By David Richardson
From naming David Beckham as England captain to managing Dagenham and Redbridge, Peter Taylor has done and seen a lot in his career.
It will be 18 years in November since he famously handed Becks the armband for a friendly against Italy in Turin when caretaker of the national side while successor Sven-Goran Eriksson waited in the wings.
Kevin Keegan had been axed after a defeat to Germany in the last game at Old Wembley in the first 2002 World Cup qualifier having failed to navigate England through the group stage at Euro 2000.
Taylor, the Leicester City manager at the time, had been battling relegation from the Conference with Dover just four years earlier.
“When I got the call from The FA asking me to take over, it was the best phone call I’d ever got,” he once said. “I never dreamed it would happen to me, that I would manage England.”
In his one and only game in charge, Taylor turned to youth. The average age of his starting XI that night was 24, paving the way for the next generation of stars to come through. Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Paul Ince and Dennis Wise were all dropped. A certain Gareth Southgate was one of two 30-year-olds included, the other being David James.
Gennaro Gattuso’s solitary wonder goal beat England but the foundations were laid by Taylor which led to three consecutive quarter-finals, a world away from the country’s recent struggles.
And so, 18 years later, Taylor is tasked with rejuvenating Dagenham alongside Terry Harris following five months of turmoil off the field.
“It’s a very different situation for the team and for the club,” said Taylor at his unveiling on Tuesday. “It’s a little bit of a difficult test for everybody. It’s something that I’m really looking forward to.”
The resignation of director Glyn Hopkin in February led to many high-profile names leaving the club as part of
a cost-cutting exercise.
Hopkin led a consortium to purchase 74 per cent of the club in January 2017, but stopped the cash flow in December and later stepped down.
The Daggers had been mixing in the play-offs until they were forced to let Sam Ling, Morgan Ferrier, Corey Whitely and Scott Doe leave.
Manager John Still, the club’s highest earner, left at the end of the season and last week his assistants Darren Currie and Junior Lewis also went through the exit door.
Managing director Steve Thompson has valiantly guided the club through it’s toughest time in recent history to present a budget at the National League AGM yesterday.
“We’ve got to get a lot of players,” added Taylor. “It’s going to be a lower budget but we’re just being realistic on that. We accept that, we know the task ahead, we know what we’ve got to do, we know the type of things we can afford and we’re going to put out the best possible team we can.
“Our aim at the minute is to get enough good players to join us for pre-season. We’re going to have lots of trials to look at the ones that can come in. We’re just looking to produce a decent team for the start of the season.
“What we do know is, at the end of the season, we’ll be a better team than what we are at the start of it. We’ll have had a year’s work with them and then we can push on from there.”
Taylor finished his playing career in Non-League while working as an insurance broker at Standard Life.
He had won four caps for England as a winger, who turned out regularly for Southend, Crystal Palace and then Tottenham in the First Division.
A broken leg at Leyton Orient would cut short his time in the pro game. It was at Dartford where he became player-manager with Harris alongside him.
A four-year spell saw crowds triple with 100 goals scored each season, winning the Southern League title twice.
He would go on to manage Southend and Dover before being recruited by Glenn Hoddle to become England U21 boss in 1996, helping nurture the likes of Gareth Barry, Emile Heskey and Rio Ferdinand.
“I owe a lot to Peter for setting me on the way with England,” said Heskey, who went on to win 62 senior caps.
“He worked so well with the players and developed a great spirit and confidence. He was always entertaining and an hour would pass before you knew what you had been doing.”
Three years later at Gillingham he won promotion to Division One and left to take over at top-flight Leicester. His Foxes led the pack at the start of the season, setting up his England call.
He was sacked in 2001 and subsequently won promotions with Brighton and Hull before brief stints at Crystal Palace, Stevenage, Wycombe and Bradford.
A return to the England Under-20 set-up in 2013 followed a spell as manager of the Bahrain national team before he was named Gillingham boss for a second time.
He was assistant of New Zealand for two years and returned to Gillingham last year as caretaker. Now he’s back in a full-time role.
“I have known this club for a long time. I’ve always had a very good feeling when I’ve been here. I thought one day
I might even work here.”
Dreams do come true…