_ Turnip for the book
Football can be a cruel mistress as many a manager has discovered. A new documentary sheds light on the despairing last days of England boss Graham Taylor. Tom Lappin picks up the pieces.
When Graham Taylor sits down for Sunday lunch nowadays, woe betide his wife Rita if she dishes up turnips. Or even swedes. The last two years have seen the ex-manager of England and his hapless (and hopeless) team characterised as most members of the tuber genus. You‘d imagine that might have become a source of some irritation after a while.
You can ﬁnd out for yourself in a revealing and occasionally harrowing Cutting Edge documentary, Graham Taylor — An Impossible Job, made for Channel 4 by Chrysalis Television. The cameras followed the England manager from the outset of the World Cup qualifying campaign, with a gradual tightening of focus as things began to go awry.
‘lt’s a bit like a nature ﬁlm. You can’tjust go in there and start throwing your weight about,‘ explains Scottish ﬁlmmaker Ken McGill, whose previous work included a proﬁle of Paul Gascoigne. 'lt kind of evolved. The really good stuff started about ﬁve games into the campaign, that was always going to
. be when the ﬁlm was going to get interesting.’
Taylor‘s original motive for taking part in the ﬁlm was to give the viewing public an idea ofjust what the England manager’s job entailed. ‘He thought it would be a good thing for people to see exactly how much there was to it, and how brutal it could be,’ says McGill. ‘He’d seen the Gascoigne ﬁlm l’d made and thought i could probably help him get that across.‘
As it turned out, the ﬁlm took on a completely
. different ﬂavour, becoming a record of a genial,
ordinary man under intense pressure and media scrutiny. ‘He’s an absolute gentleman.’ says McGill. ‘l can‘t stress enough what a nice man he is. And he‘s a very brave man. and keeps the pressure to
himself and doesn’t moan about it. l’m not saying he’s a great manager, but I am striving to show he‘s a decent guy, and ask whether it‘s really fair to be so brutally harsh about an individual who’s just trying to do his best for his country.’
As the campaign progressed, Taylor was miked up to record his reactions at critical moments, although McGill tried to ensure the ﬁlming didn’t impinge too closely on events. ‘ln that situation you want to be invisible. You don’t want him to be aware of you too much. it‘s important not to impose yourself on a situation. You can‘t go up to him in the middle of a game and start ﬁddling with the radio mike.‘
The match sequences are ‘dynamite’, according to McGill, although the everyday snippets in training or in the ofﬁce can be as revealing. As the press abuse intensiﬁed McGill was surprised at the resilience and dignity of Taylor. ‘To you or me that would be devastating, but he just took it on the chin. He still has his self-respect and that’s a strong part of the ﬁlm. He gets annoyed with the press at the end. You think “Christ man why didn’t you have a go at them earlier?”, but most of the time he’s all sweetness and light.‘
Apart that is from a few dozen choice expletives, understandable in the circumstances and left in the edit for the ﬁrst screening. ‘lt will be raw,‘ says McGill, ‘and in fact the whole ﬁlm will be like nothing you‘ve ever seen before. When you see it, you’ll think “Jesus how do you follow this?" '
Sometimes the swearing isn‘t enough though. in the ﬁnal game of the campaign, as San Marino score after nine seconds, Taylor’s only reaction was a despairing slump. ‘He said nothing,‘ says McGill. ‘His head just went down. i could have elaborated it a bit, but i think the reality was better than any cheating. He just went down. What can you do?’
_ Cutting Edge: Graham Taylor — An Impossible Job is
on Channel 4 on Monday I 7 January at 9pm.
_ Naked dreamers
Peculiar British institutions are the stuii oi documentary-makers’ dremns. In iact so numerous are the teams oi unobtrusive chroniclers with cameras recording our national iolbles that there is a serious danger oi TV running short on those quirky eccentricltles that speak volumes about this island race.
Cynics might suggest that the barrel- scraplng begins with channel 4’s Short Stories : headers’ Wives, but there’s it
There’s a sadness to seine oi the
shows it’s not only the husbands who
; couples’ narrow aspirations and an
i undeniable sordidness about the way 'i they are exploited, but sometimes the ; naive enthusiasm can be lniectlous.
} Liz at Essex is recently divorced after } nineteen unhappy years oi marriage.
: Tragic as it may sound, Beaders’
l Wives ior her represents a new and
._ 3 exciting avenue to explore. ‘The I postman told me about headers
' Wives,’ she says, ‘and I decided to ; give it a whirl. I’ve had the postman i take pictures, the plumber and a : bouncer, but they always stay on the other side oi the camera.’
0n the other side oi the camera we l iind husbands like Gordon. lie took - 2000 candid pictures oi his previous ; wiie beiore getting divorced, but has
respectiul lack oi nudge-nudge wink- wlnklng In this irank and non- iudgemental report on the phenomenon oi photographing your wiie or glrlirlend in soit porn poses and sending the shots in ior publication (and the subsequent delectation oi a nation oi iurtlve
voyeurs). L The illm iollows a magazine’s
attempt to iind the Reader’s Wiie at 1993, with a prize oi £1500 at stake (most oi the participants receive
around £20 ior “loll published eiiorts). T
The cameras linger in the background as suburban couples take to their back-gardens seeking that elusive winning picture.
- E been rather more circumspect with his Letting it all hang out let the readers. . about three rolls oi iilm. “She’s young ; and pretty and I’m proud oi her,’ he
‘ says. ‘li you had a new car you’d show
new wiie Gaynor, restricting himseli to
that oil, be proud oi it - it’s the same with a wiie, I’m proud oi that.’ The idea oi showing oii your wiie as
j an attractive commodity has plenty oi l uneasy political subtexts, but the iilm
have a warped perspective on what ' they’re doing. Kate oi ilertiordshire sees Beaders’ Wives as an opportunity to regain her sell-conﬁdence after a car accident two years ago. She believed it semi-naked pictures taken by her boytriend received the endorsement oi publication she could ieel beautiful again. More disturbingly, Lydia oi Cheshire was raped at the age oi iiiteen, and believes her numerous appearances in the Readers’ Wives pages will stop men going out and raping other women.
Dubious lustiilcations aside, it’s an aiiectlonate illm, provocative and occasionally depressing, showing the illpslde oi saucy seaside-postcard Britain. Erotic it ain’t, although Bordon would have us believe there’s something lneiiably exciting about the sight oi everyday, attainable women with nothing on. Ills other hobbies are birdwatchlng and cricket. (Tom Lappin)
Short Stories: Beaders’ Wives is on clmnneldonSaturdayISJnnnaryat 10pm.
60 The List I4—27 January 1994