Former Aston Villa and England manager Graham Taylor has died, aged 72.
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 managed England from 1990 until 1993. He was a club manager at Lincoln, Watford, Aston Villa and Wolves, and in recent years a pundit on the BBC and BT Sport.
Taylor had a difficult time in charge of the national team, with criticism about his perceived long-ball game. However under his leadership England qualified for Euro 92 in Sweden.
The tournament was a tough one for England and their manager. His side failed to get out of their group and Taylor also substituted Gary Lineker, in the final group game when a goal was needed, in what proved to be the striker’s final game for England.
Taylor kept his job, but failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the United States led to his resignation in November 1993.
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.”
Taylor took charge at Villa following their relegation from the First Division in 1987 and restored them to the top flight at the first attempt. Two years after that, in 1990, they finished runners-up to Liverpool in the First Division.
That achievement was instrumental in securing him the England position.
He later came out of managerial retirement to take charge of Villa for a second spell in 2002.
A tweet from Villa read: “We are deeply saddened today by news of the death of our former manager Graham Taylor. RIP Graham. #AVFC”
Sir Elton John, Taylor’s chairman at Watford, expressed his sadness via an Instagram post.
He wrote: “I am deeply saddened and shocked to hear about Graham’s passing. He was like a brother to me. We shared an unbreakable bond since we first met. We went on an incredible journey together and it will stay with me forever.
“He took my beloved Watford from the depths of the lower leagues to unchartered territory and into Europe. We have become a leading English club because of his managerial wisdom and genius.
“This is a sad and dark day for Watford. The club and the town. We will cherish Graham and drown our sorrows in the many brilliant memories he gave us.
“I love you Graham. I will miss you very much.
“My thoughts go out to Rita, Joanne, Karen and the whole Taylor family. @watfordfcofficial #GrahamTaylor #RIP.”
Taylor’s achievements with the Hornets were remarkable. After taking charge in 1977, he led the club from the Fourth Division to the top tier.
They finished second in the First Division in 1983, qualifying for the UEFA Cup, and reached the FA Cup final the following year. He had a second spell at Vicarage Road from 1996 to 2001.
Watford’s present chairman and chief executive Scott Duxbury said: “As one, together at our club, we are all utterly devastated to learn of Graham’s passing.”
Gordon Taylor, a playing contemporary and chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association since 1981, told BBC Radio Five Live: “It’s a real shock. He was a real gentleman. I’ve known him since we were both 15 at England schoolboy trials.
“It was sad the way that the England job turned out for him, but that’s happened to a lot of England managers.
“He was a real quality human being. He cared about his fellow professionals and the good of the game. He should be remembered as a man who added to the game, who really showed his ability as a manager.
“He thought a lot about the game, was in his own mould. I’m proud and privileged to have been able to call him a friend.”
Former England international Peter Shilton, who worked as goalkeeping coach in Taylor’s backroom staff with the national team, said: “The way he came through from the grassroots at Lincoln all the way to the England job, mark him out as a real football man and I always liked and respected him.
“He had his own style, of course, but he really knew and loved the game and I enjoyed working with him. He was a true football man.”
Lawrie McMenemy, Taylor’s England assistant manager, told BBC Radio Five Live: “I am really just trying to get over the shock. He was a good, solid fellow.
“He took Watford through all four divisions to second top in the top flight.
“He was ready and capable of doing the England job when he got it.
“He was a good man-manager, he got the best out of people.”