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Football world says poignant farewell to Graham Taylor

By Matt McGeehan

Luminaries from the world of football gathered for the funeral of Graham Taylor in Watford yesterday, paying tribute to a husband, father, grandfather and one of their own.

"'Family first, except on match days', he used to say," daughter Joanne told mourners during a poignant service at St Mary's Church.

The former Watford, Aston Villa and Wolves manager died on January 12 aged 72 following a suspected heart attack.

Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Watford captain Troy Deeney were among the hundreds of mourners to attend.

In Watford the affection for Taylor was undimmed by his ignominious England reign from 1990 to 1993, which saw his team fail to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

An estimated 1,500 people gathered, many in the gold, black and red of Watford FC, to pay their respects. Some scaled a multi-story car park to view proceedings.

Taylor led the Hornets from the old Fourth Division to runners-up in the top flight in his first spell in charge, when Sir Elton John owned the club.

John was not present, but his tribute to Taylor was read by John Motson, the BBC commentator, as audio of the service was relayed to those outside.

"I have so many wonderful memories of Graham that I could write a whole book. He was without doubt like a brother," John said.

John lauded Taylor's enthusiasm, commitment and passion as Watford became "an unstoppable force of nature".

Taylor achieved three promotions in five seasons with Watford before leaving for Villa in 1987.

He made Watford - where he had a second spell as manager from 1996 to 2001 - a family and community club. John said: "He is a legend in this community, in football and in life. I love you my friend. Thank you for everything."

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