In Depth

Five things you didn't know about England boss Graham Taylor

Ridiculed by the media, the football manager still respected journalists and refused to tolerate racist and abusive fans

Graham Taylor

Graham Taylor, who has died at the age of 72, will be remembered for his turbulent three-year reign as England manager. But although he was ridiculed during that time, he will be remembered as a much-loved and popular football man.

Here are five things you might not know about the former Watford and Aston Villa manager.

He was the youngest manager in the league

Taylor began his managerial career with Lincoln at the age of 28 in 1972, after his playing career was cut short by injury. But despite becoming the youngest manager in the league, he was ready for the position - a year earlier, he had become the youngest person to become an FA qualified coach, aged just 27. 

He never won a major trophy

Despite a successful managerial career, Taylor never won a major trophy. He was twice runner-up in the English top-flight, with Watford in 1983 and Aston Villa in 1990, while his Watford side were beaten by Everton in the FA Cup final in 1984.

He did win the old fourth division title twice, with Lincoln and Watford, and in 1998, he won the Division Two title (now League One) during his second spell with the Hornets. The following season won the Premier League play-off at Wembley - now regarded as the most valuable game in football.

He tried to tackle racism

While at Watford in the 1970s and 80s, Taylor did much to champion the emergence of black British players, with the likes of John Barnes and Luther Blissett in his teams.

Writing in The Times, Blissett says: "One match, at Vicarage Road against Notts County, they had three black players in their team and we had three in our team including John Barnes and myself, and we heard racist abuse coming from the home crowd.

"At half-time, Graham was not there in the dressing room and it transpired he had addressed the crowd, telling them how that abuse would affect Watford's black players too - and that anyone caught doing it would be thrown out and never allowed back. We never, ever heard anything like that from the crowd again."

There are numerous other anecdotes of him taking on abusive fans - and even once trying to make a citizen's arrest.

He helped Paul McGrath and Sir Elton John with alcoholism

Taylor tried to help those with problems, including his Watford chairman Sir Elton John, who was suffering with alcoholism. The BBC reports he once presented the singer "with a pint of brandy instead of his dinner in an attempt at reverse psychology".

He also helped defender Paul McGrath with his drinking problem after signing him for Aston Villa from Manchester United. "His treatment of McGrath, at a time when few in football considered such problems with anything but disdain, spoke much of him," says The Guardian.

As England manager, he was one of the few brave enough to speak out about Paul Gascoigne's drinking.  

He respected journalists

Despite being hounded by the media and held up as a laughing stock after the infamous BBC documentary The Impossible Job, Taylor retained his dignity and went on to become a respected pundit after his managerial career came to an end.

His father had been a sports reporter in Scunthorpe and Taylor "kept and nurtured a love of sports journalism and some very close and good relationships with journalists, whom he respected and admired despite some of the headlines he had been forced to endure", writes John Dillon in the London Evening Standard.  

Football mourns former England manager Graham Taylor

12 January

Tributes have been flooding in for former England manager Graham Taylor, who has died of a suspected heart attack at the age of 72.

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."

Taylor was in charge of England between 1990 and 1993 and despite coming in for savage criticism as the team flopped at Euro 92 and then failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the US, was a popular figure within the game.

His managerial career included two spells at Watford and Aston Villa as well as Wolves, while in recent years he worked as pundit with the BBC and BT Sport.

He moved into management after an undistinguished career as a player with Grimsby and then Lincoln, becoming the youngest manager in the league when, aged 28, he took over at Lincoln in 1972.

After five years, he joined Elton John at Watford and took them from the fourth division to the first in five seasons. They finished runners-up to Liverpool in 1983 and lost to Everton in the FA Cup final a year later.

In 1987, he took over at second-division Aston Villa and guided them back into the top flight, where, in 1990, he once again finished second in the league behind Liverpool.

He took the helm at England that same year, after Bobby Robson stood down, but "endured a difficult time in charge of the national team, with criticism about his perceived long-ball game", says The Guardian

"However under his leadership England qualified for Euro 92 in Sweden. The tournament was a tough one for England and their manager. His side failed to get out of their group and Taylor also substituted Gary Lineker, in the final group game when a goal was needed, in what proved to be the striker’s final game for England. Taylor kept his job, but failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the United States led to his resignation in November 1993."

During his reign, he was regularly humiliated in the media, most infamously being portrayed as a turnip by The Sun after England lost to Sweden. However, Taylor retained his sense of humour and continued as a club manager for another ten years.

Gordon Taylor of the Professional Footballers Association was among those to pay tribute.

He said: "He was a real quality human being. He cared about his fellow pros and the good of the game. He should be remembered as a man who added to the game, who really showed his ability as a manager."

Ex-players and colleagues also shared their memories of the manager.

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