Former England manager Graham Taylor has died at the age of 72.
As a club manager, he led Watford from the Fourth Division to runners-up in the old First Division in six seasons and to the final of the 1984 FA Cup.
He guided Aston Villa to second in the First Division, returning to Watford and Villa after his England stint as well as managing Wolves.
He became England boss in 1990 but resigned in 1993 after the team failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup.
Following his spell with England, Taylor returned to club management and also became a renowned pundit for BBC Sport.
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.”
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Watford are likely to hold a minute’s applause in honour of their former manager before their home game against Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Tributes have been pouring in, including from musician Sir Elton John, who owned Watford during both of Taylor’s spells at the Vicarage Road club.
“I am deeply saddened and shocked to hear about Graham’s passing. He was like a brother to me,” he wrote on Instagram.
“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 uncharted territory and into Europe. We have become a leading English club because of his managerial wisdom and genius.”
Aston Villa said they were “deeply saddened” by the news and that Taylor will be “fondly remembered” by staff who worked with him.
“Graham will always have a place of honour in our history books for his achievements while at the helm,” the club added.
Football Association chairman Greg Clarke said: “He was a hugely popular and respected figure in the game, not just in English football but international circles as well.
“I know Graham was very proud of his time as England manager and it was always great to see him at football grounds across the country.
“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.”
Match of the Day pundit and former England striker Alan Shearer was given his international debut by Taylor. “I held him in the very, very highest regard because of what he gave to me,” he told BBC Sport. “He set me on the road, as it were. I’ll never ever forget that.”
Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson told the LMA website: “Graham was one of the old-school managers. He started as a very young man of 28, having suffered a career-ending injury as a player.
“He was the natural choice to become the England manager when he did and this was the pinnacle of a hugely successful career.
“I have very fond memories of Graham. He was approachable, open and honest. If he could help you in any way, he always would. I was really shocked by this terrible news.”
Much of Taylor’s work as a pundit at the BBC was carried out for BBC Radio 5 live and controller Jonathan Wall said: “His colleagues loved working with him, and for our listeners he was a much loved pundit. He leaves us with wonderful warm memories and so many stories. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”
Taylor started out as a player and, after coming through the youth ranks with Scunthorpe, was a defender at Grimsby an Lincoln City.
He became manager at Lincoln in 1972 aged 28 and led them to the old Fourth Division title in 1975-76 before joining Watford.
In his first spell as Hornets boss between 1977 and 1987, Taylor took the club to the top flight and they finished second to Liverpool in 1983.
He was appointed by Aston Villa in 1987 and, after leading them to promotion into the top tier, took them to second in 1990.
His exploits led to the England job but he had a turbulent spell in charge of the national team as they failed to make it out of the group at Euro 92 and did not qualify for the World Cup in the United States two years later.
Taylor’s return to club management came with a brief stint at Wolves before he again took over at Watford, leading them to two promotions in as many years as he guided them back into English football’s top flight.
He also returned to manage Villa in 2002 but retired a year later.
His association with Watford continued when he became chairman in 2009, a post he held for three years, and the club renamed their Rous Stand at Vicarage Road after Taylor in 2014.
“In this day and age, when a stand is named after somebody, it’s for commercial reasons. I felt honoured,” he told BBC Three Counties Radio at the time.
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)
BBC Sport chief football writer Phil McNulty
Graham Taylor will not simply be remembered for his outstanding management at places like Watford and Aston Villa where, despite his struggles with England, he proved himself an outstanding manager.
Taylor will be remembered by those who had dealings with him in his career as a manager and a BBC Sport pundit, as one of the nicest and most genuine men you could ever meet.
He, in many respects, was vastly under-rated as a manager because of his unfulfilling spell with England, but close scrutiny of his record proved his pedigree.
Taylor took Watford from the Fourth Division to second place in the First Division, as well as the 1984 FA Cup Final, before the advent of the Premier League. It was a remarkable feat of management.
He continued at Aston Villa, not only taking them back into the top flight but almost winning the title, finishing second to Liverpool in his third season at the club.
A spell at Wolves did not work out but he reproduced the old magic in a second spell at Watford, taking them up into the Premier League although a second stint at Villa was not so successful.
Above all, this is a loss that will be felt keenly throughout football’s generations because the game has lost one its true gentlemen.