In the early 1980’s I watched Gordon Taylor at work. He arrived at Boothferry Park, then home to Hull City, like a knight on a white charger, to rescue the club from extinction, writes Vernon Grant. At least that’s how it seemed at the time. As representative of the Professional Footballers’ Association, the trade union leader was there to meet the players and reassure them that he was working hard to guarantee their salaries and their careers.
The club was saved from a near death experience. Taylor turning up at grounds to broker deals became quite commonplace. He seemed to be working hard for his members. That was in his younger days. Before he became an overweight and complacent trade union leader – and the highest paid one.
He now faces a challenge to his authority and there is a clamour for him to be removed from office. I have heard from a few ex footballers who say they received no help from the PFA once they had stopped playing due to injury. They may not have been household names but they had paid their dues and when they needed financial help from their union, they claim Taylor ignored them.
The former Arsenal and England player Paul Merson is, however, only full of praise for Taylor. Merson says:- “People need to think twice before calling on him to go. Six years ago I was diagnosed with skin cancer after doctors found a melanoma on my back and Gordon was really good to me.
“I went up to his office in Manchester to see him and I can’t speak highly enough of how he treated me. The PFA paid for my scans and appointments and treatment, and it was a lot of money. It was more than I could afford at the time. Serious money.
“I judge people by how I find them and I’m really grateful for how he treated me. When I got the all-clear it was a huge relief. These are the kinds of things they do that go unreported. Some people only go to charity dos if they know every camera in the world is going to be there. Not Gordon.
“I can’t speak highly enough of him, and you don’t keep your job for 37 years, like he has, if you’re no good at it. You soon get found out.”
Merson, whose own battle with the booze when he was a player is no secret, went on:- “You don’t always hear about the people Gordon and the union have helped. I was fortunate. They helped me, and there are many others like me too. If they hadn’t, maybe I’d be thinking the same way as the 300 players and ex-pros who wrote that open letter calling for him to leave his job as chief executive.
“But 300 is not a massive number when you consider how many members the PFA has, and it does make you wonder how many members really are against him. Three hundred is not a lot when you really look at it and I don’t think all of them really understand what the PFA does sometimes. They help an awful lot of people.
“People point the finger at his £2m salary and I do think that is ridiculous. That kind of criticism is justified and that is probably what people most have the hump about. But Gordon Taylor has been on good money for a long, long time, and it’s not his fault. If that’s the biggest problem people have, they could have forced him out a long time ago.
“The one thing I would say is that, at 73, Gordon is not getting any younger and the game has evolved a lot since he started in the job. In my day most players would struggle when they ended their careers and some of them would go bankrupt after they’d finished. But we weren’t on great money like players are nowadays and we had less of a voice and had less help available.
“I’m sure Gordon understands that, but maybe the answer is for a younger man to come in who can relate better to today’s players. It would be a mistake to get rid of someone with Gordon’s experience, though. Maybe he could mentor a successor or play some sort of advisory role alongside someone else.
“I’d be sad to see Gordon go. He should certainly be given the chance to defend himself. He’s earned the right.”
Coming soon: Gordon Taylor- the case against.