It’s hard to imagine Gareth Southgate indulging in such light-hearted mischief but a new book has underlined some of the bizarre lengths one of his predecessors went to while climbing the managerial ladder.
Dick Chester, a retired former secretary at the two Sheffield clubs, has provided us with this welcome insight into the ways of Graham Taylor, which might not totally surprise one-time Wolves midfielder Martin Patching.
In his autobiography, An Insider’s Job, Chester reveals how he travelled with the manager – and one or two props – on a scouting mission when they were working together at Lincoln in the mid-1970s.
Their destination, for a midweek game against Tranmere, was Reading – one of the Imps’ forthcoming opponents. But Taylor had the extra agenda of wanting to take a look at Rovers’ Mark Palios – a man later to work in very high office as chief executive of the FA.
Chester had not been asked to request hospitality tickets but was still surprised when they parked up and the manager went to his boot for a false beard, false moustache, glasses and flat cap.
“We paid to go through the turnstiles and took our place on the terraces,” the author recalls. “As the game unfolded, the home left-winger was turning in a great performance, prompting a comment from Graham to a fan standing near us: ‘God, he’s some player! Is he like this every game?’
“The reply swiftly came back: ‘No, mate, you should see him on a Saturday after a session in the nightclub. He plays as if he’s half-cut.”
Amid continuing banter, we are informed that Taylor then enquired with the supporter who he considered to be the best team in the division. “I suppose you would have to say Lincoln as they are top,” he was told.
On being asked who their manager was, the supporter added: “He’s a gobshite called Graham Taylor but we’ll stuff it up him here next week, you see!”
Following a period of quiet and with the clock ticking down, Taylor expressed thanks for the thoughts and couldn’t resist saying farewell by revealing himself as that very same ‘gobshite’ and promising to give his new friend a wave from the visiting dug-out at the Royals’ next home game.
None of which will surprise Martin Patching, who disclosed to us six years ago that Taylor took him from Wolves to Watford after standing on the South Bank to watch him help John Barnwell’s side win an early-season tie against Burnley in the second of their victorious League Cup journeys.
We can only assume that the manager was in the same disguise that night as in the story recounted by Dick Chester, whose £10.99 paperback is published by Escafeld Press.