Torquay United manager Gary Johnson: I miss the great Graham Taylor
- Credit: Archant
I can picture the scene now. Three men are sitting in a football manager's office tackling the decision to release a young player hoping for his first professional contract.
The three people were Graham Taylor, manager of Watford, myself as academy director and the youth trainee was my son Lee.
Graham had talked it over with me before deciding that Lee wasn't quite going to get in the Watford first team in the next year or so - a tough enough call anyway.
When we told him the bad news that day, Lee was crying, I was crying and Graham was crying too. He was that sort of bloke.
Years later, when Lee had played hundreds of games and won quite a few promotions and cups with Yeovil Town, Bristol City and Kilmarnock, we both received a letter which said: 'Well, I was wrong, wasn't I!' and saying how pleased he was that Lee had gone on to have a great career.
I count myself lucky to have worked under Graham for more than two years.
I had done a spot of scouting for Kenny Jackett at Watford, when Graham, who was general manager at Vicarage Road after spells with England and Wolves, was made manager for the second time.
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Kenny and Luther Blissett were appointed as coaches and Graham asked me to lead the Hornets into the new Youth Academy system.
Graham was delighted that his beloved club finally had a youth team playing all the big teams, and he then gave me the chance to work with the first team as 'set plays' coach.
He was meticulous in his preparation.
At the end of the last training session before each game, he would spend at least five minutes with every player, going over exactly what their job was. The other ten would have to wait and listen to every word, because he was so strong on them retaining all the information he was giving.
We got two more promotions, from League One back to the Premier League, and I'm even more pleased that I got very close to Graham.
He used to love his red wine after a game. There were times when I had to niftily pour a sip or two into a plant pot, just to make sure I could drive home!
From Graham, I learned that a manager has to be a combination of dad, mum, best friend and worst enemy at times, and how to do the lot.
Elton John (then Watford chairman) has said how much Graham helped him during some of his own tough times. He was only ever a phone call away.
When he was angry, especially if he thought you had let him down, he had a way of killing you with just the right words, delivered very passionately!
He had time for everybody, including reporters - his dad Tom had covered Scunthorpe United for many years, so he always had a feeling for that job and, of course, he became a pundit himself later.
The tone of the media criticism he got towards the end of his time with England hurt him. It was poor and he did not deserve it.
His record at Lincoln, Watford twice, Aston Villa twice and Wolves is still amazing to read - so many championships, promotions, records broken - and it has left a legacy that will last a very long time.
My wife Caron and I went to his funeral (2017). There were about 200 of us inside the church, but there were more than 3,000 outside. He would have been happy that so many people felt that way about him.
Graham Taylor wasn't only a great manager, and I use the word 'great' deliberately. He was also a gentleman, a massive influence on me and I do miss him. I'm not the only one.
Stay safe everyone, look after each other and see you in a fortnight's time...