When the Football Association was looking for a short-term stand-in to lead the Three Lions in the autumn of 2000, Peter Taylor was the man who ticked all the right boxes.
While Sir Bobby Robson had been the first-choice, Taylor’s CV was a good fit – not only had he completed a highly-distinguished stint in charge of the under-21s, losing just one match in three years, he was also enjoying a honeymoon period in his first Premier League assignment with Leicester.
On this day 20 years ago he was handed the keys to the national side for a friendly against Italy, bridging the reigns of Kevin Keegan and Sven-Goran Eriksson.
That game would take place in Turin the following month with Taylor assisted by future England boss Steve McClaren.
Inspired by his time with the next generation of Three Lions stars he focused on youth, naming a relatively-callow XI which had Gary Neville and a certain Gareth Southgate as its most experienced campaigners.
Most striking was his decision to hand the captain’s armband to a 25-year-old David Beckham, just two years after the nadir of his World Cup red card against Argentina. That decision would prove to be a wise one, with the midfielder going on to become a distinguished skipper for his country during a glittering career.
The final result did not go in Taylor’s – or Beckham’s – favour, with a wonderful Gennaro Gattuso strike settling a 1-0 win at Stadio delle Alpi, but the starting pistol had been fired on a new generation of players that would form the backbone of Eriksson’s tenure.
Taylor stayed on to assist Eriksson for a short period but his coaching career had already peaked. He has travelled far and wide since – from Bradford to Bahrain – and twice returned to the FA for further stints with the under-21s and under-20s.
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