Make EFL the Tay­lor Tro­phy


The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP -

THIS week I was struck by three stand-out sit­u­a­tions: first the sad pass­ing of for­mer Eng­land man­ager Gra­ham Tay­lor; sec­ond, the bul­ly­ing ac­cu­sa­tions aimed at Sir Dave Brails­ford; third, the po­ten­tial de­par­ture of Diego Costa from Chelsea.

There are two highly sig­nif­i­cant as­pects for me to the life of Gra­ham Tay­lor; the most im­por­tant is the in­cred­i­ble es­teem in which he was held by so many peo­ple who worked for him. He was a suc­cess­ful man­ager; tak­ing Wat­ford through the di­vi­sions to the heights of the top flight was an enor­mous achieve­ment.

That alone tells you of the man’s cal­i­bre. How­ever, the ar­ray of sad feel­ings and com­pli­men­tary com­ments which have flowed tell the tale of a warm, gen­er­ous and thor­oughly de­cent hu­man being. His life clearly de­served much better than the head­lines which ac­com­pa­nied the dark­est days of his Eng­land reign.

It is too easy to shout far and wide about a fel­low hu­man being with lit­tle or no re­gard for the real truth.

Tay­lor is de­scribed as a proper gen­tle­man by peo­ple who knew him well. He lived the game he loved. He cre­ated won­der­ful suc­cess. He rose from the lower ech­e­lons of the pro­fes­sional game to the ultimate height. I sin­cerely hope Wat­fords’s Gra­ham Tay­lor Stand is not the only thing in English foot­ball to carry his name in the fu­ture. He was an in­spi­ra­tion and clearly an out­stand­ing char­ac­ter.

I’d love to see the EFL Tro­phy given his name by way of a trib­ute and an apol­ogy. Foot­ball should re­ward its great­est ser­vants while they are with us by treat­ing their name in a mea­sured way at all times.

Dis­pro­por­tion­ate abuse in dif­fi­cult times is no proper way to re­spect the bril­liant ef­forts of a life­time. RIP Gra­ham. The game of foot­ball is richer for you. And by nam­ing the Tro­phy af­ter you, we would en­sure your ge­nius is rightly re­mem­bered.

Sir Dave Brails­ford’s name has been linked with ‘bul­ly­ing’.

I looked up the word bul­ly­ing: to use su­pe­rior strength or in­flu­ence to in­tim­i­date (some­one), typ­i­cally to force them to do some­thing.

Then I looked up in­tim­i­date: to frighten or over­awe (some­one), es­pe­cially in or­der to make them do what one wants.

I was taught many years ago, on my masters de­gree pro­gramme, about the model of sit­u­a­tional lead­er­ship. It out­lines that there are four pre­dom­i­nant styles of lead­er­ship. Dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances and dif­fer­ent in­di­vid­u­als re­quire dif­fer­ent styles. Highly di­rec­tive+highly sup­port­ive = sell­ing Highly di­rec­tive+low sup­port­ive = telling Highly sup­port­ive+low di­rec­tive = coach­ing Low sup­port+low di­rec­tion = del­e­gat­ing

I can well imag­ine a guru like Sir Dave, right, driven to suc­ceed on a global stage against the very best, plac­ing high de­mands on elite ath­letes. I can imag­ine him hav­ing to be very strong in the face of highly charged, highly com­pet­i­tive ath­letes. I can imag­ine him being highly di­rec­tive at times, and I can imag­ine the odd per­son being un­able to re­spond to the de­mand to be­come the very best in the world; it is a tall or­der. I played foot­ball in a dress­ing room man­aged by the in­cred­i­ble Arse­nal man­ager Ge­orge Gra­ham who won two ti­tles, an FA Cup and two League Cups at High­bury. Ge­orge was hon­est. He was demanding, ex­act­ing even. His as­sis­tant Theo Fo­ley later worked for me. Like­wise, Theo was demanding, ex­act­ing and straight. No punches were pulled.

Not ev­ery­body is go­ing to en­joy a forth­right ap­proach. But straight talk­ing is an es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent. In a pas­sion­ate sport­ing arena, that straight talk­ing does get heated. Those not cut out for the pres­sures at the top may well feel in­tim­i­dated.

Sir Dave was quoted as say­ing, “I’m full on... some peo­ple can’t cope.”

When ath­letes are at a cer­tain level and need to be pushed to move them to the next level, when they think they are at their limit and need push­ing to break that limit, it is a tough, even con­fronta­tional en­vi­ron­ment. I’ve seen lads scream at coaches to back off as they si­mul­ta­ne­ouly crush their previous best. Most of the lads who scream out also shout thank you! In­evitably there are some who just can’t get there.

I am told Chris­tiano Ron­aldo would keep his Manch­ester United coach­ing staff awake at night by demanding they brought him sig­nif­i­cant ideas for bet­ter­ment ev­ery day.

That is elite sport. There is de­mand. And where there is de­mand there is al­ways the po­ten­tial for ‘bul­ly­ing’.

I don’t know how any man­ager or coach is ex­pected to es­ti­mate the ex­act point at which di­rec­tive, push­ing be­hav­iour moves over the line for any in­di­vid­ual. We are hu­man be­ings. We are not pre­cise. It sim­ply has to be trial and er­ror, based on in­tu­ition and judge­ment, and some­times the line will be bro­ken. If you play with fire some­times you get burned.

I believe that di­rec­tive be­hav­iour, a taught com­po­nent in per­for­mance man­age­ment/lead­er­ship, could al­ways be con­strued as ‘bul­ly­ing’. Which leads me onto Diego Costa,

be­low, who is re­ported to be in some sort of dis­pute with Chelsea be­cause he has been of­fered a net salary of £30mil­lion to go to China against a net salary of £4mil­lion at Chelsea.

Graeme Souness said on TV he could un­der­stand the player’s view on that type of salary in­crease. Let’s face it, if an elec­tri­cian in Lon­don on £40,000 pa was of­fered £300,000 pa in China, he might well want to jump at the chance.

Imag­ine this though; al­though a player has 2.5 years left on his con­tract, his club stop pay­ing him be­cause they are un­happy with his form. If the player can ‘fall out’ with the club, and with­draw his best form from the team, then surely the club should be al­lowed to fall out with the player? Clubs de­serve equal rights don’t they?

It is too easy for play­ers to fall into dis­pute in or­der to try and force moves or get their own way. Yes they need pro­tec­tion. But so do clubs. Chelsea have worked hard to get to the top of the League. They de­serve the sup­port of a dis­ci­plinary sys­tem which pre­vents play­ers fall­ing out to get out. Any player who re­sents his £4m net salary might sud­denly ap­pre­ci­ate it if it was stopped be­cause he wasn’t re­spect­ing it prop­erly.

Man­agers are crit­i­cised and at­tacked when they do what they are sup­posed to do and man­age. They face player sit­u­a­tions that are out of their con­trol but which can hugely dis­rupt their strate­gies.

Who would want to be a foot­ball man­ager?! It takes a thick skin and a tough spine to deal with the weight of at­tack that comes in their di­rec­tion.

Chair­men will tell you that ev­ery avail­able job draws bucket loads of ap­pli­ca­tions. Such is the pas­sion we all have for the game. To all those ap­pli­cants a re­turn let­ter should be sent with a note say­ing ‘be care­ful what you wish for’. And ‘get your char­ac­ter strength tested’.

It is a chang­ing world in which more peo­ples’ ‘truths’ are less ac­count­ably ex­pressed than ever. The con­se­quence is that real­ity is more clouded and we should all think care­fully be­fore we jump to judge the man in charge of our team.


Big day: Gra­ham Tay­lor leads his Wat­ford team out at Wem­b­ley be­fore the 1984 FA Cup fi­nal against Howard Ken­dall’s Ever­ton, who won 2-0

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