TRIBUTE: GRAHAM TAYLOR onsıde| ISSUE 39 19 “He even said to me that if I ever felt things getting on top of me again, I would be welcome to come and stay with him and his wife, Rita. The more we talked, the more determined I became to repay him. I felt this urge inside. I wanted to play for this man. To win things.” Graham helped Paul deal with the physical and mental issues that were constraining him to the extent that he began playing again, managing 35 straight league games, was voted the supporters’ player of the year, with Villa also nearly winning the league that season. “Under another manager, I suspect my career would have been over.” Hinting that Graham saved a lot more than just his career, Paul adds, “He literally rescued me from a bad, bad scene”. Graham was a pioneering football manager too. “He was ahead of his time in a lot of ways,” commented his good friend, former England colleague and fellow Foundation Ambassador, Lawrie McMenemy. “He actually brought in a psychologist at one stage, which was a bit of joke with some of the players, but now tell me a club that hasn’t got at least one around?” And, Lawrie points out, Graham’s results speak for themselves. “His record at Watford was incredible. He took them up four divisions in a matter of only five years. Then they finished second top, which for a club like Watford was incredible. He took them all the way to second top and then to the FA Cup final.” But Graham was also way ahead of the rest of the game on the community engagement side. In his first stint as Watford coach in the eighties, he instilled values that really made it a genuine family club with a connection to its supporters. His players would all live locally and had it written into their contracts that they would make appearances in local schools and hospitals. And can you imagine many football managers, of any era, coming out with this quote: “We will have a dug out for the managers and coaches when the Vicarage Road end is covered. When the supporters are shielded from the rain, we shall be too”? That is a common thread that seems to run through people’s memories of Graham. He cared about people. And he knew the value of engaging people. In his old stomping ground of Grimsby, Graham unveiled the huge Bradley Football Development Centre, built with £1 million from the Football Foundation. I remember his words vividly. “This facility is modern. It is magnificent. It serves the community. It serves grassroots football. It can serve higher levels of football, and many other things. But what makes a place special is people. It will not remain special unless people involve themselves in it.” Another recurring Graham sound bite was in championing the grassroots game for us, long before its importance to the game as a whole was fully appreciated. “If you look at a player like David Beckham, where did he start? He started at the grassroots. Every footballer, however big a star they may go on to become, begins their journey playing grassroots football.” We at the Football Foundation feel privileged to have had such a passionate, articulate and generous Ambassador as Graham supporting us. He did so purely because he wanted to help. We will miss him greatly, but we will also remember the difference he made and the joy he brought to all those who encountered him. This article first appeared in FC Business magazine in February 2017 following the sad news of the passing of our Ambassador and friend, Graham Taylor OBE.