Graham Taylor

Week 169 (7 - 13 January 2017)

The media reaction to the sad passing of former England, Watford and Aston Villa football manager Graham Taylor this week is testament to the influence of one of the most down-to-earth, kind-hearted and well-liked personalities in the game.

Tributes from managers, ex-players, media colleagues and the general public poured in on Thursday, all celebrating the life of a man who never failed to exude a relatable passion for the game, no matter what fortune or misfortune befell the teams he managed.

Throughout his career, the 72-year-old was equally dignified in victory and defeat and always had time for people, no matter what they said about him. The manner in which he bounced back from the dark days of his England tenure to win Watford back-to-back promotions to the Premier League showed incredible resilience.

Taylor could have expressed public vindication against the newspapers that had written him off as a manager, but this was not in his nature. Instead he stuck to his humble and transparent approach with the media, for which he is now fondly remembered.

Perhaps the most fitting tribute to Taylor is in the memory of his eminent John Barnes quote, which many believe truly defined what Taylor was all about. During the filming of the documentary of his time as England manager, “An Impossible Job”, Taylor was heard telling a fan who was racially abusing Barnes, "You're talking about another human being, so just watch your language, all right.” No one could doubt Taylor’s compassion - he truly cared about his players and their development.

As Barnes himself said this week: “He really cares about you off the field and he really prepared me for my whole football career.” He added, “If there ever was a manager who had no reason to be humble, doing what he did in bringing Watford up to the top division, it was Graham. But he maintained humility throughout and he instilled that in all his players.”

Despite winning the FA Cup with Aston Villa, and his considerable success with Watford, Taylor was not interested in the fame or money and he never lost sight of what was truly important to him in life – his family. Former BBC colleague Mark Pougatch recalls how “he took them all on safari once for holiday and the way he talked about that, that was like winning the FA Cup.”

The coverage in the press this week has communicated the distinctive message that, despite his outstanding contribution to the game, Taylor will be remembered for the way he conducted himself with such grace and dignity, even in the face of adversity. Current England manager Gareth Southgate echoed this view, saying, "You always talk about people’s contribution within football but you remember them most as people, and he was somebody that had time for everybody and was generous with that time. I think they are the human qualities you remember the most."

For a man who achieved so much in football, it is fitting that the tributes focused on his warm and open personality as that is probably the memory that Graham Taylor would have wanted to endure the most.

Photo: Flickr (Fiona)