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Thursday, 26 April, 2001, 09:39 GMT 10:39 UK
Goodbye to one of a kind
Graham Taylor
Graham Taylor takes charge of Watford in a home game for the last time on Saturday. BBC Sport's Mike Vince, who has been reporting on the Hornets for 20 years, looks back on his Vicarage Road career.

Graham Taylor bows out of club management next month at the age of 56 and this Saturday he presides at Vicarage Road for the last time.

The Hornets season, which in early November had looked like developing into an instant return to the Premiership, looks sure to end in dismay.

His two stints in the manager's chair at Vicarage Road will not, in any of our lifetimes, be approached
Last Sunday's unlucky defeat at Preston even led Taylor to admit "we need snookers" to reach the play-offs.

Despite that, there will be no gnashing of teeth among the Watford faithful when their side play Tranmere on Saturday.

Instead, thousands will be able to pay tribute to a man whose record in his two stints in the manager's chair at Vicarage Road will not, in any of our lifetimes, be approached.

Taylor has instilled great pride into the locals of this suburban town at the end of the Metropolitan Line.

Believer in youth

It is not for me to write about his record-breaking success at Lincoln, his spell reviving Aston Villa (where he famously described working for Doug Ellis as "a love hate relationship - he loved me"), or his less successful time with England and then Wolves.

What I can say though, is that I have never met anyone or been told about anyone who has the same approach to club management as Graham Taylor.

Taylor in his early days at Watford
Taylor in his early days at Watford
Yes, of course, the first team result on Saturday afternoons was crucial (and few can match his record), but there has been more to Graham than that.

He realised that clubs like Watford could never compete at the highest level in transfers so they had to groom their own youngsters.

Graham launched the careers of the likes of David James, Tim Sherwood and most famously of all, John Barnes.

He wanted everyone to be part of the story. That is why hundreds have demanded the Borough Council provide some permanent acknowledgement of his contribution.

Times advert

Two particular memories of mine show what made Graham Taylor tick.

At the club's Christmas party about three years ago, I was sitting with him when he suddenly moved away.

He had seen a young apprentice standing alone and looking out of things. "Mark, son", he said to him, "do you want a professional contract?"

Graham Taylor
Taylor lifts the Division One play-off trophy in 1999
You could see the stars in the lad's eyes. "Then go and ask my wife for a dance," Taylor continued.

The player never made it as a pro but still talks about how much the manager cared.

And how many other managers would have responded to an amazing Uefa Cup win in Sofia, with nine first-team players injured, with this entry in the personal column of The Times?

Going in his own time

"Many vacancies now at First Division football club for professional footballers able to work on Saturdays.

"Previous experience not essential but preference will be given to applicants with two arms and two legs in good working order. Apply to Graham Taylor at Watford."

That showed he knew how to get things into perspective - a lesson that I am sure helped him bounce back from "The England experience".

I know that what matters more to Graham more than anything is that he, and no-one else, has decided now is the time to retire.

But the image of Graham pushing a trolley round Tesco's like all good retired folk and going to Vera Lynn concerts is about as likely as it not raining until Christmas.

On Saturdays for every Watford fan, and I suspect for Graham too, it will be "raining in my heart".

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See also:

29 Mar 01 |  Watford
Taylor to retire
23 Jan 01 |  Football
1000-up for Taylor
01 Nov 00 |  Football
Taylor scoops award
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