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Graham Taylor OBE (born 15 September 1944, Worksopmarker, Nottinghamshiremarker) is a football manager and a former player. He is best known as the manager of the England national football team, as well as being manager of Watford, a club he took from the Fourth Division to the First in the space of five years, then from bottom of the second division to the Premier League in two seasons two decades later.

Taylor grew up in the industrial steel town of Scunthorpemarker, North Lincolnshiremarker, a town with which he still has many connections and regards as his hometown . The son of a sports journalist with The Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph, Graham found his love of football in the stands of the "Old Show Ground" watching Scunthorpe United, a team he still supports and is often seen at home matches. When growing up, however, Taylor supported Wolves, the team he later was to manage.

The style of football his teams played was often criticised by purists as being focused on the 'long ball' style of getting the ball quickly to physically powerful forwards, although unlike many long ball advocates, Taylor also liked to play with skillful wingers, who could beat defenders, hit the byline and produce dangerous crosses into the opposition's penalty area. In this respect, John Barnes was perhaps the archetypal Taylor player. Although viewed as being aesthetically unattractive by the often losing opposition, Taylor's style proved incredibly successful in terms of club football, although less so when applied to the more composed pace of international football.His most recent managerial role was manager of Aston Villa, which he left at the end of the 2002-03 season. Taylor now works as a pundit for BBC Radio Five Live.

Early life

He moved to a council house in Scunthorpe in 1947, where his father Thomas was the sports reporter for the Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph. He went to the Henderson Avenue Junior School, then Scunthorpe Grammar School (now High Ridge School), where he met his wife, Rita, from Winteringhammarker. He played for the England Grammar Schools football team, and joined the sixth-form after passing six-O-levels in 1961, but he left after one year to pursue a full-time career in football. This was highly unusual for a Grammar School pupil and his teachers disapproved of his actions. Taylor always preferred football to rugby at Grammar School. He joined Grimsby Town, and played his first competitive game for them in September 1963 against Newcastle United when they won 2-1. In early 1965 Graham Taylor married Rita Cowling. They had two daughters, Joanne and Karen, whilst Taylor was at Grimsby. They also lived in Cleethorpesmarker. When he moved to Lincoln, he bought his first house in North Hykehammarker. He has three grandchildren Rhianna, Elsie and Jake

Playing career

His playing career began with Grimsby Town in 1962 for whom he went on to play 189 games at fullback, scoring twice. He was transferred to Lincoln City in the summer of 1968, he scored 1 goal in 150 appearances before being forced to retire from playing following a serious hip injury in 1972.

Managerial career

Graham Taylor managed the top two highest scoring teams in the Football League (under the 2 points for a win system). Lincoln - 74 points in 1976; Watford - 71 points in 1978. This was a remarkable feat considering that the 2 points for a win system in the Football League had been introduced way back in 1888 and was not discontinued until the launch of 3 points for a win in 1981.

Lincoln City (1972 – 1977)

Taylor was the youngest person to become a FA coach, at the age of 27. Following his retirement from playing, Taylor became manager of Lincoln City, being the youngest manager in the league at the age of 28 in December 1972. Taylor led Lincoln to the Fourth Division title in 1976, during which the Imps set the league records for most wins (32), fewest defeats (4), and most points (74) (when 2 points were awarded for a win).

Watford (1977 – 1987)

In 1977, the 32-year-old Taylor was hired to manage Watford by new owner Elton John. He turned down an approach from First Division West Bromwich Albion in favour of a Fourth Division club, which caused a major surprise among many observers. Taylor led Watford from the Fourth Division to the First Division in only five years. He even took the side to the third round of the UEFA Cup, having finished second in 1982-83 (the club's first season as a top division club). Taylor also led Watford to the 1984 FA Cup Final, which Watford lost to Everton 2-0. In his final season, 1986-87, Watford finished ninth in the league and reached the FA Cup semi-finals, missing out on another Wembleymarker appearance when they lost to Tottenham, their chances hardly helped by the fact that both of their first team goalkeepers were injured.

Aston Villa (1987 – 1990)

In June 1987, Taylor left Watford for a new challenge at Aston Villa, who had just been relegated from the First Division. It was a terrible setback for the Midlanders, who had won the European Cup just five years earlier and had been league champions six years earlier.

Taylor managed to take Aston Villa back to the top flight with his first attempt, securing their top flight safety in 1988-89 with a win on the final day of the league season. During his third season at the club Villa finished runners-up in the first division, having led the league table at several stages of the season before being overhauled in the final weeks by Liverpool. Following this success, Taylor accepted an offer to take over the England national football team from Bobby Robson, who left the job after England's world cup semi-final defeat to Germany.

England (1990 – 1993)

1992 European Championship

When Graham Taylor took over the highest managerial job in English Football many complained that he was doing so without ever having won a major trophy - even though he had taken teams to second place in the league twice and an FA Cup final once. They were later to be proved right. It was also pointed out Taylor had never played in 'top flight' football let alone international level and that winning the respect of the players would be difficult. His critics also noted although he had ditched the long-ball game at Aston Villa there was still tactical worries about his intentions when English clubs were looking to dispense with "route one" football in favour of a more "picturesque route to goal".

Despite the unease at his appointment, England lost just once in Taylor's first 23 matches ( a 0-1 defeat to Germany at Wembley Stadiummarker in September 1991).

However, England struggled to qualify for Euro '92. In a group containing Turkey, Ireland, and Poland England were held to 1-1 twice by the Irish and managed just 1-0 wins home and away against Turkey. It was only a last ditch goal from Gary Lineker against Poland that saw England qualify at the expense of the Irish.

England's qualification for the Euro 92 finals proved to be the high point of Taylor's tenure.

England had been drawn to face France, Denmark and hosts Sweden. The first games against the French and Danes had ended 0-0 which resulted in England needing a victory over Sweden to advance to the Semi-Finals. It also became apparent that Taylor's relationship with England's star striker and Captain, Gary Lineker, was hurting team morale. In England's last game of the tournament, a 2-1 defeat to the hosts, Sweden, Taylor substituted Gary Lineker in his final game for England. By doing this, he prevented Lineker from the chance of equalling, or possibly even breaking, Bobby Charlton's record of 49 goals for England. Many were dismayed to see Taylor substitute England's top striker when his side needed a goal. This led to media vilification of Taylor, including the "turnip" campaign by The Sun, which began the morning after the game under the headline: "Swedes 2 Turnips 1". During that campaign the newspaper's back page featured an image of Taylor's face superimposed onto a turnip.

1994 World Cup Qualification

Taylor's relationship with the press was partially restored when he admitted his mistakes a few weeks after the finals. However this did not last long. England's first game after Euro 92 ended in a 1-0 defeat to Spain in a friendly, the The Sun depicted Taylor as a "Spanish onion".

England were drawn in Qualification Group 2 for the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States. The group contained Norway, The Netherlands, Poland, Turkey, and San Marino. England were expected to qualify along with the Dutch. England began with a disappointing 1-1 draw with Norway. The campaign seemed to get back on track with two wins against Turkey and a 6-0 victory over San Marino. In April 1993 England faced The Netherlands at Wembley Stadiummarker. England went 2-0 up in 24 minutes through David Platt and John Barnes. However Taylor's luck had started to take a turn for the worse, as Paul Gascoigne was injured. Dennis Bergkamp scored a goal for the Netherlands towards the end of the first half, but England continued to control the game, and looked to be heading for a win which would have ended Dutch hopes of qualification, following the side's defeat in Norway, and a draw at home to the Poles. Four minutes from full-time Marc Overmars outpaced Des Walker, prompting Walker to foul him inside the penalty area. The penalty was converted by Peter Van Vossen and the game ended 2-2. Suddenly England's "World Cup life" looked in danger.

England's next chance of reviving their flagging fortunes came in May, requiring at least a win and draw away against Poland and Norway which were to be played just three days apart. England were poor against Poland and were largely outplayed. Dariusz Adamczuk of Poland scored in the 36th minute, although the team missed several chances to extend their lead. Ian Wright salvaged a vital point through forcing an equaliser in the 85th minute, for a final score of 1-1. Taylor was again vilified for his team's poor performance. England's next opponents were Norway.

The Norwegians had arrived from obscurity and had taken the group by storm with a series of early victories which had left England, Poland, and The Netherlands scrapping for second place. Taylor made wholesale changes of personnel and tactics, which again drew criticism, his actions considered risky in what was now a crucial game. England lost 2-0, with few attempts on goal. Subsequently Taylor said "We made a complete mess of it. I'm here to be shot at and take the rap. I have no defence for our performance", although his honesty did not spare him a roasting from the press, who were now calling for his head. The press came up with headlines such as "NORSE MANURE" and "OSLO RANS".

With their World Cup hopes hanging by a thread, Taylor's England were to play a three-team Tournament in the U.S (United States Cup), which was expected to be a precursor to the following summer's tournament. Taylor stated before the game against the USA:
In football, you're only as good as your last game, and at the moment we're poor.
You can always lose any game, to anyone.
It's how you lose that matters.
That was the thing that shocked us all in Norway.
We would have been looking for a win here anyhow, but if we'd won last week it wouldn't have been considered essential.
Now it is.
Whether we like it or not, people expect us to beat America, and there is definitely more intensity about this game because of our performance in the last one.

For Taylor the US Cup began with a humiliating 2-0 defeat ( see here for report)in Bostonmarker to the USA which was reported by the tabloid press in Britain as "YANKS 2 PLANKS 0!". Some pride was restored with a credible 1-1 draw with Brazil and a narrow 2-1 defeat to Germany. Taylor was now living on borrowed time. The 1993-94 season began with a much improved performance, with a 3-0 win over Poland raising the nation's hopes going into what was now the crucial match against the Dutch in Rotterdam.In October England were to play The Netherlands in Rotterdammarker. With Norway having won the Group the encounter would effectively decide the second and last qualifier of the group. The game was played at a furious pace and England were fortunate to have a Frank Rijkaard goal ruled out for offside. However later in the second half with the game locked at 0-0 David Platt was fouled inside the Dutch penalty area by Ronald Koeman as he raced in on goal. The German referee failed to apply the rule of sending him off for a professional foul, or to award England a penalty. Just minutes later the Dutchman took an identical freekick outside England's penalty area. His first shot was blocked, but it was ordered to be retaken because of encroachment.

Koeman scored at the second attempt. Dennis Bergkamp scored just moments later for 2-0 win. In the meantime Taylor was in an apoplectic mood on the touchline, berating the officials and referee as the significance of the result sank in.

England still had a chance to qualify if the Netherlands lost in Poland on the same night England were hoping they could run up a big score against part-time minnows San Marino. But it was in the final game that Taylor was to suffer the ultimate humiliation. After just 8.3 seconds of play David Gualtieri, a computer salesman, scored the fastest World Cup goal (As of 2008 it remains the fastest World Cup goal). England took another twenty minutes to find an equaliser and eventually won 7-1, but the Dutch had won in Poland and England had failed to qualify.

Taylor resigned on 24 November 1993. He had also agreed to be filmed during the qualifying campaign for Cutting Edge, a Channel 4 fly-on-the-wall documentary series, in which his portrayal further undermined his authority. During the film, Taylor was heard to use foul language, and what became his personal catchphrase: "Do I not like that", uttered just before England conceded a goal to Poland.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (1994 – 1995)

Sir Jack Hayward appointed Taylor as manager of Wolves in March 1994, replacing Graham Turner. Taylor had been a generally unpopular figure in English football since his unsuccessful reign as national coach, and few people seemed willing to forgive him for his first managerial failure - one that mattered most to so many people up and down the country.

But he took the Midlands club to fourth in Division One to qualify for the playoffs - their highest league finish since their last top division season 11 years earlier - where they lost out to Bolton Wanderers. They also reached the quarter finals of the FA Cup after a memorable replay penalty shootout victory over Sheffield Wednesday, in which they were 3-0 down on penalites, only to win the shootout 4-3, in which Chris Bart-Williams has two penalties saved over the two matches. However, the 1994-95 season proved to be his only full season at Molineuxmarker, as, after a poor start to the following campaign, winning just 4 from the 16 opening league games, he resigned in November 1995 due to overwhelming supporter pressure.

Return to Watford (1996 – 2001)

In February 1996 Elton John, who had recently bought Watford for a second time, appointed Taylor as General Manager at Vicarage Road. Just over a year later Taylor had appointed himself as the club's manager succeeding Kenny Jackett, who was relegated to a coaching capacity at the club. He won the Division Two championship at his first attempt. The following season Taylor won the Division One Play-off Final, beating Bolton Wanderers 2-0 at Wembley, and with it promotion to the Premier league, where Watford were relegated after one season. Despite starting the following season well - unbeaten through the first fifteen league games and heading the table - Watford slumped to finish 9th in Division One with Taylor publicly stating he had lost his powers of motivation. At this point Taylor decided to retire. During this final season Taylor had become only the third manager to manage 1,000 league games in England, after Brian Clough and Jim Smith.

Return to Aston Villa (2002 – 2003)

Taylor came out of retirement in February 2002 to return to his old job at Aston Villa, but retired for a second time after Villa finished the 2002–03 season in 16th place in the Premiership. He subsequently cited tensions in his relationship with the club's chairman Doug Ellis and argued for an overhaul of the club's upper management to allow the club to be more competitive.

Post managerial career (Since 2003)

In 2003, Taylor became vice-president at League One club Scunthorpe United, his hometown club. Since 2004 , he has worked as a pundit on BBC Radio Five Live, and has managed a team of celebrities for Sky One's annual series, The Match.

His time at Scunthorpe has seen a turnaround in the club's fortunes. In his first season on the board, they narrowly avoided relegation to the Conference. The following season, they were promoted to League One. Two years after that, they were promoted to the Football League Championship as League One champions.

Taylor returned to Watford on 23 January 2009, being appointed to the new board as a non-executive director.

Other work

Graham Taylor is one of Sense-National Deafblind and Rubella Association’s most loyal and determined supporters. He is a Celebrity Ambassador for the Sense Enterprise Board in Birmingham, and has worked tirelessly to raise both funds and awareness, including running the London Marathon in 2004.


As a player

Grimsby Town

Lincoln City

As a manager

Lincoln City


Managerial statistics

Team Nat From To Record
G W L D Win %
Lincoln City December 1972 June 1977 211 97 53 61 46.0
Watford June 1977 May 1987 466 210 142 114 45.1
Aston Villa May 1987 July 1990 142 65 42 35 45.8
England 1990 1993 38 18 7 13 47.4
Wolverhampton Wanderers March 1994 November 1995 87 36 24 27 41.4
Watford February 1996 June 2001 275 104 91 80 37.8
Aston Villa February 2002 May 2003 60 19 27 14 31.7


  • England: The Official F.A History, Niall Edworthy, Virgin Publishers, 1997, ISBN 1-85227-699-1.
  • Gary Lineker: Strikingly Different, Colin Malam, Stanley Paul Publications, London, 1993 ISBN 0-09-175424-0
  • Do I not Like That - The Final Chapter, Chrysalis Sport, Distributed by Polygram Record Operations, 1994.

External links

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