Ferguson, Barnes, Lineker lead tributes to Taylor

Date published: Friday 13th January 2017 8:57 - Matthew Stead

Sir Alex Ferguson described Graham Taylor as “approachable, open and honest” as football came together to remember the former England manager following his death at the age of 72.

Taylor, who is thought to have suffered a heart attack, will be best remembered for his spell in charge of England from 1990-93 and successful stints with Watford and Aston Villa.

Confirming his death, a family statement released on Thursday read: “With the greatest sadness, we have to announce that Graham passed away at his home early this morning of a suspected heart attack. The family are devastated by this sudden and totally unexpected loss.”

EFL clubs will stage a minute’s applause ahead of all fixtures this weekend as a mark of respect, while Watford will also hold a one-minute applause prior to their Premier League clash against Middlesbrough at Vicarage Road. The Hornets will also wear black armbands for Saturday’s fixture.

Former Manchester United manager Ferguson was one of many high-profile figures to pay tribute to Taylor.

He told the League Managers Association’s website: “I have very fond memories of Graham. He was approachable, open and honest.

“If he could help you in any way, he always would. I was really shocked by this terrible news and I send my condolences to Graham’s wife and all of his family.”

Taylor became the first president of the LMA during his time in charge of England and was also a senior figure at his first club, hometown Scunthorpe.

LMA chairman Howard Wilkinson added: “I greatly admired Graham for his honesty, tenacity, professionalism and his capacity for innovation which earned him richly deserved success. Above all, he was a true gentleman.”

Taylor began his footballing career as a young player with Scunthorpe and also represented Grimsby and Lincoln before moving into management with the latter.

He also had a spell as manager at Wolves and later became a respected pundit with the BBC and BT Sport.

It was at Watford, though, where Taylor’s managerial career really took off. After being appointed in 1977, he took the club from the Fourth Division to a second-placed finish in the top flight, qualifying for the UEFA Cup in 1983.

They reached the FA Cup final the following year. He moved to Villa in 1987 but had a second spell at Vicarage Road from 1996-2001, achieving promotion to the Premier League.

Sir Elton John, Taylor’s chairman at Watford, expressed his sadness via an Instagram post.

He wrote: “I am deeply saddened and shocked to hear about Graham’s passing. He was like a brother to me. We shared an unbreakable bond since we first met. We went on an incredible journey together and it will stay with me forever.”

Former England winger John Barnes was part of the Watford side which rose to the top of the English game after Taylor brought him to the club from non-league Sudbury Court.

Barnes told Sky Sports News: “Graham started my career, so of course I know more than most about the influence he had on players.

“I was a 17-year-old boy and he put me in the team straight away, he cared about me as a person first and a footballer second.”

Taylor took charge at Villa following relegation to the Second Division. He won promotion at the first attempt and two years after that, in 1990, they finished runners-up to Liverpool in the First Division.

That achievement was instrumental in securing him the England position. Years later, in 2002, he came out of managerial retirement for a second spell at Villa.

Taylor’s spell in charge of England ended in disappointment after failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup.

Taylor took England to Euro 92 but his side did not progress beyond the group stages. He was derided for substituting leading striker Gary Lineker when a goal was needed in a decisive game against Sweden.

“Very sad news that Graham Taylor has passed away. An outstanding manager, lover of football and thoroughly decent man,” said Lineker on Twitter on Thursday.

Current Football Association chairman Greg Clarke said: “He was a hugely popular and respected figure in the game, not just in English football but in international circles as well.

“I know Graham was very proud of his time as England manager and it was always great to see him at football grounds across the country.”

Gordon Taylor, a playing contemporary and chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association since 1981, told BBC Radio Five Live: “It’s a real shock. He was a real gentleman.”

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