Graham Taylor funeral: Crowds gather for England boss
- 1 February 2017
- From the section Beds, Herts & Bucks
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.
The Reverend Tony Rindl, leading the service, said: "Graham's death has come as a great shock to us."
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.
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".
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.
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.