FORMER England manager Graham Taylor has died. He was aged 72.
Born in Worksop, Taylor was the manager of the England football team from 1990 to 1993, and also managed Lincoln City, Watford, Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
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 started his managerial career at Lincoln in December 1972 where he became the youngest manager in the league at the age of 28.
He led The Imps to the Fourth Division title in 1976 but really shot to prominence as manager of Watford during the late 1970s when he guided them from the old Division Four to the top-flight, going on to lead them to an FA Cup Final in 1984 where they lost 2-0 to Everton at Wembley.
He left Watford in 1987 to become manager of Aston Villa, who had just been relegated from the old First Division. Taylor led them back to the top-flight at the first attempt before going on to take them to a runners-up finish during his third season in charge, leading the table at several points during the season before being overhauled by Liverpool.
It was this that helped Taylor get the nod to succeed Bobby Robson as England manager in the summer of 1990, his predecessor leaving the post having guided his team to a semi-final loss against West Germany at Italia ’90.
Early scepticism about Taylor’s lack of major trophies eased when England lost just once in his first 21 games at the helm but things quickly turned sour at Euro 92 when a surprise 2-1 defeat to Sweden ensured the team failed to make it out of their group.
Taylor was heavily criticised for his decision to substitute Gary Lineker with the score at 1-1 and the Sun’s reaction was particularly vicious, their headline ‘Swedes 2 Turnips 1’, accompanied by a picture of Taylor’s head as a turnip. It became the enduring emblem of his tenure.
On the pitch, an ageing and injury-afflicted England then failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup following a miserable campaign that included crucial defeats to Norway and Holland.
Key absentees and unfortunate refereeing decisions certainly played their part but Taylor never extracted the maximum from his most talented players and later admitted the job came too soon in his coaching career. A television documentary, granted behind-the-scenes access to Taylor’s final months in charge, revealed in graphic detail the strain he had endured.
After a brief period at Wolves, Taylor returned for a second spell at Watford, where he recovered his old touch with back-to-back promotions to the Premier League.
This time, however, the Hornets could not avoid relegation and Taylor announced his decision to retire in 2001 - although not before becoming only the third manager to oversee 1,000 league games in England, following Brian Clough and Jim Smith.
He was tempted out of retirement and back to Aston Villa in 2002 but it was a short stay and a move Taylor later admitted he regretted.
In retirement, Taylor spent his time working as a television and radio pundit for the BBC while also helping Watford through a period of financial difficulty.
One of his former England players, Alan Shearer, was among the first to pay tribute.
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.”
The Football Association and the League Managers Association also offered their condolences.
The FA tweeted: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former @England manager Graham Taylor.”
A tweet from the LMA, which Taylor served as president, read: “The LMA is deeply saddened to hear that former England Manager & the first President of the LMA Graham Taylor OBE has died at the age of 72.”
Taylor began his career in football as a player with Grimsby before having a spell with Lincoln and then moving into management with the latter club.
A tweet from Grimsby read: “We are saddened to hear of the passing of former GTFC player & England manager, Graham Taylor. Our thoughts are with Graham’s family.”