May 9 2012
Former England manager Graham Taylor believes the Three Lions might do far better than expected at Euro 2012 purely because they have a ready-made excuse for failure.
Few expect England to be competitive in Poland and Ukraine this summer after their shambolic build-up. The February resignation of Fabio Capello was clearly a blow, Roy Hodgson was only appointed as his replacement last week and the team presently have no captain.
Yet, far from dismissing England's hopes, Taylor is more confident. "The players and, to a degree, Roy as well, already have a reason if things don't go well," he said. "When you have that, it is surprising how well you do."
Launching the new Vauxhall youth initiative Football Mash Up in Luton, Taylor added: "There is very little time for the new manager and players to gel and know how each other work. We all know that.
"But if they don't do very well it won't be their fault. It will be the FA's fault, because the FA get blamed for almost everything.
"How can we expect anything? Look at the group we are in. France in the first game, then Sweden, then one of the co-hosts, Ukraine. That is not an easy group."
Taylor is more concerned about the treatment Hodgson will receive.
The 64-year-old was a surprise choice as manager ahead of overwhelming favourite Harry Redknapp, and Taylor knows more than most what damage can be caused by negative headlines, having famously been depicted as a turnip following a Euro 92 defeat to Sweden.
So, whilst he does see some reasons for optimism about Hodgson's reign, the former Watford and Aston Villa chief hopes the new man is not killed before he starts, for no reason other than not being Redknapp.
"There is a small section of people who have already made their minds up about Roy," he said. "Harry was their lad - and he hasn't got the job. I just hope they deal with Roy in a fair way because it can have a significant effect."