David Taylor: Respected and admired football executive who led the Scottish FA out of the 'pencil-and-paper-clip era'

 

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The Independent Online

Beneath the calm, measured exterior which David Taylor presented as chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, and latterly as general secretary and chief executive of Uefa, the governing body of the European game, lay a wide-eyed fan who was not embarrassed to ask for an autograph.

Taylor, who has died at the age of 60, became chief executive of the SFA in 1999, having once been a foot-soldier in the Tartan Army. Within three years he oversaw the bold appointment of Berti Vogts, the former Germany coach, as manager of Scotland. The move proved a failure, but before Taylor was lured to Switzerland by Uefa he restored stability by giving the job to two successful former Rangers managers, Walter Smith and Alex McLeish.

After attending Dundee High School, Taylor graduated in law from the University of Edinburgh. He worked as a solicitor until 1985 before serving the Scottish Development Association (now Scottish Enterprise) and Scottish Trade International, which promotes Scottish trade overseas.

His arrival at the SFA appeared a natural progression. Taylor had been a boyhood follower of Forfar Athletic, where his father was a director. During the 1970s he became a regular at Hibernian, and when he lived in Glasgow he gravitated towards Partick Thistle.

The former SFA press officer Andy Mitchell said Taylor was "a picture of health" when they met at a Champions' League match at Old Trafford in April, having previously encountered him at Alloa versus Dundee. "He just loved football," Mitchell said. "Long before he came to the SFA he was a member of the Scotland Travel Club and went to a couple of World Cups as a fan."

Taylor's greatest legacy was arguably modernising the SFA after what insiders termed the "pencil and paper-clip era" under his predecessor Jim Farry. He led the joint Scottish-Irish bid to stage Euro 2008, which was awarded to Austria and Switzerland. Scotland did not qualify for any major tournaments on his watch, with Vogts' reign conspicuously unsuccessful. However, the manager he replaced, Craig Brown, magnanimously noted that the appointment was initially seen as "a real coup" because Vogts had "a great CV".

Brown remembered fondly attending the World Cup draw in Tokyo, where Taylor was "like a big kid" in the presence of Guus Hiddink, Gerard Houllier and Michel Platini. After asking Platini for his signature, Taylor became firm friends with the former France captain and went on to work with him at Uefa.

Taylor had mixed relations with the Scottish media. When the press XI played their Estonian counterparts in Tallinn, he volunteered to play, scored and then revealed that the national-team doctor had removed an ingrowing toenail to facilitate his participation. Yet after Scotland's grim draw with the Faroe Islands under Vogts, Taylor branded them "the worst press in Europe".

In 2011 he suffered a heart attack playing in a Uefa staff game at Nyon and owed his life to the speed of medics using a defibrillator. He returned to work but fell ill on holiday in Turkey and died after returning to Scotland.

David Taylor, football administrator: born Forfar, Angus 14 March 1954; married Cathy (two sons); died Glasgow 24 June 2014.

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