Sir Alex Ferguson led a chorus of tributes from English football to former Three Lions manager Graham Taylor, who died yesterday aged 72 following a suspected heart attack.
Taylor boasted an outstanding CV in club management having led Watford from the old Fourth Division to runners-up spot in the top flight in just six seasons, while also guiding the Hornets to the 1984 FA Cup final.
He also had a successful spell in charge of Aston Villa and ended his career in 2003 following a second stint at Villa Park, while also managing Lincoln and Wolves.
Taylor was appointed England boss in 1990 and despite losing just one of his first 21 games at the helm, he resigned from the post in 1993 after his side failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the United States.
“Graham was one of the old-school managers,” said Ferguson. “I have very fond memories of him. He was approachable, open and honest. If he could help you in any way, he always would.”
League Managers Association chairman Howard Wilkinson, whose career ran in parallel with Taylor, described the Worksop-born ex-Grimsby and Lincoln full-back as a “true gentleman”.
“I greatly admired Graham for his honesty, tenacity and professionalism and his capacity for innovation which earned him richly deserved success,” said Wilkinson.
Ex-Newcastle, Blackburn and Southampton striker Alan Shearer, who scored 30 goals in 63 appearances for England, was handed his international debut by Taylor in 1992.
“The biggest and best compliment I can give him is he was genuine, honest, passionate and down to earth,” said Shearer. “Most of all, he just absolutely loved his football.”
Fellow former England internationals Paul Gascoigne and Gary Lineker also paid their respects. Gascoigne was initially dropped from the England squad by Taylor, while Lineker was substituted in his final game for the Three Lions at Euro 92 despite having the chance to equal Sir Bobby Charlton’s then record of 49 goals for his country.
“He will be a miss and his enthusiasm for life and football was incredible,” said Gascoigne. Lineker wrote on Twitter: “Very sad news that Graham Taylor has passed away. An outstanding manager, lover of football and thoroughly decent man.”
It is within club football that Taylor truly blossomed and a minute’s applause will be observed at all English Football League matches this weekend. His greatest success came during his maiden spell at Watford after forming an unlikely alliance with Vicarage Road chairman Sir Elton John in 1977.
“He was like a brother to me,” said John. “We shared an unbreakable bond since we first met. We went on an incredible journey together and it will stay with me forever.”