An email conversation with Peter Taylor: 'Don't think I'm an easy touch because I like to have a laugh'

My emotional return to Crystal Palace as manager; Making David Beckham the England captain; First impressions on working with Simon Jordan; The possible comeback of my 'Norman Wisdom'
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The Independent Online

What made you so excited about taking over at Crystal Palace this summer?

As a former club where I played quite well, very well in fact, as a player, Palace have an emotional attraction. When I went there last year with Hull I got an incredible welcome from the fans and you don't forget things like that. I've always wanted to manage Crystal Palace and thinking that I might be able to get them back into the Premiership was a massive pull.

How difficult was it to leave Hull, a club where you had a supportive board behind you, a reasonably good team and the backing of the fans?

It was very difficult. I had three and a half lovely years there, two promotions and we loved it up there. So that was a bloody difficult decision to make.

Now you have been manager at the first two clubs you played for - Southend and Palace - can we expect that you will turn up at Tottenham one day?

Steady now. I've only just started this job. But it is a special thing to go back to your old club as manager. You never know...

How important a factor was the chance to be back in London?

Well, you know, it is nice to have just one house, to be honest. We had a house in Hull. We have a daughter who lives up that way and, of course, I needed to be close to the club. We have a house in Southend, too, because we have another daughter who lives there and my wife's family are around there, too. It all sounds very nice, having two places to go to, but when you want to put up a curtain rail in Hull and your tool box is in Southend it suddenly isn't so good.

How difficult is it to be a club manager as well as looking after the England Under-21s?

It works OK, really. I don't do any scouting, that's left to a team of people who report to me on how particular players are doing. So really it is just about games and they happen usually when there are no Championship matches being played. I had no problems with doing the Hull job at the same time last year and there should be no problems this year. Simon Jordan, the Palace chairman, is well up for me doing it; he sees more benefits for Palace than negative factors.

What do you make of Simon Jordan?

He has been controversial at times, but he is a very different person once you get to meet him. I have had very good relationships with club chairmen wherever I have been and I am fully expecting that to happen again with Simon. He is passionate about Crystal Palace, he owns the club and he spends the money so I understand that he can be outspoken at times. But so far he has been very good.

What will constitute a good season for Palace?

Every manager tries to be better than the previous season. I wasn't involved last year but the club finished sixth and I'd like to improve on that.

Did you apply for the job as senior England manager?

I did not apply, but I had an interview. However, I was realistic about it and being at Hull, who were 18th in the Championship at the time, I didn't think it was ever going to be me. But I am delighted the new man is an English manager. Of course, I'd like to be senior manager one day ,but I'd be surprised if that were not true of every English manager.

You did stand in for the senior side for one game, against Italy in Turin in 2000, when you notably made David Beckham captain. What was your reasoning when you did that?

All I can remember about the way I was thinking is that I was very impressed with the way he played after he got sent off against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup. The determination he showed was incredible, seeing that he was getting booed almost everywhere he went. I knew how much playing for England meant to him and I just thought he would grab the opportunity. It was going to be between Gareth Southgate, Gary Neville and David and, in the end, I just chose David. I couldn't really tell you why.

What is your proudest moment as a football manager?

My time at Hull. They were 18th in the old Third Division when I took over. You look where they are now and that is down to having a very good chairman in Adam Pearson and a staff who have worked very hard to be successful. I'm very proud of the job I did there. I'm proud also of winning promotion at Brighton and Gillingham, but to win two on the spin at Hull probably beats those.

And what would you most like to forget?

I was really upset and disappointed to lose my job at Leicester City after eight games of my second season because I still maintain I could have turned it round. I know I made many mistakes there. But you learn from your mistakes and while I was embarrassed by how things went there, it did make me stronger.

Do you have a picture in your mind of the qualities that make a good football manager?

You have to be very up-front and honest with players, to try to be their friend at the right time but you have to be hard as well. I've said to the players at Palace that they should not think I'm an easy touch just because I like to have a laugh on the training ground. I can be incredibly serious when it is needed.

How much of the World Cup did you watch?

I was out there for nine days as part of the England set-up, watching six games in a scouting role. I saw Sweden twice and other teams that England might have had to play. I saw Ecuador, Portugal, Germany and Argentina. Most of the rest I watched at home on television.

Who was the best player?

[Juan Roman] Riquelme of Argentina. He was different class.

How disappointed were you with England's performance?

I was disappointed with the performances of quite a few players who did not play as well as we know they can. I did feel that we were incredibly unlucky yet again to go a major tournament without our best players being fit.

When you go on holiday, are you beach bum, culture vulture or adrenaline junkie?

I'm a bit of the first two, really. I enjoyed going to Rome and I liked Taormina in Sicily, but two years ago I had a lovely villa in Portugal - rented, I don't own one - and I had a great week unwinding by the pool, just switching off.

Which book are you reading at the moment and why?

One thing I'm going to try to do is read more books. I have to say that my concentration span is not the best. The only thing I've ever really read from first page to last was Glen Hoddle's book on the 1998 World Cup, mainly because he is a mate.

Do you have an iPod and if so what is on it?

I don't. I'm a typical 53-year-old man in that respect.

What you might have done if you had not got into football?

Probably I would have liked to be a schoolteacher. I'd have had to be a games teacher, doing things outside the normal nine-to-five routine.

When did you last do your Norman Wisdom impersonation?

I seem to remember a New Year's party at the Dormy Hotel in Bournemouth some years ago when Lawrie McMenemy wound me up to get up on stage. You would have thought the young players at Palace today would have no idea who Norman Wisdom was, but it is surprising how many people have mentioned it since I went back. If we were to get success this year, perhaps I'll revive it.

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