Tinker Taylor

Peter Taylor's appointment as England Under-21 manager caught many people off guard. Mark Winter explains why Dover's loss could be England's gain

If I were a follower of a moderate Premiership club, I might have expected it. I’m en route to an away game, listening to Radio 5 Live, when the bombshell is dropped. We’ve just lost our manager, on the eve of a new season, to the FA, where he'll be taking over responsibility for the England U-21 side.

Although I’d heard that this might happen, it came as something of a shock to a supporter of Dover Athletic on his way to a pre-season friendly at, er, Thamesmead Town.

The rumours had started some weeks previously via a short article in the Sunday Mirror. I’d dismissed them out of hand, arguing that if Glenn Hoddle was such a great admirer of Peter Taylor, he’d had the opportunity to find work for him at both Swindon and Chelsea, but hadn’t done so.

 I was, however, compelled to reflect on some of Taylor’s well chosen words during his final “Meet the Manager” address to the supporters. This was a traditional non-League affair, attended by the lonely, the desperate and the monumentally unattractive. Pete had started with his assessment of what had been a bloody grim 1995-96 season. He’d joined us in September when we were firmly rooted to the bottom of the Conference table; under his guidance we’d shot up to . . . the third from bottom relegation spot. (We needn’t have worried, though: Boston United, with arguably the best facilities in non-League, were knocked back for the heinous crime of missing the five o’clock post). It didn’t take too long to agree that we’d had a crap season and to move on to another topic.

Just a few days beforehand, Glenn Hoddle had been confirmed as the new England boss, so it seemed reasonable to canvas Pete’s views on his old Spurs team-mate’s appointment, which was seemingly ordained from on high. In short, he felt that “although Glenn would have liked the opportunity in maybe three years time (familiarity? supposition? fact?) I’m sure it’ll prove to be a good move for all concerned.”

Although his timing could have been better, Peter Taylor is respected in this God forsaken outpost and, as such, the fans seemed to be unanimous in being pleased for the man and wishing him well. In his last game in charge, a pre-season friendly in Boulogne, he was given a fairly rapturous send-off, fuelled by copious supplies of duty free, as “England’s, England’s No 2”. He was said to have been fairly overwhelmed, having expected a much tougher time.

For most of us Dover fans it was difficult to imagine such a jump in career prospects. As one local scribe remarked: “If you’re stacking shelves at Sainsbury’s, and someone offers you a seat on the board at Tesco’s, you don’t turn round and say ‘Sorry, but my loyalty is with Sainsbury’s’.”

I suppose the analogy is exact in that he has merely taken an opportunity nobody could expect him to refuse. It would have been different, no doubt, had he ‘done a McGhee’ and gone to Welling United for an extra tenner a week.

I’ve no doubt that many will be wringing their hands, fretting over the fact that a Vauxhall Conference manager (whose team avoided relegation through the tardiness of the arrival of a postal delivery) will take charge of the U-21s. I don’t share that concern, merely being grateful that the top job didn’t go elsewhere.

(Whatever faults Peter Taylor may possess, endlessly talking out of his arse as per Kevin Keegan et al during Euro 96 – isn’t one of them.)

Dover’s chances post-Taylor? Probably lower mid-table, inclusive of a flirt with relegation, rather than a full blown affair. What remains to be decided is how much the FA, with coffers seemingly overflowing from Euro ’96 will be offering a small club like us for the remaining two years on the manager’s contract. The choice will probably be between dry roast or ready salted . . .

From WSC 116 October 1996. What was happening this month