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Former England caretaker-manager Peter Taylor on Three Lions’ Euro 2024 chances, his verdict on current boss Gareth Southgate and working with Sven-Goran Eriksson

Peter Taylor gives England every chance of going all the way at Euro 2024.

Taylor, a former coach and caretaker manager of the national side, believes the Three Lions have a number of world-class players who would get into any team.

Peter Taylor says England’s first game will be key at the Euros. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Peter Taylor says England’s first game will be key at the Euros. Picture: Barry Goodwin

So while he has slight concerns in central defence, the ex-England winger sees a big opportunity to win the tournament.

Gareth Southgate’s side start their Group C campaign against Serbia in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday (8pm) and that will set the tone.

“With tournaments, it’s always about the first game,” said Taylor, 71. “Not only to get a good result but to start the momentum.

“If England can win to get the changing room happy and confident then, to me, we could go and win it.

“Gareth hasn’t just built a good young squad, he’s built a disciplined squad where they know they’ve got to produce otherwise they’ll be left out.

“For Jack Grealish to be left out, it shows you how strong we are, and what a tough decision that would have been.

“Honestly, I look at some of our players and they are world class. They’d easily get into other countries’ teams that they’re playing against.

“There’s not many players playing against us that would get in our team, so I think that’s where we are strong.

“I think our our best players are Phil Foden, Harry Kane, Declan Rice, Bukayo Saka and of course Jude Bellingham. In my opinion, you’re talking about four or five players that would get into Brazil’s team.

“The only negative I feel we have at the minute is we haven’t got enough experience at centre-half.

“That’s the thing I’m nervous on. People say the boy at Crystal Palace, Marc Guehi, is a good player, John Stones is a good player and Lewis Dunk is a good player.

Could Marc Guehi’s lack of experience cost England?
Could Marc Guehi’s lack of experience cost England?

“But when you play in those tournaments against the absolute best players then, blimey, you are tested.

“That’s where at times we don’t give the opposition enough respect in this country. We just think we’re better than the others.

“I think we are in the other positions I mentioned but not centre-half.

“I know Harry Maguire’s had some tough times but we could have done with his experience so it’s a shame he’s injured.

“I’m hoping Luke Shaw is OK because he could play left centre-back in a back three, the same as Kyle Walker could play right centre-back in a three.

“We’ve got the boy at Palace but that’s a risky one for me.”

Taylor was part of Glenn Hoddle’s backroom staff at the 1998 World Cup, where he first got to know Southgate.

He also named the former defender in his starting XI when he took charge of the senior team for a friendly against Italy in November 2000 before Sven-Goran Eriksson’s arrival.

“You could tell Gareth was just a bit more than a player,” said former Gillingham boss Taylor. “He wanted to know why you were doing things.

“It wasn’t so much asking questions, you just could tell he was interested, if you’re playing a certain way or whatever.

“He’s turned out to be a very good manager. What more could you want out of him?

“He still looks fit, he still looks as though he loves his football. If I were the FA, I’d be trying to tie him down.”

Peter Taylor rates England boss Gareth Southgate highly and says he was ‘a bit more than a player’. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Peter Taylor rates England boss Gareth Southgate highly and says he was ‘a bit more than a player’. Picture: Barry Goodwin

Taylor is impressed by the way Southgate handles the scrutiny which comes with being England manager.

He’s enjoyed lots of success during his eight years in charge, reaching the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and finishing runners-up in the delayed Euro 2020. But no one gets an easy ride as national team manager.

“These days, club level is also extremely difficult because everybody in that stand knows a better team than you do but they don’t know if it works because it’s never picked,” said Taylor.

“You get used to it as a club manager but for the England manager’s job, you can times it by 10 because everybody in the country has an opinion and everybody wants England to win.

“It’s a circus when England play - it’s a massive situation.

“The build-up to games is incredibly big so that’s the duty the manager’s got on his shoulders, that’s the pressure he’s got and I think over the years Gareth’s got better and better at it.

“I’m sure when he first started he had a bit of time to get it right. Now I think he can handle a good time and a bad time and handle it well.”

Taylor was tipped as a future England manager after his game in caretaker charge.

He picked a young side that night, naming David Beckham as captain for the first time, in a narrow 1-0 defeat.

Beckham would keep the armband under Eriksson while Taylor stayed on as part of the coaching staff until the end of the season.

It was a wonderful time for Taylor, who was then flying high in the Premier League as Leicester manager.

He’d also been a sounding board for Eriksson on English football while the Swede was serving his notice at Lazio, where he’d just won Serie A.

Taylor enjoyed his time with Eriksson who, in January of this year, revealed he had at best a year to live after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Peter Taylor has fond memories of his time working with Sven-Goran Eriksson. Picture: Matthew Walker
Peter Taylor has fond memories of his time working with Sven-Goran Eriksson. Picture: Matthew Walker

“It was a fantastic experience for me because I knew what a great name Sven had in football and Tord (Grip, assistant manager) was a lovely fella as well,” said Taylor.

“I’m on top of the world because I’m in the Premier League and I’m helping England out.

“The proudest part for me was I knew the younger team that had played against Italy would have showed Sven we’ve got a lot of good young players that can handle it, so I felt I helped his start.

“He was a terrific fella, great company, and he had a real good sense of humour which people may not know.

“To me, he knew what players he wanted to play.

“I don’t think I really saw him coach if I’m honest but he knew how to fix the puzzle, he knew what players he wanted and the type of player he wanted and that’s probably where he had his success over the years.

“He was great and he was good to be an England manager because the players enjoyed working with him. He wasn’t a ranter, nothing like that.

“He would have a lot of respect for the players and the players would have a lot of respect for him.

“Before he came he wanted to know all about English players and styles and moods and things like that. We had lots of chats like that.

“A manager could move from one English club to another and the staff will then tell him about the players.

“Well, if you’re like Sven and you’re coming from another country, you’re probably asking even more questions.

“And being the way he was, he’d want to make sure the players would be comfortable with him, so he would check on a few things.”

Don’t miss out on our Euro Vision supplement - available in every KM Group newspaper this week, celebrating football in the county ahead of this summer’s Euros.

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