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Graham Taylor dies: Former Wolves stars and Kenny Jackett pay tribute

Sport | Published:

A host of Wolves players who played under Graham Taylor have paid tribute to the 72-year-old - as his protege Kenny Jackett called him an 'outstanding man'.

Taylor managed Wolves from March 1994 to November 1995.

He almost led them to promotion in his one full season in charge, with Wolves losing in the play-offs to Bolton.

Taylor laid the foundations for Wolves' academy and later convinced Jackett to take the Wolves job in 2013.

The pair had worked together at Watford and Jackett today told the Express & Star that Taylor was a father figure.

He said: "It's really sad news. He was an outstanding man personally and professionally.

"He was a father figure to so many of us at Watford FC."

A number of Wolves men to have played under Taylor have also spoken warmly of their former boss. It's widely considered that Taylor was wrongly hounded out too soon at Molineux. He would guide Watford from what is now League One to the Premier League in 1999.

Below we carry tributes in full from Steve Bull, Don Goodman, John De Wolf, Geoff Thomas and Andy Thompson.

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Steve Bull

Graham Taylor with Steve Bull and Graham Turner at the Wolverhampton Wanderers Hall of Fame 2011 evening

"He was a lovely man and a gentleman.

"He was a good manager to play under and I always say if he'd have stayed another year he'd have got Wolves to the Premier League.

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"It was big news when he took over the club as he'd left England not long before.

"Him and Steve Harrison blended realy well together - Steve was the comical one and once the gaffer came in it was really serious.

"Everything with Graham was done by the book. He was big on timekeeping and professionalism.

"He was a disciplinarian but not an abusive one - it was just about respect.

"He also kicked off the academy at Compton and look at that now. He got the whole thing together.

"Everybody thinks he tried to sell me to Coventry City but he told me it wasn't him - he said he wanted to keep me but those upstairs wanted a bit of money and he was nothing to do with it."

Don Goodman

Graham Taylor with John De Wolf and Don Goodman after the pair signed for Wolves in 1994

"I was in the gym when I heard the news. There was no sound on the TV but a picture of Graham popped up and I just got that horrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

"It's devastating news. I only knew him for a short time but he had such an impact on me

"All of my thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.

"He achieved fantastic and miraculous things in football, particularly with Watford.

"You look at John Barnes, David Platt, he transformed these players into world superstars.

"He was a lovely gentleman and one of those people who would walk into a room and have an aura about them.

"The first time I was met him was in a pub in Wolverhampton on the Birmingham New Road when he wanted to sign me from Sunderland.

"We sat in the back of the pub out of the way and had a good chat about football. He sold his vision of Wolves to me.

"I signed up soon after and I was eternally grateful to him.

"He was a motivator - he knew who to put an arm around and who to kick up the backside, which is a vital ingredient of being a successful manager.

"I would have run through a brick wall for the fella.

"He was innovative, maybe ahead of his time with psychologists etc, and the football achievements speak for themselves.

"When Wolves got rid of him it was one of the biggest mistakes the club has ever made.

"There was a panic on. We missed out in the play-offs and that Bolton game has gone down in history - how we didn't win it I'll never know.

"As is often the case we didn't get off to the most amazing of starts the next season and come November we played Charlton live on telly, which finished 0-0.

"I remember hitting the bar with what was almost the last shot of the game. Graham was sacked a week later and I often wondered if that shot had gone in whether Graham would have had a stay of execution.

"After Graham had left Wolves I fractured my skull during a game against Huddersfield in 1996. I was whisked away to hospital and by the time I'd come out my operation the first get-well message and bouquet of flowers was from Graham Taylor.

"That epitomises the class of the man.

"And the fact he never slagged off England, or Wolves, was indicative of his personality and character. He was humble.

"I got the impression the national press were desperate for Wolves to fail so they could vilify him but he handled it with such amazing dignity."

John De Wolf

John De Wolf was made captain by Graham Taylor

"I heard the last time I was at Wolves that he was very ill but it's still a shock.

"It's very hard to hear, he was too young to die.

"I played for Holland against England, which was the famous game that stopped England going to the World Cup and then later Graham was sacked.

"We played the game at Rotterdam which we won 2-0 - I think he was impressed with me and I think that's why seven months later he signed me for Wolves.

"Before I signed my contract I met him twice in Holland and from the beginning it was a very good feeling.

"He believed in me from the very first day when he told everyone I was the new captain.

"He was a very warm person and a manager who gave confidence to his players. He was also a very nice person, very relaxed and most importantly he was very intelligent.

"It was such a shame we didn't get promoted

"I was still at the club when he was sacked. I was injured and when it happened it was the time that my feeling was over at Wolves.

"Mark McGhee didn't believe in me. It was really hard that Wolves sacked Graham.

"He believed he would take Wolves to the Premier League and he told me if I wasn't injured we would have gone up to the Premier League."

Geoff Thomas

Geoff Thomas in his Wolves days

"I'm just shocked and so sad to hear this.

"He handed me my big chance on the international stage and I won all nine of my England caps under Graham.

"I always remember he pulled me and David Platt to one side, we'd just beaten Russia 3-1 or something and he told us that was how he wanted England's midfield to be; attacking, with pace and flair. He just knew what buttons to press with different people.

"I know he wasn't everyone's cup of tea in that England squad but for players like myself - and the squad was going through a big change post-1990 - he have us confidence and belief that we deserved to be there.

"The world of football ridiculed him for a while but I always backed him.

"And then the first time I met him after all that was when he walked in at Wolves.

"There were a few chirpy remarks between us and then everything was back to normal and we had a really nice relationship.

"In fact we nearly bought houses next to each other in Sutton Coldfield! We put deposits down but then it never happened.

"He was very disciplined in training - he didn't mess about and was quick to come down on you.

"And he was very clever with his coaching team. Steve Harrison was one of the best coaches and personalities I played under.

"Graham Taylor welcomed that partnership - they were yin and yang.

"Every manager knows their shortcomings and you bridge those gaps with people alongside you, as he did with Steve. That was Graham through and through.

"I only played a handful of games under him at Wolves - I was desperate to get back from injury, Wolves were far too big for that division and Graham was desperate to get them to the next level.

"He did well there but he was always under pressure because it was his first job after England.

"He took the England thing on the chin, came to Wolves, it was a big opportunity and I enjoyed playing under him.

"I got to know him really well after football. He helped me out a number of times with charity work and I saw a different Graham Taylor.

"He always had a sense of humour, but was a little bit sharper away from football as well.

"I think I could call him a friend, he was always there to pick up the phone and offer advice.

"He was one of the nicest men in football. He was just a really genuinely nice guy and my thoughts are with his family."

Andy Thompson

Andy Thompson was a regular under Graham Taylor at Wolves

"I'm surprised and shocked.

"He was only my manager for a brief time but he definitely left his mark.

"I respected him hugely and was struck by his professionalism, his organisation and his attention to detail.

"It was a big thing for Wolves when he came in. He came across well in his first meeting and told us where he wanted the club to go and what he wanted us to achieve.

"His first game was away at Bolton. He wasn't supposed to be in charge that day, just watching from the stands, but he came down to the dressing room at half time and said a few things - we ended up winning 3-1 and I got on the scoresheet.

"The club certainly had a higher profile after he joined. There were half a dozen or so press and media before then, but it quadrupled under Graham.

"I'll always remember that when he came out for training he always had his socks rolled up to his knees.

"He was very professional and he expected the same from his players. We were well organised in our preparation for games and he wanted everything done in the right way.

"He got a lot of stick but he always said he could handle it himself - he knew it would happen but he took it on his shoulders.

"It's just a shame how it ended up. If we'd got up that year we could have really done something.

"The following year didn't start so well, he got a lot of abuse and stick from the fans, probably on the back of the England job.

"He later tried to get me to go to Watford - I had a meeting with him, before I joined Tranmere. The circumstances didn't work out with my family but I was close to joining.

"I'll always remember his honesty. Sometimes it was blunt honesty but he said it as it was."

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