Taylor was truly a man of the people
AS SOMEONE remarked on Radio 5 live yesterday, Graham Taylor would have been faintly amused by the minute’s clapping that rang round every major football stadium in England in honour of his passing.
For Graham was a little old-fashioned. He believed in honour, integrity, respect, doing your best in the circumstances and a minute’s silence.
Yes, he could be angry, he could occasionally be ruthless , he could be fiercely competitive... all attributes he needed to climb to the very top of a tough, often heartless, profession.
And climb to the top he did as manager of Watford and England, and a record of seven promotions with sides from Lincoln City to Aston Villa.
But all the while he remained the essential football man, nurtured through the lower leagues and understanding that everyone had a worth from the cleaning lady to the superstar striker.
His innate commonsense struck a chord with Watford chairman Elton John who had also battled his way to the peak of his profession. With typical forthrightness, Graham once invited Elton to his family home for Sunday lunch and plonked a bottle of brandy on his place mat.
“That’s your usual lunch, isn’t it?” said Graham and the pop millionaire later admitted it made him consider his lifestyle.
No-one would have blamed Tayor had he turned to drink after his promising England career ended in a savage wreckage, captured so vividly by a Channel 4 documentary, and humiliation in print where The Sun vied with other tabloids to heap the insults.
‘That’s yer allotment... Turnip Taylor turns up his toes at last’ they trumpeted on the front page the day he quit the job he cherished above all others. It was unwittingly vicious, causing pain to Taylor’s wife Rita and their two daughters, and bringing threats of personsal violence in the streets.
Taylor rode through. The impish smile didn’t flash as often, and for a while he became more guarded where he had been so open. Those scars never truly healed. Yet he hid them behind humour and self-deprecation.
Fortunately, his engaging personality and knowledge of the game enriched BBC 5 live in recent years. There is no doubt football has lost one of its great supporters. And I, like so many others, have lost a friend.
DAVID EMERY, Editor-in-chief