jump to navigation

One Graham Taylor. 12/01/2017

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

How to add anything.  What to add. Eulogies can be so dull.  How not to flounder in superlatives? Forgive me if this isn’t coherent…

It’s tempting to list achievements. Promotions, Cup Final, Europe and so on.  You know all that, though.  How about…  pre-GT we had spent three of 96 years in the top two divisions.  Since GT arrived we’ve spent four outside the top two divisions.  Three of them getting promoted. His legacy includes a permanent shift in status. But more than “mere” achievement on the pitch, dramatic and fabulous though it was, changing our status though it did, was the “how”.  The what AND the how were what made him, what made us.

I started coming to Vicarage Road in 1980.  The best time, the worst time.  The best because we were on the gallop, on the way up.  The worst because, by the coincidence of my birth, I joined the party at a time when Watford were fantastic, on the pitch, off the pitch and that left a legacy.  Such high standards.  In that period, the five seasons that it took us to get to the top flight from the fourth division, we found time to record nine cup shocks.  Nine victories against higher-division opposition, including Manchester United (twice), European Champions Nottingham Forest and the overturning of Southampton’s 4-0 first leg lead with a 7-1 second leg.  For longer serving Watford fans this was remarkable.  For the kids… it was fantastic, but surely how football always was.  Beating the big guys.  Going out simply trying to score more than the other lot, and expecting to do so.

And more than that, being part of the family.  Mike Walters‘ brilliant piece in the Mirror hits the nail on the head;  he changed the way the club was.  He made it inclusive, safe, fun, and created a legacy that has little parallel. So you have kids of that generation – my generation – growing up with a wonderfully romantic, positive view of how Watford should be.  What the family club was like, what it meant. And that filters down. The prominence of red was part of that.  Yellow and black, smart, classy.  Yellow, red and black, fun.

England.  Yes, whatever.  Expectations exaggerated by an overperforming – some might say lucky – 1990 team which lost key personnel, had others on the way out.  Gascoigne injured, Shearer injured, still had to be horribly unlucky.  Whatever. The lazy, armchair view, the pillorying that we’ve all heard too often still makes me bitterly angry more than twenty years on.  Except that he had the good grace to get over it, or at least not to let it poison the way he conducted himself, so heaven knows I can manage.  And anyway, but for that would we have got him back, to do it all again?

Anecdotes.  So many.  The one about Elton and the bottle of brandy.  The one about ringing up fans who hadn’t renewed Season Tickets.  The one about being some stranger’s best man just because he’d asked him to.  The ones about the Family Enclosure Christmas parties where all the players turned up (in 1985, for example, the day after a horrible, violent clash with Tottenham) and he had as much time as anyone wanted. The thing that’s really clear, from social media, from your mates, from the radio is that everyone who ever had any contact with him had such an anecdote, or six.  The one where he is introduced to someone, meets them again six months later and remembers the name of their wife and kid.  The one where he meets a colleague of mine on the starting line of the London Marathon and when the name is shared asks the colleague to thank me for sponsoring him.

It’s all so human.  He was brilliant, brilliant at what he did.  As extraordinary as a rock star, a leader of industry, a fine artist, a racing driver, a bestselling writer.  But he was a real person too, touchable, reachable, quirky, goofy.  He replied to every star-struck letter that I sent him from the age of 10 to the age of 37.  As Fran put it elsewhere, whenever you met him he made you feel as if the privilege was his. He was brilliant AND human, and that made him truly, truly inspirational.

He was loved by many people, but he was the heart and soul of our club and our town.

We owe him a send-off.  We need to pull ourselves together.

See you Saturday.






1. Old Git - 12/01/2017

Thank you Matt. I saw GT play for Grimsby when we beat them 7-1 in 1967. I was at Stockport when the miracle started. I slept on my brother’s floor (he was a student in Manchester) the night we beat United at Old Trafford. GT shook my hand in 1984, I am grateful to be older than you. I cannot imagine having a better time with any other club, ever.

John M - 13/01/2017

Yes, like you, I was at them all. Ran the gauntlet of Neanderthals after that United match. After the years of Keen and Kirby it was as if God had glanced down to Earth and said ‘This is my club’. I remember Scully visited the ground in the eighties and GT had his photo taken with him. The W.O photographer asked them to stand closer. GT turned to Scully and said ‘I’m standing closer to you now than I was able to in that entire 90 minutes’ (7-1 v Grimsby). As you said, Matt, you had to live through the barren years to really appreciate the sheer magic of the times. I had work and financial problems during the first couple of years of the 80’s, but I now only remember Watford and GT. Thank you Graham. RIP.

John M - 13/01/2017

One other little anecdote I haven’t seen repeated. G.T. laughed about this in later years. The morning of that Southampton game a small boy saw GT outside the ground, and asked GT what the score would be. GT grinned and jokingly said ‘7-1, son.’ I wonder where that lad is now. After the game he MUST have thought GT really WAS God.

2. Chris - 12/01/2017

Thanks Matt. Perfect. Always read bsad & bhappy but never commented b4 as you & Ian always summed up so well – & mainly chatted to mates in pub/match. You know – face-to-face…. but this. Blimey. Nearly same as you, my 1st match 1977 on the Vic terrace with my dad (his first match in the ’30’s!). After that Wrexham game my dad said – enjoy this, it won’t always be this good. He wasn’t diminishing anything at the time (I was now 10 yrs old) but just pointing out to enjoy the good times. That was what GT did – he gave us good times to remember- with family, friends & WFC. Great man, so sad. We’ll do him good on Sat.

3. Old Git - 12/01/2017

And I feel as bad as I did when John Lennon died.

4. Adam Cummings - 12/01/2017

Oh dear, I feel another blub coming on. Thanks Matt for putting into words what we all feel. The quote from 1984 at the end was what I was trying and failing to get across in my 60 seconds on the BBC this evening.

5. Matthew Lovett - 13/01/2017

My childhood has finally died. Nothing more to say.

Matt Rowson - 13/01/2017


6. franelynn - 13/01/2017

That has given me chills, Matt. Thank you for articulating so perfectly what we all feel xxxxx

7. Andrew J - 13/01/2017

Personal memories:

I met Graham only twice, but he was a pleasure to be in the company of. He always replied to correspondence, and he and I exchanged some wonderful letters during the highs and lows of 1997-2001.
Graham’s wit was amazing, and his programme notes unmissable. At the time of a wobble in a promotion season, he began his notes with the words “So it’s worry beads time again, is it?”- typical of his sense of optimism. In another set of notes, he invited any fan to bring their wife or girlfriend “(but not both!)” to watch the reserves for free on Valentines Day.
I owe my three decades as a Watford fan to Graham. In 2001, I urged him to consider repeating the recruitment drive that in the mid-1980s saw the club drop a full colour brochure through the door of every home in a ten mile radius. Graham revealed that it had been his idea, and that he persuaded the club’s sponsors to pay for it. Without that initiative, I would not have gone to Vicarage Road, and would not have made many friends along the way.
I can’t thank you enough, Graham.

JohnF - 13/01/2017

I can relate to that brochure which attracted us to go to a game and which resulted in the whole family becoming season ticket holders. He and his vision did so much for the club and as everyone says, and I can attest,, when you met him he was always a gentleman. Very sad, particularly for Rita and the girls who shared him so willingly with us.

8. Stuart - 13/01/2017

Whilst not properly old enough to appreciate the first GT spell, I certainly was for the adventures in the 90’s. What memories I, and we, will all have. Truly the end of an era. Great piece as always Matt. #thankyouGT

9. mikephipps - 13/01/2017

Outstanding. Thank you. Yep. See you Saturday.

10. Sequel - 13/01/2017

Perfect, Matt. I’m not ashamed to admit that I wept uncontrollably while reading your tribute.

11. johnsamways28 - 13/01/2017

C S Lewis ‘The pain of grief is the cost of the joy of love’

Thank you, Matt, for so wonderfully encapsulating GT’s unsurpassed contribution to WFC, the wider community and, somehow, to each of us. May the values he served to embed in the Club we so love never, ever, be lost.

It strikes me, Matt, that one of the reasons BHappy is so valued by those who read it is that you and Iggy often capture perspectives/reflections that are missed in the emotional heat of the match and surrounding hype and prejudice ……… a gift that GT shared. Again, thank you.

12. Aitua Ekhaese - 13/01/2017

Thanks for a most wonderful eulogy He was special Cheers Aitua

iPhone AE


13. Paul Gillam - 13/01/2017

Thank you very much for that thoughtful piece about GT. I have supported Watford since my first game at Vicarage Road in 1960, but nothing compared to the excitement that was about the club when Graham became Manager. You sensed that the players wanted to do well for him and play the game properly. We have had our share of ups and downs since then but I will always remember those Graham Taylor days with affection. Watford FC has turned into a club that seems to be content to just stay in the prem rather than one that wants to win. Not like Graham’s days. Loosing 4-0 at half time and winning 7-1, brilliant. You can’t take that away from us. My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

14. Harefield Hornet - 13/01/2017

I had the honour of meeting and speaking with Graham a few times over the years but my favourite has to be when I bumped into him in one of the aisles at Tesco’s in Rickmansworth. Rather than just acknowledging him and moving on we struck up a conversation which lasted about 10 minutes before he looked at his watch and “I’m really sorry fella but I need to get this done or I’ll be in trouble” – how priceless is that! I loved the bloke because that’s exactly what he was all about – an extraordinary bloke who remained ordinary. God Bless you Graham.

15. Stuart Campbell - 13/01/2017

Thanks Matt, so well said. All the magical GT genius that made us a club apart, that had a smile on its face, that inspired a family loyalty like no other I can think of.
Much as I want to, I simply can’t be at the Vic tomorrow, although son Laurence will be in his usual place. But I do know, however the day unfolds, that all of you will do it right. It will be a day every single Watford fan will never forget. Graham’s Day.

16. mudlark - 13/01/2017

Matt – You have said it all. A brilliant piece written about a remarkable man.

17. Glos Horn - 13/01/2017

Its very hard to sum up what he meant to me. First season I saw the Horns was the year he arrived. I was 7. Two promotions in the first two years had me hooked, football was an easy game. That was magic.Going to games with expectation. But more than that he was “Our GT” – we may have lent him out to Villa and England but he came home. He could be described as our best and second best managers of all time if you count the spells separately.

Anybody remember the time he sat in front of the Shrodells stand as he thought we were too quiet then held up a banner saying sorry the following game to much joy when he realised we weren’t? That humility and the human touch he brought is sadly absent from the modern game.

Other than getting his autograph, I never met him. But I knew many that did and they were all unfailingly impressed.

Fairwell Our GT.

18. Croxley Hornet - 13/01/2017

I bumped into the Great Man leaving an away game to QPR. He obviously had no idea who I was but took the time to chat and give me his autograph. Hopefully he is up there somewhere talking to my Dad and Grandad about his glorious reign.

19. paullbaxter - 13/01/2017

Thanks, Matt for writing such a moving tribute. I had the privilege to watch his first spell in my late teens and early twenties. He understood that football is an emotional rather than an intellectual game. It may be that Terry Venables QPR team of that time played technically better football (backwards and forwards across the halfway line) but in terms of sheer excitement they were a million miles away. Why the team got such stick in the press for playing all out attacking football, I will never understand. To see Watford be both successful and exciting was extraordinary, but then for it to be led by someone with such grace, humility and humour took it to a different level. Football is about winning but not all about winning.

Many of the stories about Graham that have been written and spoken in the last few days, I was unaware of, and it is a shame but inevitable that they only come out when it is too late for the person to appreciate the gratitude. I’m not religious, but I hope that somewhere, somehow he gets to know.

20. Julie MacTaggart - 13/01/2017

Thanks Matt, you eloquently put into words what so many of us are feeling. I was privileged to have met GT on several occasions and in my late teens was a volunteer in the family enclosure…what a wonderful man, but, even if you never personally met him, you felt like he knew us all by the way he put us, the fans, at the centre of all he did. A true gentleman and we will never forget him.

21. David A - 13/01/2017

I cannot put my feelings into words any more eloquently than any of the above. All I can add is that after GT took over I used to say that I supported the best club in the country. They may not have been the best team (well, at one time they were – almost) but they were unarguably the best club. And I said it with pride. I was genuinely and enormously proud to declare that I was a Watford supporter. I still am.

22. NickB - 13/01/2017

‘Whenever you met him, he made you feel as if this privilege was his’. That is the great man in a nutshell; he really, really did. Utterly unique.
A fine tribute: must have been so hard to write; thank you.

23. Mark T - 13/01/2017

I just hope that we do on Saturday what Graham would do…..the right thing. Yes, a minutes’ applause, yes many tributes but wouldn’t it be great if the team just ripped into Middlesboro just like the old days…3-0, 4-0, 5-0..now that would be best tribute

24. Walwyn1978 - 13/01/2017

Firstly I should say I’m not a Watford fan, I stumbled across this site when it was still Blind Stupid and Desperate and occasionally return essentially because the writing on here about football and supporting is so good. Anyway, I’m not a Watford fan, I support York City for my sins and although I can’t claim the attachment you all obviously have to a true legend of football, one brief encounter with Mr Taylor echoes the thoughts of many of you.

You visited Bootham Crescent in your promotion season out of what is now League One, a 1-1 draw. I was in our Main Stand that day due to an injury and was sat close behind the dugouts. From the minute he walked out and throughout the match Graham Taylor was subjected to vitriolic abuse from a few City fans behind the dugouts, mostly related to his England tenure. Some of it was extremely personal and it was quite clear he could hear every word. He ignored it, for 90 minutes, then clapped your support and vanished down the tunnel.

After the game, I got half way home and realised I’d left my coat at the game. I retuned about 5.45 to see the Watford team coach parked up and ready with all your squad and staff on.

Except Graham Taylor, who was happily standing, shaking hands, signing programmes and chatting away to a big crowd of York fans. Apparently he’d been there at least 20 minutes, and was still doing it when I left for the second time five minutes later.

I know it doesn’t mean much against your stories and memories, but the class, the belief in human nature and doing the right thing even after that afternoon of uncalled for abuse has stuck with me. The human race, not just football, has lost a great asset.

Matt Rowson - 14/01/2017

Thanks for sharing that, Walwyn. Everyone has such anecdotes but reading them is wonderful.

25. JTR - 14/01/2017

Truly, A Man for All Seasons…

26. Nick Young - 14/01/2017

So many happy memories. My first game was seen from the Family Terrace, that part of the ground that adults could only enter if accompanied by a child; I was seven. I only realised later that it was thanks to GT that that part of the ground had been designated as a family area (and that he’d ran the London Marathon to raise the money to make it so). Would my dad have wanted to take a seven-year-old to a ground that didn’t have such a facility? As this was during the mid-80s, I’m not sure he would have. So yes, I can thank Graham Taylor for the fact that I am a Watford fan.

27. Nigel Smethers - 14/01/2017

Great Matt today will see grown men cry together in recognition of a true gentleman but hey that’s what we should do. He touched us all myself and my boy met and talked to him when he was walking his dog in Chorleywood Common no issues just a pleasure.

28. Graham Daly - 14/01/2017

One day in about 1984/5 I played hockey in Sandbach, and noticed in the clubhouse the WFC pennant. I discovered that GT had asked Don Shaw (referee) who lived in Sandbach to find a club where the team could train on the morning of away matches in L’pool/Man and Lancashire. He recommended Fodens sports ground in Sandbach. Hence the pennant. It turned out that WFC were coming up the very next w/e to play Everton. So, a close friend Mike Rance, (erstwhile chairman of Macclesfield Town),his 2 sons, myself, and 2 sons all donned our WFC scarves on the Sat morning and trooped off and into the sports ground just to watch our heroes. John Barnes etc. BTW, the tricks that Tony Coton could do with the ball made me wonder why he played in goal, until you saw him in goal – and then compared him with anyone else who played in goal. Anyway, we met with GT, chatted although he had enough else to do, got a photograph taken, the 4 boys with him – just a few minutes in a busy schedule, but he was that generous a man. For that alone I have a special memory of him.
I wonder how it will affect things Saturday – I wish I could be there . I hope the atmosphere is a real tribute to him , and as he would say, the result matters too.

29. tonyfirasse - 15/01/2017

Fantastic tribute, Matt, you have surpassed yourself!
Never met GT myself, alas, but daughter number two did when she was at Watford Junction in 1998 wearing her Blaupunkt Watford shirt. A tap on her shoulder and there is GT saying, “Nice shirt!” with a dazzling smile and a big thumbs up as he moved away. She was 17 years old and had just bought her first season ticket, fast forward 18 years she is still in the same seat and a Hornets fan for life.
Rest in peace a truly decent, humane gentleman and inspiration.

30. Maith an cailin - 15/01/2017

A lovely man, so kind and natural. RIP

31. Sam Biggerstaff - 15/01/2017

Great peice as always Matt.
Myself and two friends were lucky enough to have lunch with Graham in mid November. It came about as my mate Paul was working out in Rio and happened to share an apartment with a journalist who knew Graham well, he and Paul got on well and the journalist offered to find out if Graham would consider meeting us.
Of course he did and we arranged to meet at 1.45 on Friday 18th November at The Boot in Sarratt.
On the journey there I was feeling nervous, as if I was heading to a job interview, there was literally no one on earth I would rather meet.
When we arrived he was already there and waiting outside, we sat down, asked what he wanted to drink and he said he was under strict instructions from Rita and his doctor that due to a throat complaint he was not to drink alcohol but said we should “crack on”.
The three of us could not stop smiling, couldn’t believe we were sat at a small cramped table with our hero.
It was a great lunch, us three obviously loved it but I think GT did too, the conversation did not dry up for even a second, we reminded him of games and events which he had forgotten about and he spoke very openly about all aspects of his career, Watford, Villa, Lincoln and Grimsby and of course England. He spoke about Linekar, he said everyone remembers him subbing him but no one ever mentions he gave him the England captaincy. He spoke about the whole turnip debacle although it wasn’t himself he was worried about, it was his family as journalist door stepped and disrespected his parents and sister, be just couldn’t understand that journalists could stoop so low and he seemed therefore a bit wary of journalists but also said there were plenty of good ones and gave us a long list of those he liked and respected.
He could have left after an hour and half or so, he was after all lunching with three complete strangers, but it wasn’t until 6.15 he said would we mind if he called his wife to pick him up. Of course we said yes and about 20 minutes later Rita arrived, she didn’t just bib the horn but came in, sat down with us and had two coffees while she chatted with us for another hour or so.
So we had a 6 hour lunch with our hero and his wife…..I still can’t believe it happened and since he passed away the feeling of privilege I feel of being able to share this afternoon has increased.
He was amazing company, it was a truly unforgettable afternoon one that myself, Pazza and Big Al will treasure forever.
Thanks Pazza for organising it and thanks to GT for all you did for me, my pals and Watford but also the manner in which you did it.
He is probably the kindest, most decent, respectful people I will ever met

32. Old Git - 15/01/2017

My old friend Roger, a Man U fan (he was with me at the Vic for the famous replay with the then European champions in 1969 that I wrote about on BHappy) has texted me. I quote.’This is truly remarkable. There is surely no other manager whose death would provoke so many heartfelt tributes. Fergie at Man U would be mourned of course, but not far beyond there. Mourinho? Come on! And what would the response have been if, say, Pardew or Big Sam suddenly passed away following a heart attack? I know you will all be very sad but try and appreciate the fact that something like this will never happen again. Your amazing Graham Taylor was truly unique.

33. Mike Cordy - 15/01/2017

Thanks, as always Matt. I have never posted here before but I always read your and IG´s wonderful writing.
I started coming to the Vic regularly in 1978, so in the best of times. I live in Hannover now, and with the great support of my family was persuaded to get on a plane Saturday morning to be there for the game. I´m glad I did. Only place to be….
Thank you GT for the memories and pleasure you have given me over so many years.

34. Markyc - 15/01/2017

Thanks for this wonderful tribute Matt. And sorry you had to console me in the shop as I ‘lost it’ on one of many times yesterday. It has been a tough few days for a lot people but your words sum up exactly how I feel. Thank you Graham for all you did for us the supporters, the club, the town and the wider football family. You will be missed

35. Keith Endean - 16/01/2017

Thankyou for your tribute, and I think the club managed to do well in the short period to Satuaday. I seem to remember that if any football trophy was being presented in Watford a first team player or Graham Taylor would turn up to present it. I was about 15 when I managed to get to a Cubs six-a-side presentation (not sure what excuse I used) just to meet someone from the club. Graham Taylor came and I still have his autograph I got on that day. After much changes to my plans for satuaday managed to get to Vicarage Road and admit to sheding a few tears in his memory. He will be missed but never forgotton.
Elton Johns TAYLOR made army!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: