa. Even here, though, he lacked the courage of his convictions, stopping short of the full-blown power game which has served Jack Charlton so well.

Charlton's Irish team suffered a major setback of their own on Wednesday, losing 3-1 at home to Spain and, with an ageing squad crumbling around him, the old warrior may feel the time is right to jump ship.

This Giraffe is not one to stick his neck out, but the grapevine has it that he could be persuaded to allow his name to go forward for consideration when the time comes.

Among his classmates of the old school, Terry Venables still has influential support, despite damaging allegations of financial impropriety, Howard Wilkinson is regaining the ground he lost with Leeds United's demise last season and Ron Atkinson's team have consistently produced the sort of football England should be playing.

The FA, though, would prefer St James' to Jurassic Park, with Kevin Keegan foremost among the generation of bright young things not yet steeped in, and conditioned by, the dogma of club management.

If nothing else, the Taylor experience has taught Millichip and company the folly of equating domestic with international football. The two have very little in common, from a tactical or functional point of view, and there is no logical reason why the manager of England should be chosen on the basis of his results in the Wimbledon 'mixer' or down among the behemoths at The Dell.

Keegan, Glenn Hoddle and the Francis namesakes, Gerry and Trevor, will be among the favourites, but what price two dark horses: Bryan Robson and Ray Wilkins?

Too bold, perhaps, for the old buffers of Lancaster Gate, but either would bring valuable recent experience of the international scene, fresh ideas and would instantly banish any residual show-us-your- medals mentality from the dressing-room.

A forecast? Wor Kev for London toon.

----------------------------------------------------------------- WORLD CUP GROUP TWO ----------------------------------------------------------------- P W D L F A Pts Norway 9 7 2 0 24 3 16 Netherlands 9 5 3 1 26 8 13 England 9 4 3 2 19 8 11 Poland 8 3 2 3 8 10 8 Turkey 8 1 1 6 7 17 3 San Marino 9 0 1 8 1 39 1 Remaining fixtures: 27 Oct: Turkey v Poland. 10 Nov: Turkey v Norway. 17 Nov: San Marino v England; Poland v Netherlands. ----------------------------------------------------------------- HOW ENGLAND COULD QUALIFY ----------------------------------------------------------------- The Netherlands must lose to Poland and England beat San Marino by a large enough margin to overturn the Dutch advantage in goal difference. -----------------------------------------------------------------

----------------------------------------------------------------- SIX CONTENDERS FOR SUCCESSION TO THE THRONE ----------------------------------------------------------------- KEVIN KEEGAN ----------------------------------------------------------------- SEEMED to have discounted himself from the job by signing a four- year contract at Newcastle last week, but when your country calls. . . Former European Footballer of the Year. Steered Newcastle into Premiership in his first full season as a manager. ----------------------------------------------------------------- GLENN HODDLE ----------------------------------------------------------------- ARGUABLY England's most gifted player of the last two decades, though he never realised his full potential as an international. As a manager of just two years' standing is producing teams, previously at Swindon and now Chelsea, in his own image. ----------------------------------------------------------------- TREVOR FRANCIS ----------------------------------------------------------------- THOUGHT too nice to be a manager by Brian Clough among others but proving many people wrong after an acrimonious start at QPR. Led Sheffield Wednesday into Europe in his first season in charge and to two Wembley finals last season. ----------------------------------------------------------------- HOWARD WILKINSON ----------------------------------------------------------------- THE bookmakers' favourite and a man with intimate knowledge of the workings of the FA. Started out at Notts County. Took Sheffield Wednesday into the First Division. Led Leeds to the League title two seasons ago and is now reviving their fortunes. ----------------------------------------------------------------- GERRY FRANCIS ----------------------------------------------------------------- FORMER England captain whose career was ended prematurely by injury. Started out on the management ladder at Bristol Rovers where he learnt how to succeed on a shoestring. Has successfully transferred those good housekeeping habits to QPR. ----------------------------------------------------------------- RON ATKINSON ----------------------------------------------------------------- THE showman and the most experienced of the candidates. Only the top league prize among domestic honours has eluded him during a managerial career with WBA (twice), Manchester United, Atletico Madrid, Wednesday and Villa. -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photographs omitted)

More World Cup analysis, page 39

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