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Saturday, January 14, 2017


This week, amidst much applause and scrabbling around for suitable tributes, saw the passing of one of footballl's most genuine souls, the former Lincoln City, Watford, Aston Villa and England manager Graham Taylor, aged 72. It was during and after his tenure as England manager that tributes were in short supply as he received nothing short of what would colloquially be described as dog's abuse from so-called newspapers such as The S**.

Now, of course, following Taylor's passing, said newspapers are falling over themselves to give him the most fitting send-off. Ah, hypocrites all..and the same could be said of many England supporters who vilified the poor man from pillar to post following the team's performance at the 1992 European Championships and their failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. You resemble your choice of newspaper, one might say.

Born in 1944, Taylor never distinguished himself as a player, joining Grimsby Town as an 18-year-old in 1962 before moving on to Lincoln City in 1968, and it was at Sincil Bank where, beginning in 1972 at the then unimaginably young age of 28 having had to retire as a player due to injury, he cut his managerial teeth. His tenure there culminated in The Imps winning the Fourth Division Championship in 1976, and in some style, too. The club won the championship with a total of 74 points, a record total for a time when the system of two points for a win was being used; they also scored over 100 goals.

Taylor left Lincoln the following year to take over managerial duties at Watford, who were lingering in the Fourth Division, and a footballing love-affair began. He steered the club from the fourth level of English football to the heady heights of the First Division in five years; not only that, but he took them to the runners-up spot in 1982-83, and to the FA Cup Final the following season, where they lost 2:0 to Everton. He later managed Aston Villa, winning the Second Division Championship, before taking over the England manager's post from Bobby Robson following the 1990 World Cup.

He took England to the 1992 European Championship finals, where they failed to shine and were eliminated at the group stage; he almost took what was a very, very average team to the 1994 World Cup, achievements which are not to be sniffed at, despite the trial by media jury he was subjected to at the time. After failing to qualify at the end of 1993, Taylor resigned from the post of England manager. He joined Wolves for a short and troubled time in 1994 before further spells back at the Hornets and Villa followed. 

Taylor retired from management in 2012, having performed admirably at almost every club he had either played for or managed. He received criticism from some in the media for his teams' alleged use of the long ball..but how could that be when the likes of John Barnes, Mo Johnston and Tony Daley were integral parts of his footballing plans? He had a much more astute football brain than he has been given credit for.

But, perhaps most importantly of all, despite all of the trenchant abuse he received, Graham Taylor remained human and humane, never bearing grudges towards those who bore him ill-will, and tales of his generosity and kindness, many of which are only now - following his demise last Thursday as a result of suffering a heart-attack - becoming apparent, abound, such as giving money to financially-strapped young players or organising trips to away matches for handicapped supporters. They need not be recounted here, as they are available to read elsewhere in plenty.

Suffice to say that people such as he and the equally, innately, decent and much-missed Sir Bobby Robson are becoming still rarer in the world of football, and that is something to be lamented. They were both men with few equals.

What should be not be lamented but cherished is the style of football - exciting, charming and at times perhaps even innocent - played by every club team which Taylor managed, and the obviously positive effect he had on players and supporters alike. He was perhaps not the most successful manager in terms of trophies won (although the teams he managed did win three championships and were promoted seven times), but with regard to the affection in which he was held within the game, he had few equals. He will be missed by many, and thoughts and sympathy go to his family and friends.