Graham Taylor, former England manager who was mocked and loved, dies aged 72

The ex-Watford and Aston Villa manager suffers a suspected heart attack, his family says

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 10:27pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 10:31pm

Former England manager Graham Taylor has died of a suspected heart attack at the age of 72, his family announced on Thursday.

Taylor made his name as the mastermind behind Watford’s rise to the English top-flight in the 1980s and also enjoyed a successful spell as Aston Villa boss before spending three years as England manager.

“With the greatest sadness, we have to announce that Graham passed away at his home early this morning of a suspected heart attack,” a statement from the Taylor family read.

“The family are devastated by this sudden and totally unexpected loss.”

Leading Watford and then Aston Villa to the runners-up spot in the old First Division established Taylor as one of the brightest managerial minds of his generation.

Taylor appeared to have landed his dream job when he took over as England boss in 1990, but his ill-fated reign ended when he resigned in 1993 after the team failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup.

That difficult period, which saw Taylor harshly lampooned by tabloid newspapers who called him a “turnip”, couldn’t detract from the respect he was held in across the football world.

The news of his death drew a shocked reaction as stars paid tribute to one of the English game’s most memorable characters.

“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,” former England captain Alan Shearer tweeted.

Dion Dublin played for Taylor in the manager’s second spell at Aston Villa and admitted he learned a lot under his guidance.

“I am completely shocked. I only saw him a couple of months ago,” Dublin told the BBC.

“He was a very, very, funny man. When I played under him at Aston Villa he taught me so much.

“He was very understanding of people’s situation. He had my utmost respect and was a pal as well as a manager. It is quite devastating news.”

Stoke striker Peter Crouch, who also played for Taylor at Villa, tweeted: “Sad new about Graham Taylor. Had so much respect for him. Gave me my premier league debut and I will always be thankful.”

A message on the Football Association’s official Twitter account read: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former England manager Graham Taylor.”