Sir Elton John described Graham Taylor as “like a brother to me” following the former England manager’s death at 72.
Sir Elton appointed Taylor as Watford manager in 1977, a year after the singer took ownership of the club.
Within five years, Taylor took the Hornets from the old Fourth Division to runners-up in the top flight, going on to reach the 1984 FA Cup final.
“We will cherish Graham and drown our sorrows in the brilliant memories he gave us,” Sir Elton wrote on Instagram.
He added: “This is a sad and dark day for Watford. The club and the town. We went on an incredible journey together and it will stay with me forever.
“I love you Graham. I will miss you very much.”
- Sportsday – Tributes to Graham Taylor
Taylor, who managed England between 1990 and 1993, died on Thursday morning following a suspected heart attack, his family said.
He was a highly successful club manager who also worked at Lincoln, Wolves and Aston Villa, guiding the latter to second place in the First Division in 1990.
After resigning as England boss in 1993 following the team’s failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, he managed Watford for a further five years, between 1996 and 2001.
He retired from football in 2003, later becoming a respected BBC pundit.
Sir Elton sold his stake in Watford in 1987, the year Taylor left for Villa, but he returned again as chairman in 1997.
“I am deeply saddened and shocked to hear about Graham’s passing. He was like a brother to me,” he added.
“He took my beloved Watford from the depths of the lower leagues to uncharted territory and into Europe. We have become a leading English club because of his managerial wisdom and genius.”
Graham Taylor’s managerial record
- Lincoln City (1972-77) – Youngest person to become an FA coach, at the age of 27 – won Fourth Division title in 1976.
- Watford (1977-1987) – Led team from Fourth Division to First Division in five years (W244, D124, L159)
- Aston Villa (1987-1990) – Took over when Villa had been relegated to Second Division. Took them back to top flight at his first attempt. Finished runners-up to Liverpool in his third season in charge (W65, D35, L42)
- England (1990-1993) – Failed to progress beyond group stage of Euro 92 or qualify for World Cup in 1994 (W18, D13, L7)
- Wolves (1994-1995) – Resigned after one full season in charge (W37, D27, L24)
- Watford (1996-2001) – Won Division Two title in 1998 and Division One play-off final in 1999 (W104, D80, L91)
- Aston Villa (2002-2003) – Finished 16th in Premier League before retiring (W19 D14 L27)
Watford are likely to hold a minute’s applause in honour of their former manager before Saturday’s home match against Middlesbrough.
They will also organise additional tributes, involving officials and supporters from the club.
The club say they are “inviting supporters to tweet their tributes to the club’s most successful manager by using the hashtag #thankyouGT”.
Football Association chairman Greg Clarke described Taylor as “a hugely popular and respected figure in the game”.
He added: “He had an exceptional knowledge and a love for the game that never diminished over the years. He will be much missed by us all at Wembley and St George’s Park.”
Former England striker Alan Shearer, who made his international debut under Taylor in 1992, said he was “completely shocked” by the news of Taylor’s death, adding that he “held him in the very highest regard”.
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