Taylor finds solace in success

Wolves manager will focus tomorrow just on the FA Cup. Phil Shaw reports
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The Independent Online
Everyone had something to say yesterday about the depressing events of the previous evening in Dublin. Everyone, it seemed, except Graham Taylor.

As one whose own international career effectively ended 17 months ago amid similar ructions in Rotterdam, the former England manager might have been expected to comment on the scenes at Lansdowne Road. However, when invited to do so at a media conference to mark Wolverhampton Wanderers' FA Cup tie at home to Leicester tomorrow, Taylor played a bat so straight even Geoffrey Boycott would have blanched.

"I haven't seen it. I was out. I've got no comment to make whatsoever," he said. "My job is to make sure Wolves get into the sixth round of the Cup." The suggestion that it might be prudent to appeal to both sets of fans for a trouble-free afternoon met the same kind of Taylor response: "I think everyone has a right to say nothing."

Quite. But Taylor's reluctance to discuss anything beyond Wolves' last or next fixture is intriguingly at odds with his former incarnation as a compulsive communicator. Since returning to club management a year ago next month, he has responded to all requests for interviews by stating politely that he no longer feels "any obligation to the national press".

The regional branch of the Football Writers' Association wrote to him recently, seeking to re-establish the access reporters enjoyed during his spell at Aston Villa. Taylor's letter of rejection was as direct as his Watford team once were.

When one also considers that he is steeped in sports journalism through his father's work, the extent to which the England experience has scarred him becomes apparent. He treated the "turnip" vilification and his nerdish portrayal on Spitting Image with the contempt they deserved, yet it is now evident that his rehabilitation at Wolves has been personal as well as professional.

In that respect, Molineux is a peculiarly appropriate setting. Here is a stadium where the past has no presence - the old eyesores have been replaced by a stylish steel and concrete citadel - except when the old- gold shirts swarm forward after or in support of the ball, as in the days of Stan Cullis and Billy Wright.

On those epic nights in the 1950s, when Wolves often put Europe's finest to the sword, 55,000 would regularly cram in. Tomorrow's full house will be barely half that figure, but after the club's near-death experience a decade ago, the sense of anticipation over Leicester's visit is almost tangible.

Remarkably, Taylor has been in management since Lincoln turned to him at the age of 28 in December 1972 (the week Tommy Docherty took over at Manchester United), but he still oozes enthusiasm for the fray.

While Wolves' priority remains promotion from the First Division in which they currently lie second, he does not hold with talk of Cup runs being "a distraction". Nor, he added with a chuckle, did he go along with those who claim they knew at one particular moment in time that their "name was on the cup".

Wolves could easily make such a case; 2-0 down at Mansfield in the third round, 3-0 behind in a shoot-out with Sheffield Wednesday, they now host the Premiership's bottom team.

"We must be careful that too many people don't see us in the quarter- finals already," he said. "It only becomes feasible to talk about winning the Cup when you're in the final." Taylor reached that point with Watford in 1984 when they lost to Everton, and a return trip would especially delight Wolves' philanthropic owner, Sir Jack Hayward. His avowed ambition is to see the club captain raise the trophy again.

The armband is currently worn by the piratical John De Wolf, one of the Dutch defenders on that fateful night in 1993. Gordon Cowans, whom Taylor once controversially selected ahead of Paul Gascoigne for England, has brought cohesion to midfield. And in attack, David Kelly will be back after his goal-that-never-was in Dublin.

Somehow, it seems impossible to avoid references to Wednesday night in Ireland. By resolutely doing so, Taylor added a new twist to an old clich. This weekend at least, nothing and no one is going to distract Wolves from the FA Cup.

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