How Taylor Saved A Life

And Not Of Just ANYONE

By David Instone

Graham Taylor on his page in Wolves’ programme early in 1994-95 .

In the Molineux press box memoir I wrote and published in 2018, I told how Graham Taylor once spectacularly tried to bring Elton John to his senses by plonking some booze in front of him at a dinner party at which other guests were served the finest food.

My decision to use the anecdote was a bit of a punt, based on the insight of a highly respected former Watford Observer sports reporter and Taylor ally called Oliver Phillips.

Confirmation of the story has belatedly come, though, from a good friend of the former Wolves and England manager at the higher end of the media scale.

The close relationship between Taylor and the long-time owner of Watford has been frequently chronicled before but retired BBC football correspondent Mike Ingham has used his autobiography to reveal more.

The day before the fourth anniversary of Graham’s unexpected death, I can belatedly feel even more assured that that tip-off from Oliver Phillips the best part of 30 years ago was a very sound one.

Over to Ingham’s excellent ‘After Extra Time And Penalties’ book: “Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland was, like other tournaments held in two countries, rather soulless, apart from one night in Vienna,” he wrote.

“Graham had arranged for us to attend a concert by his former Watford chairman. There was no band, just Elton performing his classic songs sitting at his piano in the home of Johann Strauss.

“We talked football with him in his dressing room until it was time for him to perform. Half-way through the show, he dedicated a song to Graham and told the story of how, in his early days at Watford, he had been helped by the manager to confront his addictions and how it forced him to change his way of life.

“Graham told me that, one Sunday morning, in a bid to make his chairman see the light, he goaded him into shame by putting two very large bottles in front of him on his breakfast table.

“(At the performance) Sir Elton sang ‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight’ and I was sitting next to Graham. I didn’t need to look at him to gauge his reaction but was aware of him drying his specs at the end.”

Oh well…..I may have said in ‘Between The Golden Lines’ that it was not a breakfast meet but a dinner party hosted by Taylor and his wife Rita. Or maybe there was more than one such incident. But the gist of the tale was very accurate.

We once more send our best wishes to the Taylor family as this desperately sad anniversary looms and also put in a very good word for the recollections of Mike Ingham MBE, who succeeded Brian Moore and Bryon Butler as BBC football correspondent and held the post for almost a quarter of a century.

He worked with ten full-time England managers and also makes mention in the book of Tommy Docherty, Derek Dougan, Andy Gray, Ian Greaves, Alan Hinton, Glenn Hoddle, Emlyn Hughes, Paul Ince, Dave Maclaren, Jimmy Melia, Robert Plant, Peter Withe and Billy Wright.

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