It has always surprised me why sporting organizations, especially football ones, believe that talented players make talented managers. In April 1978 when Ken Taylor was appointed Nottinghamshire’s first manager, he had had 30 years experience as a manager, plus six years as an officer controlling troops, during the Second World War, exceptionally Taylor had endured six years as a lowly professional cricketer, so his qualification as a county cricket manager verged on the unique.
The appointment happened almost by accident anyway. Phil Carling was appointed as Notts first Chief Executive in 1978 and announced that it wasn’t his job to hire and fire players. Ken Taylor, who worked fulltime for the East Midlands Electricity Board (EMEB), was Chairman of the county’s cricket committee, but was embarrassed at having to hire and fire players, when he had little time to really study their foibles. So the compromise was to persuade Taylor, aged 61, to retire as a EMEB Manager and switch to managing Notts’ cricketing professionals. At that time only one other county, Kent, employed a manager, but it was the success Taylor brought to Notts that quickly resulted in the other counties following suit.
Aside from his unprecedented experience in managementship, Taylor’s age gave him the advantage of being old enough to be the father of all 21 of the playing staff and being an intelligent father he treated all his ‘sons’ equal – no favouritism (another failure among new managers plucked straight from the field of play).
Taylor spent 12 months studying his new sons before any serious hiring and firing was contemplated. He then spied the teams weakness and acquired two so-called has-beens from other counties – Eddie Hemmings and Mike Bore – the shrewdness of his judgment was demonstrated when both remained at Trent Bridge more than ten years, though both were 30+ on arrival.
Two years later Taylor’s team won the County Championship – the first time in 52 years that Notts had acquired a Trophy. I may be incorrect but I don’t believe that in Taylor’s time as manager, a single player took umbrage and left Trent Bridge. On the occasions when a regular player was dropped from the First Eleven, Taylor invariably took the man aside and explained why. When, inevitably, a young player after a season or two failed to make the grade, again Taylor gave his reasons to the unfortunate. 1987 was Taylor’s greatest triumph, Notts winning the Double – the Championship and the major One Day Trophy in the same summer. He retired, aged 74, in 1990. In 1997 he was elected the County’s President, the first former professional player to receive the honour (Taylor played for Warwickshire 1939, 1946-49).
Footballing fans are constantly proclaimed So-and-so was football’s greatest manager. When Taylor died in April 2002, I don’t recall any obituaries labelling Taylor as cricket’s greatest manager, but they should have done so, though he always sang the praises of Les Ames, who managed Kent for 18 years.