Former Sheffield Wednesday boss Howard Wilkinson leads tributes to Graham Taylor who has died aged 72
Former Sheffield Wednesday boss Howard Wilkinson has led the tributes to Graham Taylor, who died on Thursday, aged 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 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.
Taylor, who was born in Worksop, began his footballing career as a young player with Scunthorpe and also represented Grimsby and Lincoln before moving into management with the latter.
Wilkinson, who is the Chairman of the League Managers Association said: “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 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 cutting his teeth with Lincoln.
After being appointed in 1977, he took the club from the Fourth Division to a second-placed finish in the top flight, qualifying 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.
"He took my beloved Watford from the depths of the lower leagues to unchartered 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."
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."
Footage was shared widely on social media on Thursday of Taylor addressing a member of a Wembley crowd who was abusing Barnes, with Taylor saying: "You're talking about another human being, just watch your language".
Barnes added: "He really cares about you off the field."
Watford's present chairman and chief executive Scott Duxbury said: "As one, together at our club, we are all utterly devastated to learn of Graham's passing."
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.
A tweet from Villa read: "We are deeply saddened today by news of the death of our former manager Graham Taylor. RIP Graham."
Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson 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."