Peter Taylor recalls the game which won him his first promotion in club management.
Former Gillingham Manager Peter Taylor has said he will never forget the day that his Gillingham side came from 2-1 behind in extra-time to beat Wigan in the 2000 second division play-off Final at Wembley.
Taylor won five promotions in the Football League during his managerial career, but it was with the Gills where he clinched his first. Two of his three substitutes on the day, Steve Butler and Andy Thomson, scored within five minutes of each other as his side battled back to secure victory.
Speaking to the club website ahead of the 20-year anniversary, he said: “As soon as Stoke [the semi-final] was finished we were as positive as anything; we prepared well but we also enjoyed it, and had some fun. Everybody was looking forward to it, and that was a bit more of an advantage with many players having played there a year before.
“I, and all the team, and staff, were really positive and I was really confident. We didn’t look at Wigan and think they were miles better than us. We were confident, everyone was fit, and I had no negative thoughts whatsoever.
“I am still confident at 2-1 down, they only had ten men so I am still thinking we can create enough chances, we changed the shape, and that’s what we carried on doing. When we went 4-3-3 that’s when we created so much and that’s why I was confident there was a long way to go.
“We had good substitutes and they came on to score."
Taylor was asked whether, at 2-2, he had already begun to choose his penalty takers in the event a shootout was needed.
He said: “No. We probably had it planned and might have looked at other players but I never thought about that. As much as people would have seen my face when we scored, I was happy but I wasn’t terribly surprised as I thought we had another goal in us. Every now and again I have watched it; we got so many good deliveries from the left side in Junior Lewis and Ty Gooden; they were crossing for fun and they both set up goals.
“That’s where we were hurting them, and with them only having ten men there isn’t much they could do so I thought there was another goal in us.”
On clinching victory Peter was quick to console the opposition bench, something he felt was correct given the circumstances.
He added: “It was John’s last game [John Benson – Wigan Manager] and that’s what I do. As much as I love winning and the glory, I always look at the opposition and feel a bit sorry for them. I am just respectful and I did something for Sky Sports in an U21’s tour with Roberto Martinez and he said to me `you don’t realise how much our team appreciated you coming to see us. `
“I didn’t do it for that reason, but it was nice to hear. There is a time and place to celebrate; I saw my family in the evening and we enjoyed some champagne but I wouldn’t want to celebrate too strongly in front of the opposition manager who has just got beat.
“Of course you celebrate, but you don’t run in front and celebrate towards the opposing bench. It doesn’t mean I am right, it’s just how I am.”
As for the celebrations, the former England U21’s Manager said they were memories he will always look back on with immense pride.
He added: “The positive thing about Gillingham is that it was the year after they had got beat in the play-offs and everyone tells you that there is more chance of that side being relegated than promoted, so to return there and do it the way we did, and one of the last play-off games at the Old Wembley, bearing in mind the way we performed and with so many fans there, and as it was my first promotion, I will never forget it in a million years.
“To return to pre-season after losing to Man City is tough, you have to get going again and the boys were magnificent. I always look at the recruitment; people say it’s always more difficult following a good manager, which it is, but nine times out of ten those managers have recruited better than what a bad manager might have done!
“If you look after the group you are taking over, you have more chance.
“When you take over a good situation it doesn’t need many changes. In this case, and with Brighton [Peter won promotion there in 2002], it just needed a few adjustments and I learnt that. The players we added gave us a bit extra which was good!”