Everyone at Leisure Leagues was shocked a little while ago when we learnt of the passing of former England Manager Graham Taylor.
The legendary boss was universally regarded as one of the most finest people in the game and tributes are already flying in.
After a career spent in the lower leagues for Grimsby and Lincoln, it was as a Manager where he truly excelled.
Taking over as boss of Lincoln, he was just 28 when he was handed the reins at Sincil Bank (making him the youngest manager in the league at the time) in 1974, and just four years later broke all the records as he led them to the fourth division title.
A year later he moved to Watford and began a decade as the boss at Vicarage Road. With Taylor at the helm and Elton John as Chairman, he took the Hertfordshire side from the old fourth division to the first in just five seasons, as well as to the FA Cup final and second place in what would now be the Premier League.
Exciting players like Luther Blissett and John Barnes played for England and were sold to glamorous clubs (with Barnes becoming the first black player that Liverpool signed) and in 1987, Taylor himself left.
He headed for Aston Villa, and was tasked with rebuilding the famous old club following their relegation to the second tier. He did more than that, he led them back at the first attempt, and after keeping them up, they finished second in 1990, when England came calling.
Taylor wasn’t a massive success as the boss of the National Team, with England not qualifying for the World Cup in 1994, and was subjected to horrendous abuse at the hands of tabloids – which many thought went far beyond what was acceptable and there was a general feeling of support for him at the time.
Eager to rebuild his reputation, he went to Wolves, then made returns to former clubs Watford (as General Manager) and Villa as boss, before retiring in 2003.
Since then he has been a regular pundit on radio, as well as a tireless supporter of charities such as British Legion, cycling to Paris to aid the Poppy Appeal.
He has died today at the age of 72, and as well as the tributes to his astonishing abilities as a football manager, many have commented on his even greater qualities as a man and one of the few greats who can transcend club boundaries to become universally liked – rather like the man he succeeded as England boss Sir Bobby Robson.
This afternoon, on Twitter BBC Football Correspondent Phil McNulty said this: “You couldn’t have met a nicer or more genuine man.” And isn’t that the way we would all like to be remembered?
Everyone at Leisure Leagues would like to extend our sincere condolences to his family at this tragic time.
Andy ThorleyBack to Blog