Star Names – Might They Have Been Taylor Targets?

Food For Thought From The Pages Of History

Tony Daley, Steve Froggatt and Neil Emblen soon became the bedrock of Graham Taylor’s planned promotion strategy at Wolves. 

Later, when more cracks appeared and spending money was still plentiful, in too came John de Wolf, Don Goodman, Dean Richards and others.

But is it out of the question that, in addition to this cluster of captures, John Ebrell, Rod Wallace, Lee Sharpe and even Alan Shearer might have been on the manager’s Molineux shopping list in the mid-1990s?

Ebrell was in Everton’s midfield and an England under-21 skipper about whom Taylor spoke in glowing terms in a book (pictured right) he wrote with Midlands journalist Dennis Shaw in 1991, early in his tenure as England manager.

‘Shaping up extremely well’ and ‘a player’s player’ are two of the phrases he used to describe a lad who had been among the first intake at the FA National School at Lilleshall and who was emerging promisingly at Goodison Park.

In the event, neither Taylor nor any other England boss ever capped him at senior level but the Merseysider’s pedigree has been underlined by the fact he has held a variety of scouting and coaching roles since being forced to retire with a knee injury aged only 29.

Recognising the manager’s sense of pragmatism in favouring players who were dependable rather than maverick, it isn’t difficult to believe he might have kept this future FA Cup winner in mind when he returned to club management with Wolves in 1994.

Rod Wallace, blessed with the ‘electrifying pace’ Taylor liked of his wide players, didn’t progress beyond under-21 and B caps either but had a highly fulfilling career with Southampton, Leeds, Rangers and Bolton, his stay at Elland Road including the winning of the top-flight title under Howard Wilkinson and the accumulation of well over 50 goals at the rate of one every four games.

Might he have appeared on the Molineux radar had Wolves’ choice as Graham Turner’s successor delivered Premier League football in the middle of the decade?

The question is a valid one as Ebrell and Wallace figured prominently in a ‘ones to watch’ section of the ‘When England Called’ book Taylor wrote alongside his friend Shaw, a man who previously worked for many years on the Birmingham-based Evening Mail.

Also mentioned in frequent despatches in print were Lee Sharpe, the young West Midlander who had by now moved to Manchester United, and Alan Shearer, a colleague of Wallace’s at The Dell for several years.

All presumably remained out of Wolves’ reach – if not necessarily for financial reasons then certainly for the club’s failure to be able to offer them Premier League football.

Graham Taylor on his page in Wolves’ programme early in 1994-95.

Shearer moved to Blackburn in the summer they were promoted to the elite, 1992, and, like Wallace, became a title winner before shunning Manchester United and moving on to Newcastle.

It is 30 years this month since Taylor resigned as England manager and 28 years next week since time was called on his follow-up reign at Wolves. 

By a strange quirk, Shaw – then working for the national press as a freelance – was one of the journalists waiting outside Molineux on the 1995 afternoon the manager’s exit was confirmed.





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