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Venables, Gazza and Ferguson lead emotional tributes to late Graham Taylor

By Carl Markham

Terry Venables has paid tribute to former England manager Graham Taylor and said his death has hit him "like a sledge hammer".

Taylor has died aged 72 of a suspected heart attack. He enjoyed great success in club management, particularly at Watford and Aston Villa, before taking charge of the national team in 1990.

Taylor took over from Bobby Robson, who had led England to the semi-finals of the previous summer's World Cup in Italy, but inherited a team hampered by injuries and in transition which failed to get out of their group at Euro 92 and missed out on qualification altogether for the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

He resigned as England manager in November 1993 and returned to the club game.

"I was (manager) at QPR and he was at Watford, there was always great banter," said Venables, who became England manager after Taylor. "Me and Graham, we were rivals, then there was David Pleat when he was at Luton, so it was a fantastic time.

"Graham, he was a leader. He knew what he wanted, whether it was the coaching, or (later) on the radio. It has really hit us like a sledge hammer. We were never ready for something like that, because he was not an old person."

Former England striker Gary Lineker also paid tribute to one of his old managers.

The Match of the Day presenter tweeted: "Very sad news that Graham Taylor has passed away. An outstanding manager, lover of football and thoroughly decent man."

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: "He was the natural choice to become the England manager when he did and this was the pinnacle of a hugely successful career.

"I have very fond memories of Graham. He was approachable, open and honest. If he could help you in any way, he always would. I was really shocked by this terrible news and I send my condolences to Graham's wife and family."

Paul Gascoigne also paid tribute to his former England manager, saying: "His enthusiasm for life and football was incredible."

The former Tottenham and Lazio midfielder 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.

He said: "I'm deeply sorry to hear about Graham Taylor. He will be a miss, and his enthusiasm for life and football was incredible."

Alan Shearer, who played under Taylor, tweeted: "Always held him in the very highest regard - the man who gave me my first England cap. So sad."

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