Beds, Herts & Bucks

Graham Taylor funeral: Crowds gather for England boss

Graham Taylor's coffin Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The ceremony for the former England boss at Watford's St Mary's Church will be followed by a private family committal

Football legends have joined fans for the funeral of former Watford, Aston Villa and England boss Graham Taylor.

Stars including John Barnes, Luther Blissett and Sir Alex Ferguson attended the service at St Mary's Church in Watford.

BBC commentator John Motson read a tribute from ex-Watford owner Sir Elton John, who was not at the funeral.

Hundreds of fans lined the streets to pay respects to Taylor, who died on 12 January aged 72.

His coffin was brought in by six pallbearers, with flowers reflecting the colours of Watford Football Club.

Watford says goodbye to club legend

Live: Updates from the Graham Taylor funeral

The Reverend Tony Rindl, leading the service, said: "Graham's death has come as a great shock to us."

Media captionWatford fans pay tribute to former manager Graham Taylor as hundreds line the streets outside his funeral.
Image caption John Barnes, pictured centre with fellow former Watford star Luther Blissett, played under Graham Taylor for England
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Graham Taylor met his wife Rita during a school play
Image copyright PA
Image caption BBC commentator John Motson read a tribute from Sir Elton John

The congregation stood to sing Lead Us, Heavenly Father, Lead Us - a hymn sung at Taylor's wedding to wife Rita.

The Reverend John Samways, a family friend and Watford supporter of 64 years, called him a "devoted" family man.

He recounted how at the age of 13, Taylor met Rita while he was playing Lord Grizzle in school play Tom Thumb the Great.

He said his friend had turned to him and said: "I'm gonna marry that girl."

Six years later the couple were married.

Image copyright South Beds News Agency
Image caption The procession route went past Vicarage Road
Image caption Sir Alex Ferguson is among the great and the good of football paying tribute to Graham Taylor
Image copyright South Beds News Agency
Image caption BBC commentator John Motson was cheered by crowds when he mentioned Watford's win over Arsenal on Tuesday night

In his tribute, Sir Elton said Taylor was "like a brother," describing him as a man he "befriended and loved from the moment I first met him".

"As chairman and manager we were Batman and Robin," he said.

Taylor's daughter, Joanne, said the family had received "tributes from people from all walks of life," adding for him it was "family first, except on match days", but "for us it was dad first, Graham Taylor second".

Image caption Sir Elton John said he and Graham Taylor were like "Batman and Robin"
Image caption Mourners applauded as Mr Taylor's coffin left the church

His grandchildren also paid tribute to him. Rhianna said they were "always happy, smiling" around him.

Elsie said "thank you for the giggles", while Jake said he was a "major influence in all of our lives".

Taylor's coffin left the church to Amazing Grace and applause from the crowd outside.

A number of former Watford players attended, including Kenny Jackett, Tommy Smith, Alec Chamberlain, Sean Dyche, Malky Mackay, Ross Jenkins, Steve Terry and Steve Sherwood.

Current captain Troy Deeney was also at the ceremony, as were former England players David Platt and Martin Keown, who Taylor managed at Aston Villa.

A private family committal will now take place.

Image caption People started to arrive two hours before the funeral despite steady rain in Watford
Image caption Large screens have been placed outside the church

Taylor started his managerial career at Lincoln City before being appointed Watford manager by Sir Elton in 1977.

Within five years he took the Hornets from the old Fourth Division to the top flight, a rise peaking in a second place finish in 1983 and, a year later, the FA Cup Final.

He moved to Aston Villa in 1987 where he memorably labelled the club - which five years earlier had been Champions of Europe - a "shambles".

He won promotion at the first attempt and led a Villa side including Paul McGrath and David Platt to second place in the top flight in 1990, securing a return to European football for the Midlands giants.

After resigning as England boss in 1993 following the squad's failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, he took over Wolves before a further five-year spell at Watford between 1996 and 2001.

He again guided the club back to the top flight.

Despite announcing his retirement he returned to Aston Villa, first as a director and then manager in 2002-03.

Image caption The back page of the Order of Service remembers Graham Taylor's career
Image caption The "Golden Boy" is remembered at The One Bell pub in Watford
Image caption Words said by Taylor will never be forgotten

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