Taylor's return should restore vital values

England's crisis: Short-term appointment may signal a rethink by FA but ruling body now risks losing its chief executive
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The Independent Online

Peter Taylor's swift reinstatement as a football man of high promise on the international stage is one harbinger of better days for the England team.

Peter Taylor's swift reinstatement as a football man of high promise on the international stage is one harbinger of better days for the England team.

The entrusting of its immediate future in a friendly game in Italy next month to a man who was so recently treated so badly by the Football Association is also a welcome sign of reawakened fairness, even decency, in the administration of the national game.

But we do have to say it is a little early to start beating drums which speak of some instant renaissance. The unpalatable fact is that for four years the England team has been in a state of shocking drift, for one reason or another, and what is happening for the moment, we have to face it, is nothing so much as some fairly frantic window dressing, though admittedly as symbolic gestures go yesterday'sannouncement of Taylor's appointment was certainly potent enough.

Taylor, who did a brilliant job as coach to the England Under-21 team, was sacked last year in an act of almost breathtaking ruthlessness by the FA's director of coaching, Howard Wilkinson. There was no coherent explanation from the coaching boss, and how could there be? Taylor had done a spectacular job and, observing the most vital aspect of his assignment, worked closely with the England manager whoappointed him, Glenn Hoddle.

Wilkinson took control of the Under-21 team himself and also announced, with scarcely a blink, his own king-making role in the affairs of the national team.

Unfortunately, the king was seen to be wearing few clothes indeed when, in the wake of Kevin Keegan's defection, he picked the England team and a set of stone age tactics in Helsinki earlier this month. He also compounded the damage by agreeing that maybe England should consider qualification for the 2002 World Cup a lost cause and instead concentrate on building for the future.

The concession sent shock waves into every corner of football and it is against this reality that yesterday's appointment has to be seen. It was a case of so much for the king-maker. But if Wilkinson disqualified himself from any possibility of ascending to the throne, it seems that some of his ideas about the future of the national team remain written in the stone from which came his aborted master plan for conquest in Finland.

The FA say that while Taylor and the Manchester United No 2, Steve McLaren, keep the balls in the air - or, better still, on the ground - they will also be shaping a coaching set-up to be inherited by the permanent appointed coach, who is promised soon.

The fact is that whoever is appointed will surely wish to install his own staff: whether it is some luminous foreigner like Arsÿne Wenger or the Italian-based Sven Goran Eriksson or one of Taylor's own nominations, the professionals' choice Terry Venables or the former Switzerland coach Roy Hodgson.

Whoever gets the job needs to exert an immediate aura of leadership. He has to have not just a powerful voice, but the only one that matters.

In all the FA's earnest desire to wipe away the miseries - and, let's be honest, the lunacies - of the past certain basic truths seem to have been lost.

The most relevant one at this point is that you do not run football teams by committee, however carefully the members are selected.

You provide real leadership, an instinctive understanding of the needs of the requirements of the international game and the needs of the players who have to deal with them not in some teaching environment but in the shot and shell of the battle.

No doubt Peter Taylor and Steve McLaren have much to offer the currently embattled England players. But what they cannot provide is the certainty of one style of leadership, one central idea about how the game should be played.

It goes almost without saying that one of the greatest handicaps of the English game is the lack of an overall view of the game. This isn't so much about tactics as an understanding of the proper emphasis, of passing and movement.

This is the central challenge of the new, permanent coach of England.

In the meantime, Peter Taylor can certainly remind both the England team and the general public of what is required on the international level.

It is coherent football, produced with a consistent understanding of the real imperatives of football, an eye for space, a willingness to receive the ball; what we are talking about here is a bigger picture, one that has been relentlessly obscured these last few years.

Taylor's work with young England players was one rare positive aspect that was quite callously snuffed out. His reappearance is a sign that indeed a serious rethink is going on in the FA's new offices in Soho.

There is, of course, a lot more thinking to do. But the instinct now is that certain vital values are being brought back in from the cold.

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