MARTIN SAMUEL: Taylor's out of date but he will be hard to follow

MARTIN SAMUEL: Gordon Taylor’s out of date but he will be a hard act to follow… the outbound PFA chief carried his members and always operated from a position of strength, but who will Maheta Molango carry?

  • Right now, it may seem strange to argue that Gordon Taylor will be missed
  • Taylor was initially numb to the child sex abuse scandal and the dementia crisis
  • It makes it so hard to forgive as he was the most influential executive in the game
  • No one, except possibly Richard Scudamore, carried his constituency like Taylor
  • It will be a hard act to follow Maheta Molango – who will he carry with him?

In this, of all weeks, it may seem strange to argue that Gordon Taylor could be missed. He was, after all, alone among football’s administrators in occupying his existing position when the Dispatches documentary, Soccer’s Foul Play, aired in 1997.

Others, such as Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham, have been left to apologise for the failures of previous regimes, but Taylor had been at the helm of the Professional Footballers Association close on 20 years when journalist Deborah Davies highlighted the crimes of Barry Bennell, and suggested predators were stalking football. ‘I wasn’t aware of any serious commitment by Taylor to investigate,’ Davies recalled recently.

He tried to make amends after Andy Woodward went public about Bennell in 2016, provoking a disturbing swathe of revelations and shared experiences, but by then Taylor was another 20 years behind the curve. How could the PFA miss a man like that?

Gordon Taylor will step down later this year as PFA chief – a role he has held since 1981

Here’s how. What made Taylor’s initial numbness to the abuse scandal — and later to the problems of dementia among former footballers — so hard to forgive is that he was for many years the most influential executive in the game. With the possible exception of Richard Scudamore at the peak of his powers within the Premier League, nobody carried his constituency quite like Taylor.

He had the power to say yes, or no, in an instant, and then make the requisite calls to bend the room to his will. Garth Crooks, who has served many charities and foundations, would say that he could get an answer on funding in one conversation with Scudamore and by the following morning the wider consensus was delivered. Taylor the same.

The EFL clubs spent years plotting a complex salary cap structure, which Taylor promptly killed in his last significant act as PFA chief executive. It doesn’t matter whether it was right or wrong — Taylor carries his members and always operated from a position of strength.

Who will Maheta Molango, Taylor’s successor, carry with him, given his last meaningful act in English football was a 56-minute appearance for Grays Athletic versus Cambridge United in a Conference fixture on October 10, 2007? This is a hard act to follow.

Molango was born in Switzerland and worked, most recently, for Real Mallorca. That will not matter to the membership, many of whom are also strangers here. He is a BAME candidate in an industry in which many people of colour feel under-represented in executive roles. That is certainly a positive.

Taylor failed to act fast enough over the crimes of Barry Bennell (pictured) when they were highlighted to the PFA

But the days when the PFA chief executive knew what everybody thought on every subject, and how to make that work for his organisation, are over. Molango either has to be a political genius, an expert delegator, or the quickest learner.

Maybe he is all three. Yet at Mallorca there were rumours of a less than collegiate approach, which is hardly ideal when trying to win consensus.

The existence of an article advocating linking player salaries to club income and therefore success may also put Molango at odds with previous PFA thinking. Taylor did not support compromise on salaries even when clubs were fearing financial oblivion at the start of the pandemic. He was, at heart, a union man. Molango’s last role was management.

Savannah were the recruitment company used to compile the PFA shortlist and, again, they might be the best in the business. However, Egon Zehnder also have a fine reputation in this field, and interviewing for the role as chair of the FA, one of their consultants asked a candidate what he would be bringing to ‘the UKFA’.

The four-person panel who will ratify the PFA’s appointment includes the head of marketing for TikTok, the managing director of Amazon Web Services and a former world karate champion. No doubt they are completely across what happens if Derby cannot pay their wage bill next month, though.

Of course, Taylor was immersed in all aspects of the professional English game since first kicking a ball for Bolton in 1962 and that did not make him any more attuned to concussion or safeguarding issues, it did not stop Bury going to the wall, it did not address wealth distribution between the Premier League and the competitions below.

Maheta Molango is surprisingly set to take over from Taylor as chief executive of the PFA

This is not to say Taylor had his finger on the pulse. By the end he was simply out of date on too many issues. Yet he knew people, and they knew him.

They knew the clout he carried, the numbers he commanded. Those same people will be looking at Molango, and planning a first test. Another salary cap debate, perhaps, or that smart idea of tying wages to return.

He is going to have to hit the ground running. And he will need to be better at that than he was at Grays, too. 

AMAD’S TRAFFICKING STORY SHOULD BE A WARNING TO FOOTBALL

If the Football Association wish to know where to start with their newest safeguarding measures, they could investigate a story with a mercifully happy ending. 

Amad Diallo is a Manchester United player now and will probably end up a rich one. His services may yet cost the club a £37million fee to Serie A side Atalanta. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sees him as the club’s future on the right wing and Diallo scored on only his third appearance, against AC Milan in the Europa League. 

On some websites, however, Diallo is still listed as Amad Traore. That was the name under which he entered Italy before he was even a teenager, with a gang of imposters pretending to be his parents and wider family. 

Hamed Mamadou Traore, the founder of his team in Abidjan, capital of Ivory Coast, was ‘dad’. His wife, Marina Edwige Teher, played ‘mum’. Her sister Larissa Ghislaine Teher and Larissa’s husband Zadi Gildas Abou claimed to be parents of Diallo’s ‘cousins’ — the other young boys who were trafficked with him. Bly Blaise Tehe, married to an Italian citizen, also had a fake ‘son’. 

Amad Diallo is still listed as Amad Traore – the name under which he entered Italy

They entered under Italy’s family unification programme. DNA tests have proved the group are unrelated, and the adult organisers await trial, with a possible punishment of 15 years in prison. Diallo, meanwhile — he dropped the Traore alias on his 18th birthday — thrived.

He was spotted by Atalanta playing for Boca Barco, a regional youth team in Emilia-Romagna, and shot through their age-group ranks, making his senior debut at 16. Hamed Junior Traore, his brother, is also in Serie A with Sassuolo, on loan from Empoli. Diallo’s ‘mum’ remains employed by Atalanta. 

The trip was a success, but that doesn’t make it right. It is estimated 15,000 young Africans are trafficked to Europe each year, promised trials and fortune. Shady agents with links to organised crime charge families for the passage, only to abandon the children at the other end.

And if football is interested in where the next Barry Bennell could operate, it is there, in the unregulated shadows. Now get to work.

DON’T GET COMFY JUST YET, THOMAS 

Thomas Tuchel’s 13 games unbeaten are the best start by any manager in Chelsea’s history.

He beats the record of 12 set by Luiz Felipe Scolari in 2008. Scolari’s run ended on October 26, and on February 9, he was sacked. Those 12 games represent precisely one third of his Chelsea career, which lasted 36 games.

The signs look great for Tuchel but, remember, it’s Chelsea. Anything can happen. 

KANE SET FOR SAN MARINO? HE NEEDS A BREAK

Jose Mourinho is correct. There is no way Harry Kane should be anywhere near England’s match with San Marino next week. The entire team, in fact, should be selected based on the need for rest, and international opportunities for fringe players. 

This is far from a tough group — particularly if Poland arrive in London without Robert Lewandowski — and running up a goal difference of +30 should not make or break qualifying.

Leave Kane out, rest every senior player who needs it. There are bigger matches to be played this year and whatever team Gareth Southgate fields should cope.

Harry Kane should be nowhere near England’s match with San Marino next week

DROPPING TRENT IS SHORT-SIGHTED 

When Gareth Southgate listed his options it was easy to see the logic. He has four right backs — Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Reece James and Trent Alexander-Arnold — and placing that quartet in order of form this season, the Liverpool man would come last. He might even be fifth if Southgate recognised Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s talents.

Even so, leaving him out of the England squad seems a contrary move. Terry Venables, the international manager Southgate seems most influenced by, always said it should be as hard to get out of the England team as it was to get in it. He was not in favour of allowing the vagaries of club form to dictate international selection. 

That way, England had 21 managers. Alexander-Arnold has not been at his best for Liverpool this season, but he was injured in November meaning his last international was 79 minutes of the 2-1 win over Belgium in October. Belgium were better on the day but England were defensively resilient. The deflected goal that won the game was started by Alexander-Arnold’s lovely crossfield pass. 

Was he really so bad that he hasn’t even been called on to train now, for Southgate to just have a look at him, keep his spirits up? If there is stuff he is no longer doing, why not get him in, talk about it, show where he is going wrong and explain why he isn’t in the team?

There is a suggestion Alexander-Arnold pulled a face when substituted against Belgium. Surely Southgate isn’t that thin-skinned? However many right backs are forming a line, he is too good a player for a cold war.

Gareth Southgate has been short-sighted in leaving Trent Alexander-Arnold out of his squad 

MORRIS MYSTERY 

Mel Morris is estimated to be worth £515million, making him the 268th richest individual in Britain. He must be very good at business.

How come, then, he was the last person to work out that if a Sheik from Abu Dhabi still hasn’t rustled up the money more than four months after making the deal, it won’t be happening? Why he even entertained Derventio Holdings after the debacle at Newcastle is of equal mystery.

MARACANA HAS ETERNAL APPEAL

There is a backlash in Brazil over the proposal to rename the Maracana stadium after Pele. Critics believe this cuts across the cherished history of the arena, with much of its uniqueness already lost in the World Cup renovation.

Pele also has a stadium named in his honour, in Maceio, home to two Serie B teams. Admittedly, he has no real connection there, unlike the Maracana, where he scored both his 1,000th goal and, arguably, his greatest — for Santos against Fluminense in 1961. There is even a plaque commemorating that.

Yet again, there is dispute. Pele spent most of his career with Santos, a club whose home is more than 300 miles away from Rio de Janeiro. If Santos’ Estadio Urbano Caldeira — more familiarly known as Vila Belmiro after its location — is not named in his honour, why mess with the Maracana?

There is backlash in Brazil over the proposal to rename the Maracana stadium after Pele

That is the nub of it. The Maracana is a pet name, too. The home of Brazilian football is in fact Estadio Jornalista Mario Filho, after the newspaper man and writer who championed its construction.

Mario Filho was a huge influence on modern Brazil. He sponsored the first samba school parade, wrote of football as meaningfully as art — and when a national stadium was required for the 1950 World Cup final, campaigned for it to be in the heart of the city. It was built in a region known as Maracana, and was named in Filho’s honour after his death in 1966.

Yet the Maracana it remains. And the Maracana it will stay, even if the politicians get their way over Pele. There are names that no rights sale or populist whims can erase and fans will always thrill to their mention. The Maracana is one; Wembley another.

WADA’S RUSSIAN SANCTIONS SHOT TO PIECES 

As part of WADA’s sanctions against Russia, they instructed all sporting federations to remove major events due to take place in the country. They then added a coda: ‘unless it is legally or practically impossible to do so’. A qualifying statement that rendered previous direction useless.

The International Shooting Sport Federation are the latest to inform WADA that it would be legally or practically impossible to move their World Championships from the Foxlodge complex in Ignatovo, north of Moscow. This despite the event being held between August 13 and 30, 2022 — currently a 512-day lead time.

The ISSF (president Vladimir Lisin) told WADA they would have to compensate Foxlodge (owner Vladimir Lisin) in the event of cancellation, and also feared legal action from the Shooting Union of Russia (president from 2002 to 2020 and current head of the board of trustees, Vladimir Lisin).

Maybe the richest man in Russia, with a fortune estimated by Forbes at £17.5billion, could be persuaded to mediate between these divided parties. His name? Vladimir Lisin.




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