Gordon Taylor is the Chief Executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA). Despite being in the midst of the phone hacking scandal with the now defunct News of the World he kindly took time out to discuss with me the forthcoming season, but first he reflected on the events of the last year.
Gordon started by saying ‘I was depressed after England’s dreadful performances at the World Cup in Africa 2010. As is often the case with England the team were devoid of energy coming into a tournament at the end of a typical and gruelling Premier League season. The team was disadvantaged from the start. When all our best players are fit we remain a force but we just do not have the depth of squad to cope with the rigours of a major competition’.
His depression was compounded by the fiasco that was the 2018 and 2022 failed bids to bring the World Cup finals to England. He continued ‘there is a desperate need for FIFA to be more transparent both in the wake of the corruption charges and the way it was handled. An outside agent should investigate the debacle and enlisting Spanish tenor singer Plácido Domingo to a ‘council of wisdom’ is something that invites even more ridicule – if that were possible.’
One thing that cheered the Chief Executive enormously was the esteemed PFA Special Merit award given to referee Howard Webb and his assistants after they officiated in both the World Cup and Champion League finals. He believed ‘Webb officiated very well in a tetchy and most difficult match and that this was the general consensus’.
We talked about the current framework of our domestic game and what changes he would like to see. Gordon lamented ‘in some areas football has slipped behind the times and new equipment must now be embraced including goal-line technology. The use of it in awarding penalties should also be considered’.
The law-making International Football Association Board will rule in March 2012 on whether to approve goal-line technology. If the body approves a system it could be brought into law with Sepp Blatter saying ‘leagues can use it from the start of the 2012-13 season if accurate and affordable. Gordon disagreed and said he would like it to ‘commence on 25 July 2012 during the Olympic Games and then brought into our game straight after’. He also ‘disapproves of assistant referees standing behind the goal and is not convinced that they work.’
As always he is hopeful that greater progress can be made with youth development. The PFA are always quick to remind us that five out of six players who join the game at 16 are out of the game by 21 and he said ‘ I desperately want that figure to change! Despite spending millions on our youth development programme our English clubs show no patience and look for the ready assembled footballer thus undermining the nurturing process.’
He has been encouraged with the new criteria that states eight ‘homegrown’ players must be in a Premier League squad of 25 and 10 in the Football League. Gordon said he would go a step further and ‘make it compulsory to have three of those players starting a match!’
He advocates a ‘mid-season break in the first two weeks of January to help both physically and mentally and allow injuries more time to recover. I am sure it would have a positive impact both on our Premier League and the national side and would follow the patterns of other top footballing nations.’
We talked about the gulf between the superior technical skills of the Spanish players compared to our own British players. He was very impressed by the performance of Barcelona last season. He continued ‘it is imperative we have a greater appreciation of what they produced and for us to develop accordingly. We can achieve higher standards and the better pitches and new elite performance plan will improve matters’.
I asked Gordon what new initiatives are coming out of headquarters and he was pleased to talk about the new non-contributory pension schemes. He went on to say ‘A lot of time, help and money have gone into the education and mental health of players both on and off the pitch. We are also working extensively on greater link-ups with players and referees both prior to the game and on match-days and especially with captains’.
Whilst accepting that Gordon’s primary job as a union man is to look after his members interests, I asked about the vast money in the game, if he had a view on wages and how close is it for a major club to go into administration? He replied that ‘the PFA firmly believe in financial propriety and it is for clubs to maintain better balance sheets. I hope that we do not move towards the monopoly of success by fewer and fewer clubs. I also hope that football can withstand the recession, keep its priorities and continue having crowds near to full capacity as possible as without the crowds the game would not have the same attraction on television’.
When talking about the next manager of England he was most forthright. He was not campaigning for Fabio Capello to go or was he disrespecting foreign managers but he insisted that ‘by picking outside our game reflects an absolute failure within it! Countries like Brazil, Spain, Germany or Italy would never consider a foreign manager so why do we? The next manager must be English and if I was forced to name someone in tune with our domestic game then it would be Harry Redknapp’.
I tried to commit him to an answer regarding who will win the Premier League this season and he nearly answered but just stopped himself at the last moment. I asked will it be Manchester City or Manchester United but he replied ‘I hope the best team win’. It was interesting to note that at no time did he say you have left Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool out of the equation!
Latest Betfair prices to win the Barclays Premier League 2011/12: Manchester United 2.62 Chelsea 4.2 Machester City 4.3 Arsenal 14.5 Liverpool 18 Tottenham 60 Bar 520
Updated 15.28 on 16 August 2011.