Issue Peter Taylor mulls over City’s contract offer and the first act of football management

As told by Michael Wood

The first act of a football manager in the early days of the game was not to pick a team or make a transfer. It was to be sacked.

Not only was the first act of what we would recognise to be the emerging figure of “football manager” to be sacked it was to be sacked to carrying the can for the failures of a group of directors who acted as the Selection Committee and picked the team.

Before The Major and Herbert Chapman started to define the manager’s role as we know it now the job was split between Club Secretaries, Trainers and these men in the boardroom who made up the selection committees. Selection committees picked the teams and made the transfers leaving players to decide the rudimentary tactics – such as they were – and eventually as the Football League grew and supporters vented anger they vented that anger in the direction of the men who made the decisions.

And so a decision was made and that decision was – in most cases – that either the club secretary or (more often) the trainer should be held responsible, and so he was fired. So was born the football manager not out of a need for new ideas or new direction but rather in order to distract, to shift attention. The sleight of hand of the boardroom and perhaps if on binning that first trainer – the hapless soul who took his squad on jogs and ensured they were banned from having a ball until the weekend to make them “more hungry” for it – had not caused eyes to move away from the problems that those club failed to conquer then perhaps the culture of the game would have been different.

Alas it did not and in the hundred odd years since the manager has assumed more control of footballing matters at a club and emerged as the figure we recognise today but still he is haunted by that first sacking. Hunched on the touchline, shouting until he is horse, the manager knows that the heart of his job is not the teams he picks or the transfers he makes but rather it is the responsibility he carries.

So Peter Taylor sits at his desk – well – at Stuart McCall or Colin Todd or Paul Jewell’s desk probably and in front of him he has a contract to become the manager of Bradford City on a full-time basis which Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes are offering.

Taylor is in contract talks with the two employers over a deal which is rumoured to take him to the summer of 2012. Another two year deal and one which would take the manager to his 59th year. Considering that Taylor is without a doubt the best candidate the club could attract then why that deal would not be longer one can only speculate on. No mistake should be made about Taylor’s suitability for the role. He is achieved success repeatedly using pattens which he is able to replicate. The attractiveness of his football – and it is not the most pretty – counts for him in the end as much as it has counted for his predecessors which is to say not one bit. By virtue of what directly proceeded him Taylor is on a remit not to be liked and try play football but to get promoted.

He might look over that desk he sits at and notice the odd indentation – a fist slammed down in anger – or a nick out of the wood which could be the result of a telephone slammed down. He might look over that desk and wonder.

Mark Lawn talked about opening contract negotiations with Taylor saying

Talks have started about player budgets, not about his wages. He’s coming back to us with what he thinks would be a realistic figure to help us get promotion.

Rumour has it that Taylor has a list of wants and needs before he takes control of the club for keeps. Some say he wants the pitch to be re-laid while others that he wants better training facilities. Some talk about how much Taylor would want to spend on players and others that the manager is concerned over the long term future of the club that is hobbled by the rent it has to pay on the ground and has a chairman who threatened it with being put into administration.

Certainly Taylor might note other comments Lawn makes about the nature of his teams – the old Selection Committee thinking; That directors know enough about football to talk to the “trainer” about it – and his contacts which he hears are “immense” and “willing to help.”

Perhaps Taylor has a longer list of friends who will play for him for free as Gavin Grant does but when it comes to signing a long term deal maybe the manager does not want to rely on his friend’s help. Contacts are valuable in all walks of life but they should not be used to make up for a failure to provide adequate resources to build a team to match the aims the boardroom lay out.

When Stuart McCall left the questions start and perhaps those are the questions which Taylor asks now as he considers putting ink on paper. What is Mark Lawn’s plan for improving the club, if he he has one?

What is the plan for giving more resources to Taylor? For stopping the haemorrhaging of money on renting Valley Parade? For improving the training facilities so they represent more than a school playing field? For building on the work done which has seen the number of young players coming out of the ranks and into the first team squad?

Taylor will be asking all these questions and perhaps he will be hearing the answers he likes or perhaps he will hear a call from the midst of time and the collective psyche of the football manager born from those first days of being called to book for the failures of others. The raison d’être of the role being to distract the supporters.

The role of football manager is on a timeline of attempts to gather a level of responsibility that matches accountability they hold.

I hope that Peter Taylor will sign the contract not only because he is by far the best candidate the club could attract to the role at the moment but also because should he do so one might assume that Taylor has received answers to the questions he asks and that he might be able to hold his employers to those promises.