onsıde| ISSUE 39 TRIBUTE: GRAHAM TAYLOR 18 especially – not to be equally gripped by participating in sport purely for the love of it. Pupils, staff, media – everyone that day was inspired. And that was the essence of Graham: he inspired people. That much was clear when you listened to the affection with which his former players spoke about him, and underlined further in the recent tributes to him. Another Football Foundation Ambassador, Dion Dublin, played under him at Aston Villa and, moments after hearing the sad news of his passing, spoke warmly about Graham the coach and the man. “He taught me so much. He gave people a chance, and loved trying to bring the kids through as well. And was a very, very funny man. He was a pal as well as a manager in my life.” Dion also describes Graham as “very clever when it came to man management,” adding that “he was very understanding of people’s individual situations, and gave people a chance.” Nowhere is this sentiment echoed more compellingly than in the memories recounted by another one of Graham’s former Villa players, Paul McGrath. Paul chronicles his often harrowing struggles with alcohol addiction in his gripping autobiography, Back From The Brink. Of Graham he says, “The thing that struck me above all else was that he was interested in me. I mean he had every reason to be furious. One of his big summer signings had turned out to be a walking mess. But he was open and caring. I t is a drizzly January morning at Hollyfield Primary School in Birmingham. Staff are marshalling pupils out onto the playground. I am, unsuccessfully, willing the clouds to part and allow a ray of sun to brighten the joint project launch that we have arranged with our co-funder, the Cricket Foundation (now, appropriately perhaps, rebranded as Chance to Shine). Enter Graham Taylor, beaming like a walking ray of sunshine and suddenly the overcast sky is forgotten by everyone. Within minutes he is deep in a game of cricket – another sport he loved – on the newly-designed playground with Warwickshire County Cricket captain, Darren Maddy, and a battalion of eager youngsters. Organising the fielders, giving tips on catching, bowling and batting, everyone is caught up in the moment and avidly engaged in the activity on the new surface. A wheelchair-bound pupil has her day made as Graham, unprompted, makes her a crucial part of the occasion as he keeps wicket alongside her. He also has everyone falling about laughing before long after he is cheekily bowled by a pupil. His infectious enthusiasm during that session made it impossible for everyone there – the youngsters GRAHAM TAYLOR: TALENT, ENTHUSIASM AND KINDNESS ROLLED INTO ONE GREAT MAN The Football Foundation’s Head of Communications, Rory Carroll, remembers what made the former England Manager Graham Taylor such a special Ambassador for the charity.