Graham Taylor, the beloved former manager and chairman of Watford and former England manager, passed away earlier today of an apparent heart attack. He was 72.
Taylor was a beloved figure in English football, which is now coming together to mourn his loss. Tributes have been mounting all day from some of the game’s luminaries. Sir Alex Ferguson referred to Taylor as “one of the old-school managers” and described him as “approachable, open and honest.” Gary Lineker called Taylor “[a]n outstanding manager, lover of football and thoroughly decent man.” Luther Blissett, who played under Taylor at Watford in the early 80s when they finished runners-up in the old First Division and FA Cup finalists, mourned his old manager’ loss on Twitter.
Sir Elton John, a former owner and emeritus president at Watford, had this to say on Taylor’s passing:
”I am deeply saddened and shocked to hear about Graham’s passing. He was like a brother to me. We went on an incredible journey together. He took my beloved Watford from the depths of the lower leagues to uncharted territory and into Europe. We have become a leading English club because of his managerial wisdom and genius. This is a sad and dark day for Watford. The club and the town. We will cherish Graham and drown our sorrows in the many brilliant memories he gave us. I love you Graham. I will miss you very much.”
After a somewhat forgettable playing career, Taylor began life as a manager at Lincoln City in 1972, transitioning from the first team squad to the touchline. He then moved on to Watford, where he spent 10 years rebuilding the club and leading it to the Top Flight and the 1984 FA Cup final (they lost 2-0 to Everton). After leaving Watford he spent three years at Aston Villa before being tapped to take over as England manager after Bobby Robson’s departure following their semifinal defeat at the 1990 World Cup. He left after three years following a disappointing run at Euro 1992 and a shaky start to the 1994 World Cup qualifiers. He then spent a season at Wolverhampton, then back to Watford, then back to Aston Villa before hanging it up.
Taylor returned once again to Watford in 2009 and served as chairman for three years, after which he was named an honorary Life President and had a stand at Vicarage Road named after him in 2014.
Taylor is survived by his wife Rita and his daughters Joanne and Karen.