The Man who Built a Football Club
Graham Taylor's Watford legacy will live on for an eternity.
When the sad news of former England manager Graham Taylor’s passing broke yesterday, there was one town in particular that felt the devastating blow.
In 1977, when Taylor shocked many in football and turned down First Division West Bromwich Albion for Fourth Division Watford, not many knew quite what they would accomplish.
Elton John had just taken over the Hertfordshire club and had his eye on conquering European football. In just six years they achieved just that.
There aren’t many managers who you can associate with an entire club. Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest all had similar effects on their respective clubs.
Taylor was honoured by the club in 2014 at a home game against Cardiff City. He was present to open the newly renamed ‘Graham Taylor Stand’ which sits opposite the ‘Sir Elton John Stand’.
If promotion from the Fourth Division to finishing second to Liverpool in the First Division wasn’t enough, Taylor’s legacy at Watford is still obvious today.
It is rumoured that he was the man who decided to change Watford’s shorts from black to red, believing it made them more intimidating on the pitch.
It was he who pushed for English football’s first ever family stand.
In the hooligan-orientated football world of the 1980s, Taylor pushed for football's first 'family section', where an adult would only be admitted if they were with a child. In doing so, Watford were branded as England's first 'Family Club'.
When I very young, I first started attending games at Vicarage Road. Family Day meant ‘Kids for a Quid’, meaning my brother and I could go along and watch football at affordable prices.
In two spells as manager at Watford, Taylor won six promotions and took the Hornets to their only Cup Final. No manager has come close to his success at the club, and Saturday’s home game with Middlesbrough is set to be an emotional one for all concerned.
Without Graham Taylor, I would have no club to support, at least not one like it is today. With the creation of the Premier League, Watford - on the doorstep of massive Premier League London clubs - would likely have been stuck in the lower tiers and possibly dropped into non-league.
When we dropped down to Division Two, Taylor came in when we needed him most and once again achieved consecutive promotions.
When Watford chairman Jimmy Russo resigned in 2009 demanding millions of pounds in loans -almost landing the club in administration - Taylor publicly spoke out against him, calling him ‘a bad man’ and joined the club as chairman.
He remained as chairman until May 2012, working with controversial owner Laurence Bassini, and who knows what could have happened to the club if Taylor was not around and Bassini had free reign.
Without Taylor, Watford may not have been such an appealing option to the Pozzo family in summer 2012.
So while the older generations may have experienced the rise from the Fourth Division, without you, there may not have been the family stand at Vicarage Road which made it so appealing for my Dad to bring me to a game.
Without you, my club may not have avoided administration and we wouldn’t be in the position we are in today.
Thank you GT.