Football: Watford held after emotional Graham Taylor tribute

A minute's applause was held before the match in memory of former Watford manager Graham Taylor.
A minute's applause was held before the match in memory of former Watford manager Graham Taylor.PHOTO: REUTERS

WATFORD, United Kingdom (AFP) - Watford fans paid an emotional tribute to Graham Taylor after the death of their former manager, but their team couldn't match that fitting send-off in a dour 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough on Saturday (Jan 14).

Taylor passed away on Thursday at the age of 72 after suffering a suspected heart attack and the club where he made his name did him proud with moving tributes before the Premier League clash at Vicarage Road.

Fans gathered outside the stadium to lay flowers, many in the club's yellow and red colours, alongside shirts, scarfs and other momentos in memory of the man who gave them so many unforgettable moments during his 15 years in charge.

A previously unglamourous club languishing in the fourth tier when Taylor arrived from Lincoln in 1977, Watford were utterly transformed as he led them to the top-flight in just five years.

It was a remarkable ride that produced Watford's only FA Cup final appearance in 1984, the club's first foray onto the European stage and an unlikely alliance with flamboyant pop star and Hornets owner Elton John.

Former England boss Taylor cemented his legacy by returning to Watford to win successive promotions that led to a Premier League place in 1999 and the outpouring of emotion following his death underlined such how much he meant to his old club.

Before kick-off, Taylor's smiling face beamed down from big screens inside the stadium and the slogan "There's only one Graham Taylor" was emblazoned on hoardings around the pitch, while fans held up a mosaic making the letters GT.

With Taylor's wife Rita and daughters Joanne and Karen in the stands, there was a minute's applause and Taylor's name was chanted long and loud throughout the emotional tribute.

Watford manager Walter Mazzarri had called onto his players to pay their own respects to Taylor by beating Middlesbrough.

They had an early chance to open the scoring when a fortunate deflection sent Etienne Capoue through on goal, but the midfielder took a heavy touch, giving Middlesbrough goalkeeper Victor Valdes time to race out and block his shot.

Middlesbrough's Cristhian Stuani had the ball in the net moments later, only to see his effort correctly ruled out for offside.

Valdes made another good stop to keep out Abdoulaye Doucoure's powerful low strike from just inside the penalty area.

Neither team were at their best and Stuani could only loft his shot on the top of the net after a rare Middlesbrough raid in the closing stages of the first half.

There was more menace to both teams after the break and Middlesbrough's Fabio saw his stinging effort palmed away by Heurelho Gomes.

Benin striker Rudy Gestede was sent on for his first appearance for Middlesbrough following a £6 million (S$10.4 million) move from Aston Villa and he blasted just wide in the closing stages.

Watford almost won it when Tom Cleverley, signed on loan from Everton this week, fired against a post and Capoue diverted the rebound narrowly wide.