Graham Taylor: Ex-England, Watford, Aston Villa manager dies aged 72

Former England manager Graham Taylor has died at the age of 72.

As a club manager, Taylor led Watford from the Fourth Division to runners-up in the old First Division in six seasons, and to the 1984 FA Cup final.

He took Aston Villa to second in the First Division, returning to Watford and Villa after his spell in charge of the national side, and managing Wolves.

He became England boss in 1990 but resigned in 1993 after the team failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup.

Taylor later became a renowned pundit for BBC Sport.

A family statement said: “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.”

Watford will hold a minute’s applause in honour of their former manager before their home Premier League game against Middlesbrough on Saturday, and their players will wear black armbands.

The EFL said a minute’s applause will be held before this weekend’s league fixtures, while clubs will have the option of wearing black armbands.

Tributes have been pouring in, including from musician Sir Elton John, who owned Watford during both of Taylor’s spells at the club.

“I am deeply saddened and shocked to hear about Graham’s passing. He was like a brother to me,” he wrote on Instagram.

“We shared an unbreakable bond since we first met. We went on an incredible journey together and it will stay with me forever.

“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.”

Aston Villa said they were “deeply saddened” by the news and that Taylor would be “fondly remembered” by staff who worked with him.

“Graham will always have a place of honour in our history books for his achievements while at the helm,” the club added.

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

“He had an exceptional knowledge and a love for the game that never diminished over the years. He will be much missed by us all at Wembley and St George’s Park.”

Match of the Day pundit and former England striker Alan Shearer was given his international debut by Taylor.

“I held him in the very, very highest regard because of what he gave to me,” he told BBC Sport. “He set me on the road, as it were. I’ll never ever forget that.”

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson told the League Managers’ Association website: “Graham was one of the old-school managers. He started as a very young man of 28, having suffered a career-ending injury as a player.

“He was the natural choice to become the England manager when he did and this was the pinnacle of a hugely successful career.

“I have very fond memories of Graham. He was approachable, open and honest. If he could help you in any way, he always would.”

Howard Wilkinson, chairman of the LMA – of which Taylor was the first president, said: “Football has lost one of its greatest servants and our thoughts and condolences are with his wife Rita, his daughters Joanne and Karen, and the rest of his family.”

Much of Taylor’s work as a pundit at the BBC was carried out for BBC Radio 5 live, and controller Jonathan Wall said: “His colleagues loved working with him, and for our listeners he was a much-loved pundit. He leaves us with wonderful warm memories and so many stories. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”

Taylor started out as a player and, after coming through the youth ranks with Scunthorpe, was a defender at Grimsby and Lincoln City.

He became manager at Lincoln in 1972 aged 28, and led them to the old Fourth Division title in 1975-76 before joining Watford.

In his first spell as Hornets boss between 1977 and 1987, Taylor took the club to the top flight and they finished second to Liverpool in 1983.

He was appointed by Villa in 1987 and, after leading them to promotion into the top tier, took them to second in 1990.

His exploits led to his appointment as England manager, but he had a turbulent spell in charge of the national team as they failed to make it out of the group at Euro 92 and did not qualify for the World Cup in the United States two years later.

Taylor’s return to club management came with a brief stint at Wolves before he again took over at Watford, leading them to two promotions in as many years as he guided them back into English football’s top flight.

He also returned to manage Villa in 2002 but retired a year later.

His association with Watford continued when he became chairman in 2009, a post he held for three years, and the club renamed their Rous Stand at Vicarage Road after Taylor in 2014.

“In this day and age, when a stand is named after somebody, it’s for commercial reasons. I felt honoured,” he told BBC Three Counties Radio at the time.


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