You work it out, you get it wrong

Click to follow
The Independent Online
WHAT happened? Where did we go wrong?

Perhaps the England team's most serious error, all things considered, was to turn up. Norway are not bad these days, as their recent results have shown. If England had said they'd been caught in traffic, or got things mixed up and gone to Sweden by mistake, they still wouldn't have got the points, but at least we'd all have sympathised. It would have been such an easy mistake to make.

As it is, the team chose to make every other mistake you could think of, and as a result we are in the realms of such confusion, bitterness and general fatheadedness that it's hard to see where we can go from here. What to do with the England team? Or, as one unforgiving friend of mine suggested, what not to do with them? As ever, sensible football fans who regard crowd violence with horror and contempt are now talking seriously of the prospect of giving Paul Gascoigne 50 lashes, or turning Des Walker into Pedigree Chum.

Taylor, meanwhile, is being lambasted for his tactics, which is perhaps not surprising as he laid such store by them beforehand. It's great fun to talk tactics - three men at the back, one man going wide, sweeper systems, one up front, and so on and so forth until the opposition go two up just after half- time. Talking tactics is the easiest way of persuading gullible listeners that you know what you're talking about.

And yet, as we have found to our cost, Taylor obviously doesn't know what he's talking about. Here, after all, is the first England manager to be chosen for the job primarily because he was good on telly. Did any manager ever give such good press conference? Did any manager look so comfortable with a microphone, exchanging waggish comments with Des in the studio? Of course that was a few years ago. Nowadays, Taylor on television is a sad forlorn creature - hunted and paranoid, as though convinced someone's about to put a live animal down his trousers. His eyes goggle, and his mouth quivers like Sue Ellen's in Dallas. FA officials scurry around looking concerned, their handkerchiefs ready just in case the England manager starts blubbing.

Where then does this leave his tactics? No England manager has had more tactics, or has been more willing to try new tactics when previous tactics have failed. But there is an alternative tactical thesis - the only one, I think, that Taylor hasn't yet considered. That is: tactics don't work. Tactics are a sham. They look great on blackboards, but that's all. For, as has become horribly clear, tactics only work when everything else works.

Unfortunately, nothing else is working at the moment. The players are either fat, useless, injured, thicker than a chocolate sundae or, in the case of the Phantom of the Opera, all four. In fact, to compare Gascoigne with the Phantom is to do the Phantom an injustice, as at the moment he's playing more like Sarah Brightman.

This, then, is where tactics get you, but Taylor, for all his supposed tactical expertise, has an entirely different problem to deal with now. For after three astonishingly undistinguished years in charge, after chopping and changing, after playing every conceivable player in every conceivable position, it looks as though there aren't any new tactics left. He's tried them all, and none of them has worked.

He hasn't put Cilla Black in goal, or Edd the Duck in central midfield, or Chris Waddle anywhere, but he's tried everything else.

Time for a tactical withdrawal, perhaps?

Comments