Tributes pour in for former England manager Graham Taylor

12 January 2017 03:23

Paul Gascoigne has paid tribute to his former England manager Graham Taylor, saying: "His enthusiasm for life and football was incredible."

Taylor has died aged 72 of a suspected heart attack.

He enjoyed great success in club management, particularly at Watford and Aston Villa, before taking charge of the national team in 1990.

He took over from Bobby Robson who had led England to the semi-finals of the previous summer's World Cup in Italy, but inherited a team hampered by injuries and in transition which failed to get out of their group at Euro 92 and failed to qualify altogether for the 1994 World Cup in the United States. He resigned as England manager in November 1993 and returned to the club game.

Gascoigne was initially dropped by Taylor, which led critics of the manager to say he was unable to handle star players. A run of injuries - including the knee injury he suffered in the 1991 FA Cup final - meant he was unable to play a full part in Taylor's England reign.

The former Tottenham and Lazio star is trying to beat an addiction to alcohol but spoke fondly of Taylor when he heard the news of his death and passed on his condolences via A1 Sporting Speakers from rehab.

"I'm deeply sorry to hear about Graham Taylor. He will be a miss, and his enthusiasm for life and football was incredible. My thoughts go out to his family," he said in a statement released to Press Association Sport.

Alan Shearer and Paul Merson, who both played under Taylor, also expressed their condolences.

Shearer tweeted: "Completely shocked by news of Graham Taylor. Always held him in the very highest regard - the man who gave me my first @england cap. So sad."

Merson, who was called up to the England squad by then-manager Taylor in 1991 ahead of Euro 1992, hailed the impact he had at Watford.

Taylor's achievements with the Hornets were remarkable. After taking charge in 1977, he led the club from the Fourth Division to the top tier.

They finished second in the First Division in 1983, qualifying for the UEFA Cup, and reached the FA Cup final the following year. He had a second spell at Vicarage Road from 1996 to 2001.

"I will be forever grateful," Merson told Sky Sports HQ. "He was a very honest man. What he did at Watford will never be done again in my opinion. To go through the leagues and win the league was phenomenal. To do what he did will never be done again."

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.

"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."

Football Association chairman Greg Clarke also paid tribute to Taylor.

Clarke said: "On behalf of everyone at The FA, I am saddened to hear this news. My thoughts are with Graham's family and friends.

"He was a hugely popular and respected figure in the game, not just in English football but in 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."

Former England and Arsenal striker Alan Smith expressed his sorrow at the news of Taylor's death.

"I'm totally shocked by the news. It is such a sad day, he was somebody I played for for England, and played against his Watford and Aston Villa teams," Smith told SSN.

"He was that kind of character that his players wanted to play for, and his club record speaks for itself. He had the charisma, he was a real people person. It's just terrible news."

Former England manager Steve McClaren, now at Derby, remembers Taylor's enthusiasm for the game.

"He was such as fantastic personality. He worked in all divisions and at every level," McClaren said.

"His enthusiasm for football showed all the way through. He was an original old-school manager, who had great success.

"He led his country and rebounded back from that.

"He was well respected across the game and it is a sad loss for football."

Taylor worked as a pundit 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 grew up in Scunthorpe and Irons chief executive James Rodwell said the former England manager remained a fan of the club throughout his life.

"Very sad and clearly our condolences go out to Graham's family," Rodwell said. "Seventy-two is not a great age and very sad and it's taken us all a little by surprise.

"He was here when we played Swindon in October. He was a big fan of the football club and he will be very sadly missed by us all. Our thoughts go out to his family."

Source: PA

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