The England Under-21 coach, Peter Taylor, will take his latest crop of young talents to Lever-kusen on Tuesday not only with an excellent chance to qualify for next summer's European Championship finals but also with a team pleading that he be kept in his job.
Taylor, whose record in the position is unrivalled, is due to be replaced for a second time after England's head coach, Steve McClaren, made it clear he wants the Under-21 role to be full-time. Taylor's club commitments with Crystal Palace rule him out.
England controversially dumped Taylor seven years ago, and as his current team stand 90 minutes from a place in the finals in Holland, their captain, Nigel Reo-Coker, is leading calls for the England hierarchy not to make the same mistake twice. A stunning strike from the Wigan full-back Leighton Baines at Coventry's Ricoh Arena on Friday evening means Taylor's team take a 1-0 lead into their second leg of their play-off against Germany in Leverkusen, and Reo-Coker says the 53-year-old coach must be retained if England reach the finals.
"It would be very hard for us if we got the finals and Peter was not in charge," Reo-Coker said. "The FA must keep him on for the finals, no two ways about it. His record speaks for itself. He's the man for the job - there's noth-ing else for people to think about."
The West Ham captain's view was echoed both by his club team-mate Anton Ferdinand and goalscorer Baines after Taylor's team had produced their most impressive performance of his second spell in charge, in which the pace of Theo Walcott and Wayne Routledge in wide roles might have been the catalyst for a more convincing scoreline.
Ferdinand said: "It will be very important to have Peter as our manager if we reach the finals. He is the best man at this level and it would be difficult for someone else to pick this up now." Baines added: "He has to take a massive amount of credit for getting us this far. If he is to be replaced it will be a bridge we have to cross, but I think the lads would love Peter to stay on."
Taylor's first period in charge ended in 1999 after 23 matches, when despite 14 wins and only three defeats he was moved out by the then FA technical director, Howard Wilkinson. Since resuming the position in 2004, Taylor has overseen 12 wins and three defeats in 20 games.
After Friday's victory, he endorsed McClaren's view that the Under-21s needed a full-time manager, but said he would happily continue in his part-time role after doing it successfully at Hull City before his summer move to Crystal Palace.
"Steve wants to bring in a full-time manager and I respect that," he said. "I do this part-time and if I'm honest I think the Under-21s deserve more than that. It is a very important job. When I did it the first time I was more in touch with the players because it was my full-time job. But they do respond to me, and if we get to the finals I would love to finish the job."