Watford says goodbye to football legend

Graham Taylor scaled the heights of the football world as England manager, but it was at Watford where he will be best remembered.

The mourners heading into church wore black.

But it was yellow and red that caught the eye in the crowds lining the streets outside.

The colours of Watford, the club where Graham Taylor had such a huge impact.

People gathered hours ahead of the service near St Mary’s Church to pay their respects to the club’s greatest ever manager.

Watford, where Graham Taylor’s name is engraved on the Town Hall’s wall and written large above a stand at the nearby Vicarage Road stadium.

“He’s an absolute legend for the club, for the town, for Watford. I just can’t say no more,” said Watford fan Gary Armstrong, who had arrived early outside the church.

Famous faces from the football world arrived at St Mary’s, which is just a few minutes walk from Vicarage Road.

They were joined by former players and officials from Watford and other clubs Taylor managed.

Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Lincoln City are all places where his passing has been strongly felt.

About 400 mourners were inside St Mary’s while up to 1,000 more listened outside as the service was played out.

They heard from his daughters Karen and Joanne, as well as his three grandchildren. The crowd sang along outside to football’s hymn Abide With Me.

It was almost 40 years ago that Taylor first arrived in this town on the edge of London.

He steered the club from the old Fourth Division to runners-up in the top league and into Europe.

And then a day out the FA Cup Final in 1984, remembered for the tears shed by his chairman Elton John after a 2-0 defeat.

The music legend could not be at the funeral in person but commentator John Motson read a statement on his behalf.

He described him as “like a brother”. Elton John said the pair were an unlikely twosome, Batman and Robin, an unstoppable force of nature who would go to the stars and back with Watford.

Their terrace song “Elton John’s Taylor-made army” can be heard in the stands again, along with chants of “There’s only one Graham Taylor”.

The same words are written on the recently closed One Bell pub next to St Mary’s Church, along with a number of famous quotes by Taylor.

None sum the man up quite so well as when he replied to a question about the subs bench at Watford being open to the elements.

“When the supporters are shielded from the rain, we shall be too,” he said.

They say in football you should never go back. But Taylor returned to the club in the late 1990s, again taking them to the top division. And he later joined the boardroom. A steady influence during tougher times for the club.

His impact didn’t just stay within the limits of Vicarage Road, Taylor was passionate about the community and made his players volunteer in the town.

And Taylor’s great legacy at Watford was making the club more accessible to families and children.

He was a true local hero which was recognised in 2001 when he was given the Freedom of the Borough.

“He put Watford on the map and the town became a nicer, safer, friendlier sort of place. It seemed to rub off,” said Jenny Scott, who has lived in Watford all her life.

“He was known as Mr Watford. Yes he moved away. But he’s come back to be laid to rest and I think the town appreciates that.”

It was a homecoming that began last year when Taylor and wife Rita moved back to Hertfordshire.

And just a few weeks before his death he wrote in his Christmas card: “We feel as if we’ve come home.”

And now the town has welcomed home its favourite son one final time.

Latest Stories, Video, and Commentary about England | BBC