Botesdale man and former analyst for England pays tribute to “most gracious” boss Graham Taylor

Graham Taylor with club chairman Tony Fisher at the opening of Fakenham FC Ground Clipbush Park on July 16th 1997, also action from the game Watford FC v Fakenham FC  (Fakenham in Orange and Black kit) in 1997.
Graham Taylor with club chairman Tony Fisher at the opening of Fakenham FC Ground Clipbush Park on July 16th 1997, also action from the game Watford FC v Fakenham FC (Fakenham in Orange and Black kit) in 1997.

The football world lost one of its gentlemen earlier this month with the death of former England manager Graham Taylor. He died aged 72.

As well as his work with the national team, he was at the helm of Lincoln City, Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers, and famously led Watford from the Fourth Division to runners-up in the top tier during the 1980s.

Neil Lanham

Neil Lanham

At a local level, perhaps fittingly, Lincoln City defeated Ipswich Town in an FA Cup Third Round replay just five days after his death. It is the first time they have reached this stage of the famous competition since 1976 – when the Imps were under Taylor’s management.

But a Botesdale man had a unique and interesting relationship with Taylor, working with him during his spell as England supremo.

Neil Lanham, known to many in the local area as an expert in the oral traditions of Suffolk, also enjoyed a career in football as an analyst.

He would sit in the stand, taking each game down in shorthand. He would log where moves were started and where they ended, and what happened at the end of possession. It would then be run through a computer to give a picture of the game – which sometimes could not be seen from the stands.

Thank you for your reports which have been far more help than you are possibly aware

Graham Taylor’s letter to Neil Lanham in May 1992

His first job was in December 1982, working for John Docherty at Cambridge United, and enjoyed five promotions under Dave Bassett at Wimbledon, and Sheffield United.

England manager Taylor came to the home of Mr Lanham, at the time near Haverhill, in the aftermath of the 1990 World Cup. Mr Lanham had spent the summer analysing every touch of the ball in each of the 52 games of Italia 90. Put together, it spanned three volumes. Taylor paid £3,000 for a copy of them, and for Mr Lanham to prepare analysis of all of his England matches.

Mr Lanham described him as a “most courteous” man.

“He was dapper and jovial, and he liked telling stories, he was articulate,” he told the Diss Express.

A letter sent from Graham Taylor to Neil Lanham in May 1992.

A letter sent from Graham Taylor to Neil Lanham in May 1992.

“And you always got a reply with him, whatever it was.”

Taylor was famously the subject of a campaign from The Sun newspaper, which branded him a ‘turnip’.

“He was called a turnip and it looked terrible,” he said. “But I don’t think he seemed to take any notice of it. The media, with all due respect, are one thing and reality can be very different. He took it on the chin as being part of the job. I think he was a very good coach, and it was his man management – he was able to get people to do things they would not have normally done to make a team, to get players to give up their self expression for the benefit of the team.

“Perhaps that was, maybe not his secret, but what made him tick. He was able to get people to work for the team.”

Neil Lanham, pictured analysing a match during the 1990s. Submitted photo.

Neil Lanham, pictured analysing a match during the 1990s. Submitted photo.

One line in one of the last letters from the former England boss in May 1992 read: “Thank you for your reports which have been far more help than you are possibly aware.”