'In my darkest days he was always there' - Paul McGrath in emotional tribute to Graham Taylor
Paul McGrath has paid an emotional tribute to former England manager Graham Taylor who passed away today at the age of 72.
Ireland legend McGrath played under Taylor at Aston Villa and following his passing today, McGrath took to Twitter to express his sympathy.
"Devestated to hear of Graham's sad passing, what a gentleman. In my darkest days himself and Rita were always there for me #RipGrahamAHero," tweeted McGrath.
Elton John, who appointed Taylor as Watford manager in 1977 before enjoying 10 successful years at the club, posted a touching tribute on Instagram.
"I am deeply saddened and shocked to hear about Graham's passing," he wrote.
"He was like a brother to me. We shared an unbreakable bond since we first met. We went on an incredible journey together and it will stay with me forever. He took my beloved Watford from the depths of the lower leagues to unchartered territory and into Europe.
"We have become a leading English club because of his managerial wisdom and genius. This is a sad and dark day for Watford. The club and the town. We will cherish Graham and drown our sorrows in the many brilliant memories he gave us. I love you Graham. I will miss you very much. My thoughts go out to Rita, Joanne, Karen and the whole Taylor family."
One of Taylor's former England players, Alan Shearer, was among the first to pay tribute.
Shearer tweeted: "Completely shocked by news of Graham Taylor. Always held him in the very highest regard - the man who gave me my first @england cap. So sad."
The Football Association and the League Managers Association also offered their condolences.
The FA tweeted: "We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former @England manager Graham Taylor."
A tweet from the LMA, which Taylor served as president, read: "The LMA is deeply saddened to hear that former England Manager & the first President of the LMA Graham Taylor OBE has died at the age of 72."
Taylor began his career in football as a player with Grimsby before having a spell with Lincoln and then moving into management with the latter club.
A tweet from Grimsby read: "We are saddened to hear of the passing of former GTFC player & England manager, Graham Taylor. Our thoughts are with Graham's family."
Taylor took charge at Villa following their relegation from the First Division in 1987 and restored them to the top flight at the first attempt. Two years after that, in 1990, they finished runners-up to Liverpool in the First Division.
That achievement was instrumental in securing him the England position.
He later came out of managerial retirement to take charge of Villa for a second spell in 2002.
A tweet from Villa read: "We are deeply saddened today by news of the death of our former manager Graham Taylor. RIP Graham. #AVFC"
Paul Gascoigne has paid tribute to Taylor, saying: "His enthusiasm for life and football was incredible."
Devestated to hear of Graham's sad passing, what a gentleman. In my darkest days himself and Rita were always there for me #RipGrahamAHero— Paul McGrath (@Paulmcgrath5) January 12, 2017
Completely shocked by news of Graham Taylor. Always held him in the very highest regard - the man who gave me my first @england cap. So sad.— Alan Shearer (@alanshearer) January 12, 2017
Saddened to hear the news that Graham Taylor has died, a man who loved his football & achieved his ultimate goal. Only 72 years of age RIP— Chris Kamara (@chris_kammy) January 12, 2017
Sad news about Graham Taylor . Had so much respect for him . Gave me my premier league debut and I will always be thankful .— Peter Crouch (@petercrouch) January 12, 2017
Very sad to hear the news about Graham Taylor. A @WatfordFC legend and an absolute gentleman— Ashley Young (@youngy18) January 12, 2017
Gascoigne was initially dropped by Taylor, which led critics of the manager to say he was unable to handle star players. A run of injuries - including the knee injury he suffered in the 1991 FA Cup final - meant he was unable to play a full part in Taylor's England reign.
The former Tottenham and Lazio star is trying to beat an addiction to alcohol but spoke fondly of Taylor when he heard the news of his death and passed on his condolences via A1 Sporting Speakers from rehab.
"I'm deeply sorry to hear about Graham Taylor. He will be a miss, and his enthusiasm for life and football was incredible. My thoughts go out to his family," he said in a statement released to Press Association Sport.
Former England and Arsenal striker Alan Smith expressed his sorrow at the news of Taylor's death.
"I'm totally shocked by the news. It is such a sad day, he was somebody I played for for England, and played against his Watford and Aston Villa teams," Smith told SSN.
"He was that kind of character that his players wanted to play for, and his club record speaks for itself. He had the charisma, he was a real people person. It's just terrible news."
Former England manager Steve McClaren, now at Derby, remembers Taylor's enthusiasm for the game.
"He was such as fantastic personality. He worked in all divisions and at every level," McClaren said.
"His enthusiasm for football showed all the way through. He was an original old-school manager, who had great success.
"He led his country and rebounded back from that.
"He was well respected across the game and it is a sad loss for football."