Taylor-made training for Under-21s

Peter Taylor faces an uncertain future as the England Under-21 boss and if tonight is his last game in charge he is looking to finish as he started - with a win over Moldova.

By Derek Davis

Peter Taylor faces an uncertain future as the England Under-21 boss and if tonight is his last game in charge he is looking to finish as he started - with a win over Moldova. EADT football writer Derek Davis watched the England training session ahead of tonight's game at Portman Road and discovered a fun side to the usually serious club and country manager.

SUCCESS brings glittering rewards for the modern-day footballer but failure, or a perceived slip in standards, is clearly harshly punished by England Under-21 coach Peter Taylor.

As Micah Richards, the young Manchester City defender, found out at their Five Lakes training ground on a grey day in deepest rural Essex yesterday.

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As part of the losing team in a practice game Richards was voted, rather randomly, to face, or more accurately, turn his back on the winning 'white-tops' while they lined up in the 'D' and half-volleyed shots at his backside.

Fortunately for Richards, but rather worryingly for England fans, they all missed and that dismal failure meant they were forced onto the goal-line and used as cannon-fire by the vengeful mob in bibs.

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All good fun and a light-hearted end to a brisk training session, in which Darren Ambrose and Theo Walcott ensured victory for the 'white-tops'.

Along with his assistant Steve Tilson (the Southend manager), an arrangement that, like Taylor's tenure as part-time boss, runs on a game-to-game basis, the long-time England boss organised his side to meet Moldova at Portman Road in the first of possibly three European qualifying matches.

That it could be his last game in charge does not faze Taylor, who has taken Crystal Palace to the top of the Championship, albeit still very early in the season.

Taylor said: “Steve (McClaren) wants a full-time manager and I can very well understand that. I have no part in the scouting of players and only take control when we meet up for matches. He wants someone to take complete charge and I don't have a problem with that at all. I enjoy the job, it does not affect my work at Crystal Palace, and will continue on a game-to-game basis until told otherwise.”

Ironically Moldova were the opponents when Taylor first took charge of the Under-21s 10 years ago, and England won that one.

Taylor's main concern is that the Premiership players in his squad have not had any competitive football for a while - not that is showed in training.

Taylor said: “We had a very lively first training session and I'm pleased with the attitude and spirit. Usually it takes a while for them to liven up and they start a bit quite but they were not like that, they got stuck in straight away.

“The lads looked sharp, especially those from Championship clubs because they have three games already. The Premiership players have not started their season yet and will be desperate to play a competitive game.”

The main focus of interest after Darren Ambrose returning to his first club, and Darren Bent's elevation to the senior squad, was on 17-year-old Theo Walcott, who showed his pace and ability yet looked a boy among men on the training ground.

Although Taylor would not be drawn on Sven Goran Eriksson's World Cup squad selection, he did admit to being surprised that Darren Bent was not in Germany and added he was impressed with aspects of Walcott's game - having seen him for the first time.

He said: “Theo looked very lively. He is obviously a talented player with fantastic pace and seems like a sensible boy too.”

Taylor was deprived of Bent, who has scored nine goals in 14 games for the Under-21s, but used him as motivation for the other aspiring England internationals.

He said: “I have told the players that Steve McClaren has started with a clean sheet of paper and everyone will get a chance. That is the same here and seeing players like Darren Bent step up is great incentive for everyone.”

England squad: Alnwick (Sunderland), Camp (Derby), Carson (Liverpool), Baines (Wigan), Davies (WBA), A Ferdinand (West Ham), Hoyte (Arsenal), Richards, Onuoha (Man City), A Taylor (Middlesbrough), S Taylor (Newcastle), Ambrose (Charlton), Bentley (Blackburn), Huddlestone (Spurs), Milner (Newcastle), Reo-Coker (West Ham), Routledge (Spurs), Soares, Watson (Palace), Bent (Charlton), Jerome (Birmingham City), Nugent (Preston) and Walcott (Arsenal).

TURNSTILES are open at Portman Road tonight for spectators to pay on the night.

Nine-year-old Adam Frost from Ipswich and 10-year-old Lewis Roberts were the lucky winners of the EADT competition to be mascots for tonight's game and lead the teams out with the respective captains.

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