The tale of England striker Tommy Taylor could have come straight from Roy Of The Rovers.
The tale of Tommy Taylor could have come straight from Roy Of The Rovers.
He was the striker who worked down the pits before signing for Manchester United in a bizarre deal involving a club tea lady. In reality, Taylor’s story ended in tragedy when he died in the Munich air disaster.
Sixteen goals from just 19 appearances make Taylor one of England’s most potent post-war strikers, but Munich robbed his country of his talents before his peak. Taylor would have been 34 by 1966; those who saw him play say he’d still have found the net in that campaign.
Born in Barnsley in 1932, he worked in the coal mines as a teenager and signed for his home-town club after national service, hitting a hat-trick in his second game.
Matt Busby identified the brave, pacy centre-forward as the final piece of the Old Trafford jigsaw. But Taylor was reluctant to leave Barnsley and it took a colossal £29,999 fee to persuade them to part with their prodigy. Busby was unwilling to make Tayloronly the third £30,000 signing ever, so the remaining pound was paid to the Oakwell tea lady.
He scored a 20-yard header on his debut and never looked back. In five years under Busby he was never dropped, scoring 128 goals in 189 matches and winning two Championship medals. In his first season, Inter unsuccessfully offered £65,000 for him.
Taylor’s England debut, against Argentina in 1953, was abandoned after 22 minutes, but he scored in Chile a week later and went on to bag two hat-tricks in his 16 strikes.
His finest hour came in 1956 against Brazil at Wembley, scoring twice in a 4-2 win over the next world champions. "Brazil were world-class, but Tommy was their equal," said United team-mate Jackie Blanchflower. "He was lethal. I’d count it as his best match for England."
Taylor died aged 26. Bobby Charlton said: "He had a big heart, brave as a lion. Truly magnificent." Alfredo Di Stefano kept his tribute to just one word. "Magnifico."
Tommy Taylor Factfile
Nationality: England (19 caps, 16 goals)
Date of Birth: 29 January 1932
Place of Birth: Barnsley
Clubs: Barnsley (1950-53: 46 appearances, 27 goals), Manchester United (1953-58: 189 appearances, 128 goals)
Honours: League 1955/56, 1956/57