View Full Version : [11] Alex Ferguson pays tribute to Graham Taylor, and says how he missed out on John Barnes but got Steve Bruce

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15-02-2017, 09:38 AM
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“When someone dies, it’s quite often the case that so many plaudits come out that some of them aren’t completely factual. In the case of Graham Taylor, however, everything that has been said about him, both as a man and a manager, has been completely true. He was an excellent manager and a truly good person as well. That much was clear from my very first experience of Graham back in 1984, when I was manager of Aberdeen and Graham was at Watford for the first time. We tried to sign Mo Johnston, who had been doing really well at Vicarage Road, but Celtic were after him at the same time and Graham accepted their offer. He was good enough to ring me up and have a chat about the transfer, and I’ve never forgotten that.

A couple of years later, in my first season at United, he got back in touch and said: ‘I’d just like you to know that John Barnes’s contract is up at the end of the season. He’ll be leaving and I think he’s a Manchester United player.’ Straight away, I dug out the reports we already had on John Barnes. Quite amazingly, we only had two, even though he’d already played for England and had that great game against Brazil, but we had a big problem. We’d already done a deal with Jesper Olsen to sign a new contract and he, of course, played in the same position. So our hands were tied a little bit, but I went down to see Barnes play anyway against Norwich. I remember it vividly; it was a Friday night in December 1986 at Vicarage Road and I think fate played a big part that night, because it became the night when Steve Bruce really caught my attention. He was absolutely outstanding throughout the game and looked a fantastic talent. My interest in signing him started that night and, ironically enough, he made his debut for United exactly a year later. That game was also the first time I ever saw Mike Phelan play and, of course, Mike also ended up coming to join us at Old Trafford. So even though we didn’t end up signing John Barnes, Graham had a big influence on my early transfers as United manager.”