Will Ronald Koeman come back to haunt England 31 years after 'Do I not like that' controversy?

Ronald Koeman leaves David Platt sprawling after tugging his arm in Rotterdam to spark a dramatic sequence of eventsRonald Koeman leaves David Platt sprawling after tugging his arm in Rotterdam to spark a dramatic sequence of events
Ronald Koeman leaves David Platt sprawling after tugging his arm in Rotterdam to spark a dramatic sequence of events
England face the Netherlands in Dortmund on Wednesday with the sight of one man on the sidelines sparking memories – and unease

It was an ultimate expression of pathos. Graham Taylor padding around his back garden while prodding a ball every so often with his foot. He

was by now the erstwhile manager of England and every game that was being played at the World Cup in America 30 years ago this summer was causing him pain.

And yet he watched them all. At home. Alone. “I couldn’t help thinking I should have been out there in the United States,” he notes in his autobiography, In His Own Words, written in conjunction with Lionel Birnie. “I’d watch a game, wondering if this was the group England would have been in had we made it.”

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After the final whistle blew for each game, he’d take a football onto the back lawn, “and just kick it about gently for ten or 15 minutes”. He knows he should have taken Rita, his wife, away on holiday. The West Indies, maybe Australia. Somewhere far enough away to avoid people repeating a couple of catch phrases at him, ad nauseum. “Do I not like that” and “Can we not knock it?” These odd phrases have since become part of football's lexicon.

England manager Graham Taylor has words with a FIFA official after Netherlands defender Ron Koeman was not sent off in a crunch World Cup qualifier in 1993 Credit: Shaun Botterill/ALLSPORTEngland manager Graham Taylor has words with a FIFA official after Netherlands defender Ron Koeman was not sent off in a crunch World Cup qualifier in 1993 Credit: Shaun Botterill/ALLSPORT
England manager Graham Taylor has words with a FIFA official after Netherlands defender Ron Koeman was not sent off in a crunch World Cup qualifier in 1993 Credit: Shaun Botterill/ALLSPORT

Fly-on-the-wall documentary An Impossible Job had aired at the start of 1994. Directed by a Scotsman, Ken McGill, Taylor had no gripes about the content, even if it had exposed him to such a level of ridicule. He wanted it to be an unvarnished insight into what it took to be the manager of England or perhaps any national side where expectation weighs so heavily on the incumbent’s shoulders. It was all that and more.

Taylor could have few complaints – he had authorised the documentary, after all. Perhaps surprisingly given the level of control now, the English FA had also agreed. But Lawrie McMenemy, Taylor’s assistant, hadn’t, hence why he felt less compunction to tolerate a camera being thrust in his face. "A (insert swear word) Scotsman in the England changing room, I never thought I'd see the day!" he growled at McGill following a USA ‘94 qualifier against Poland. And this was after a 3-0 win.

England still needed to avoid defeat in their fixture against the Netherlands in Rotterdam to leave their hopes of reaching the finals intact. Home draws against Norway and the Dutch had already inflicted enormous damage. What proved the denouement arrived in October 1993. And McGill was there with his camera although the Dutch authorities were not keen on permitting this non-accredited broadcast unit into the stadium. Taylor suggested putting England tracksuits on McGill and his two colleagues, pretend they were part of the squad. “Being two Scotsmen and an Irishman, we drew the line at putting two tracksuits on!” McGill has since recalled.

In the end, they slipped beyond the stadium security, camera equipment smuggled into physio Fred Street’s kit bag, and the cameras rolled in unforgiving testimony to a night when Taylor knew there was no way back, for either him or the team.

Football fate can hinge on one refereeing decision. Even with VAR, that is still the case - just ask Steve Clarke, who is presumably sitting in rural Berkshire still smarting over the non-award of a penalty to Scotland against Hungary just over a fortnight ago.

It wasn’t a penalty that Taylor had expected to get against the Netherlands as Ronald Koeman tangled with David Platt as the England midfielder prepared to pull the trigger, with the score still goalless. He accepted the contact from Koeman might have started outside the area even if Platt was left sprawling inside the box after he latched onto Andy Sinton’s rather hopeful-looking looped ball from wide on the right.

German referee Karl-Josef Assenmacher initially indicated a spot-kick but changed his mind on the say-so of the nearside linesman and awarded a a free-kick just outside the box. Tony Dorigo’s effort was blocked. “By a Dutch player who was very quick to break out of the wall, but the referee said nothing and play went on,” recalls Taylor. But that was not his chief gripe.

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Koeman not being sent off left him incandescent. New Fifa directives with regards to professional fouls advised that red cards should be shown in such scenarios. That Koeman was only booked was of huge significance. Shortly afterwards, the defender clipped home a free-kick that set the Netherlands on their way to a 2-0 win.

To add salt to the wounds, it was from the retaken kick after Paul Ince was adjudged to have broken too quickly from the wall when charging the ball down. “I feel tremendous sympathy for Graham Taylor, I must say,” comments ITV commentator Brian Moore. Talk about box-to-box. It’s a genuinely riveting two or three minutes of action when reviewed again now, shaping the destinies of all those involved. Of course, Taylor’s life was altered most dramatically.

England were required to beat San Marino in their last match by seven goals and hope the Netherlands lost to Poland, and neither thing happened. England won 7-1, memorably conceding from kick-off. The Netherlands beat Poland 3-1.

Taylor offered his resignation six days later already knowing it would be accepted. He was only 49. He feared it might be the end of his career. It wasn’t, of course. Just as it won’t be the end of the 53-year-old Gareth Southgate’s career if England lose to the Netherlands on Wednesday night in Dortmund in their Euro 2024 last four meeting, although it will surely spell the end of his time as England manager.

Despite some underwhelming performances, Southgate has more credit in the bank after leading his side to another semi-final. Still, the sight of Koeman standing on the sidelines will surely provoke some unease for supporters of a certain age.

Taylor, who died seven years ago, certainly continued to feel spooked by the Dutchman, who went on to manage Everton and Southampton in England. “I don’t have any ill-will towards Koeman, although I’ve not rushed to watch one of his sides since he’s become a manager in the Premier League,” he later admitted.

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