I thought I'd post this some 24 hours on from the dreadfully sad news that Graham Taylor, former England, Watford and Villa boss, has passed away at the age of 72. A man universally loved and respected by his peers and fans alike - the tributes from all and sundry that I read and listened to were something else. Brilliant memories.
Then, I was asked by a pal whether I could tell the story of how my impressions caused me a moment of sheer panic at the hands of Graham Taylor himself...so here goes...
Some years ago I was at Molineux for an England U-21 game as talkSPORT's reporter. A number of the Midlands writers who worked the local beat and had become really good friends by that time were there like Neil Moxley and Janine Self, along with Darren Fletcher who was working for 5 Live that night.
By this time, my dodgy Graham Taylor impression was becoming well known in the various press boxes of the region-so much so that on this occasion, top writer from the Sundays and big Wolves fan David Harrison asked whether I could record a new answerphone message for his mobile phone in the style of Graham.
And so presently, in the middle of the Wolves press room, I had David's phone and recorded something like this;
"Yes hello, this is Graham Taylor, former manager of England, do you see? And I'm afraid David cannot take your call at the mo...no don't hang up...DON'T hang up, NO DON'T!!!!!....Just leave a message after the tone and what he WILL do is call you back, do you see...Carlton! They're losing their shape...TONYYYYY!!!!"
Or something like that.
It earned a far too generous round of applause from the assembled journos, and I was subsequently asked to record similar messages for several other colleagues' mobiles at their insistence.
It was all good fun and yet swiftly forgotten as the night went on and the U21 game was played out.
Some weeks later - I forget where - I was in another press room pre-match (possibly Villa Park) when David Harrison came sidling up to me, smiling broadly. "You're in big trouble Dants" was his opening salvo. Unaware of what he was getting at, I replied, slightly flustered, "W-why? What's happened?"
"Left my mobile unattended for an hour yesterday" David smirked as he went on, "and guess who rang me at that time, eh?"
The sheer horror of what must have happened slowly dawned on me and I'm certain the colour must've drained completely from my face. David went on, warming to his task of telling the tale; "When I clicked on voicemail, I heard a message that simply said 'Get this f*****g message off your phone pronto, ok?' from, er, you know who-he hung up straight after...you're a marked man now, Dants..."
By now I must've looked like a gibbering wreck as I decided my career was over as a former England manager had me marked for death. 'I could always go back to guitar sales', I thought...
David quickly chuckled, put his hand on my shoulder and cleared things up sensing my inner torment. "Dants, Dants...He called me back later completely laughing his head off at what he'd heard coming back at him with your impression...he loved it mate. Absolutely loved it"
I did meet Graham in person a number of times later in my career, but I never did bring the voicemail thing up. I should have done-he'd no doubt have laughed long and loud about it whilst gently ribbing me in the process.
That was Graham Taylor-self deprecating but with a cheeky mischievous glint in his eye. Football will miss him terribly.
Did We Like Him.