“Hey! Hey! -Tell your pal that he’s just cost me my job.”

One of the last haunted cries of Graham Taylor’s reign as England gaffer, chasing a helpless linesman down the Rotterdam touchline after the referee failed to send off Ronald Koeman for upending David Platt as he ran through on goal. Yes, the Ronald Koeman who, naturally, went on to score the free kick that ensured that England wouldn’t be going anywhere near the 1994 World Cup Finals.

In reality, poor old Taylor would soon lose much more than his job. Already christened Turniphead by the Fleet Street wags, the Channel 4 documentary “An Impossible Job” – which focused on Taylor’s management through that qualifying campaign – would strip him of the remainder of his dignity and coin the classic managerial phrase of the time. “Do I not like that!”

In the program, Taylor’s increasing desperation – and sidekick Phil Neal’s unrelenting sycophancy – was vividly exposed during another abject England showing in Poland, where that great philosophical puzzle “Can we not knock it?” got its first airing:

Des Walker knocks a misplaced pass to John Barnes:
Taylor: “Ooooh, fucking… Do I not like that!”
Poland win the ball, break downfield and score.
Taylor: “What a fucking ball. What a ball, eh, from Des to Barnesy. What a fucking… It was our possession.”
Phil Neal: “I know.”

Taylor: “It was from our free kick. We’ve come square, and the ball… Des and Barnesy, eh? Fucking ball, eh? You can talk till you’re fucking blue in the face, can’t you?”
Phil Neal: “Yes boss.”

The game kicks off again:

Taylor : “Come on. Bigger, bigger.”

Another misplaced pass.

Taylor : “We’ve done that fucking… CAN WE NOT KNOCK IT? They’ve done everything that we told them not to do. Everything that we told them not to do.”

And the full misery of the Dutch denouement was compelling, if heartbreaking, viewing:

Taylor: “Linesman, linesman, what sort of thing is happening here? You know it, you know it, don’t you? Absolutely disgraceful.”

Linesman mutters something.

Taylor: “Linesman, linesman, that’s disgrace… Hells Bells!”

Koeman hasn’t even scored the free kick yet. In the gantry, Brian Moore is first to cotton on to what’s about to happen.

“He’s going to flip one. He’s going to flip one. HE’S GOING TO FLIP ONE.”

Koeman has scored.

Taylor: “I’ll tell you, they don’t fucking deserve.” “Fucking. That is absolutely shocking.”

Businesslike for a moment.

Taylor: “We’ll have to get Wrighty on shortly.”
Phil Neal: “We’ll have to give Wrighty a go.”

Taylor turns his attention once more to the beleaguered linesman.

“You know we’ve been cheated, don’t you.”

Linesman motions him back to his technical area.

“I have a metre. I have a metre. You know. It’s alright.”

Linesman is getting fed up. Goes to report Taylor, who pleads for mercy.

“I won’t say anything else. Come on, don’t. But I’m allowed to stay in the metre.”

Linesman lets him off with a warning. However, the peace bond is soon broken:

“Even if he doesn’t see it as a penalty, he has to go. You know that. I know you know it, so… And then the fella scores the free kick.”

A sudden outbreak of bonhomie from Taylor:

“You can’t say anything. I know you can’t say anything. I know that.”

Again it’s short-lived:

“But, you see at the end of the day, I get the sack. Will you say to the fella, the referee has got me the sack.”

“Thank him ever so much for that, won’t you?”

Although he worked again in the game – and with a degree of success too – Taylor’s reputation has never quite recovered. Like David Pleat nowadays, the work of Taylor the co-commentator has rather surpassed that of Taylor the gaffer. After all, no-one has yet superimposed a root vegetable on his shoulders after a slipshod turn in the gantry. It may, however, be simply a matter of time.

“In football, time and space are the same thing.”
Graham’s special turnip continuum puts Einstein and co in their places.

“Well, it’s a love-hate relationship and he loves me.”
Graham Taylor speaks glowingly of his working relationship with Villa chairman, Doug Ellis.

“Shearer could be at 100 percent fitness, but not peak fitness.”
One of those managers who always looked for 110 percent.

“Sometimes it’s very hard to follow what would have happened and sometimes it’s hard to follow what has happened.”
…and sometimes its very hard to follow Graham Taylor.

“To be really happy, we must throw our hearts over the bar and hope that our bodies will follow.”
As Phil Neal might say, “That’s right, boss.”

“Very few of us have any idea whatsoever of what life is like living in a goldfish bowl – except, of course, for those of us who are goldfish.”
Once a turnip, now reincarnated as a goldfish. Suppose they’re roughly the same colour.

“I’d never allow myself to let myself call myself a coward.”
Nor would we prevent ourselves from stopping ourselves calling you a guff merchant.

“What a clinical finish. That’s got nothing to do with his haircut at all. That’s footballing ability.”
Hard-but-fair Graham scuppers any chance Clint Mathis’ barber had of claiming an assist for the USA’s goal against South Korea.

“I sometimes wished I’d been shot…though it never came to that… nor should it.”
Musing on his time as England manager, Graham lectures a chastened public on the rights and wrongs of football manager assassination.

“The thing about coming to watch football in this part of the world is it makes you realise what a world game it is.”
Two-thirds of the way through the World Cup, Graham eventually cottons on to what’s been happening for the last three weeks.


“There may have been a problem with the wall of two or two and a half players.”

Graham reveals that at least one English player lost his head before a Portugal goal.”

“Nothing that UEFA or FIFA do surprises me any more and I’m very surprised this has not been sorted out long in advance.”
Nothing more surprising than the element of surprise.

“He knows they’ve got to score three goals. They know they’ve got to score three goals. What more can you say?”
Graham showcases the tactical awareness he brought to the England job.

“That’s a goal, isn’t it, but what a good save!”
It wasn’t and it was.

“Sometimes it’s very hard to follow what would have happened and sometimes it’s hard to follow what has happened.”
And sometimes it’s very hard to follow Graham Taylor.

“I think what would help the Ecuadorian side is if they could get a glimpse of the possibility of scoring a goal.”
Do you reckon, Graham?

“Their hospitality has been fantastic and a good example to many other countries. I can’t think of one…”
Probably better that way, Graham.

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