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Taylor did not deserve turnip treatment

Taylor-made tribute: Vicarage Road is sure to be an emotional place as Watford fans honour their former manager (Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA via AP)

The passing of time often provides much-needed clarity.

Looking back at the infamous “Swedes 2 Turnips 1” headline in The Sun, its ridicule of a heartfelt, decent man is at best unjust, at worst a disgrace.

Oh, how most of us laughed when Graham Taylor’s head was superimposed on to a vegetable. Perhaps we wouldn’t have chuckled so heartily if we knew the long-term damage it would cause to the manager’s reputation.

To his never-ending credit, the former England boss, who died yesterday aged 72, refused to let it sour him. The butt of the joke, he remained generous, classy, insightful and hugely likeable. It proved what many had known already: that Taylor was a man of exceptional character.

He struggled as national coach and was crucified for it but his incredible achievements with Watford and Aston Villa, decency and personality eventually outshone the vindictive headlines.

A run through the England managers since him and his name above all provokes a special fondness.

The job chewed him up and spat him out — like everybody else — but it’s hard not to warm to man who felt, in his own quirky way, the frustrations of watching England as much as the supporters did. Yesterday’s tributes are testament to that.

Go on YouTube and watch his dugout outbursts; I challenge you not to like the guy.

11am kick offs unless stated


Tottenham Hotspur v West Bromwich Albion, 8.30am

Spurs signalled their intentions with the comprehensive defeat of Chelsea. Well-coached, organised, they appear to be peaking at the right time. Bad news for WBA. Prediction: 3-0

Burnley v Southampton

Southampton’s first-leg win over Liverpool in midweek was a ray of light in recent weeks. Three straight league defeats and a trip to Turf Moor where Burnley have won five of their past six Premier League games does not bode well. Prediction: 1-0

Hull City v Bournemouth

Marco Silva has made a decent impression at Hull but, of course, it’s all relative. It’s do-or-die time for the Tigers. Bournemouth will see this as a huge opportunity. Prediction: 2-2

Sunderland v Stoke City

Sunderland showed significant fight against an out-of-soughts Liverpool but are capable of capitulation. The Stadium of Light should be up for this one but they take on a steady Stoke team safely ensconced in midtable. Prediction: 1-1

Swansea City v Arsenal

Paul Clement may have worked with some stellar names at Real and Bayern but it’s another proposition facing them. It’s a good bet he’ll get Swansea more organised defensively — that shouldn’t be hard — but this is an almighty task. Prediction: 0-1

Watford v Middlesbrough

Vicarage Road will be a tearful venue tomorrow as the Watford faithful pay their respects to former manager Taylor. Boro will try to ruin the party but it would take a cold-hearted person not to wish for a home win. Prediction: 2-1

West Ham United v Crystal Palace

Dimitri Payet has decided he’s had enough of the London Stadium but his refusal to play has left them in the lurch. Classy guy. Still, he wouldn’t be able to hear the abuse with the fans so far away from the pitch. Palace and Big Sam could take advantage here. Prediction: 1-2

Leicester City v Chelsea, 1.30pm

Suitably chastened by the end of their unbeaten run, Chelsea take on the champions with a point to prove. I have a feeling it may not end well for Claudio Ranieri & Co. Prediction: 1-2


Everton v Manchester City, 9.30am

Ronald Koeman is not going to die wondering as he attempts to shake the mediocrity from Everton. Critical of his players and with a January chequebook to hand, they’ll be worth watching.

City appear to have regained some of their early season swagger. Prediction: 2-3

Manchester United v Liverpool, noon

The big game of the weekend. United’s form is ominous, nine straight wins, while Liverpool have surprisingly stuttered in league and cups recently. It could be that Jürgen Klopp will get them to peak for the big games as he so often does but José Mourinho is starting to build momentum at Old Trafford and, having done a number on Liverpool at Anfield, he will surely unleash more attacking threat this time around. Prediction: 2-1