Phil Taylor is one of Liverpool Football Club's greatest ever servants.
Signed from his hometown club Bristol Rovers as an 18-year-old in 1936, he went on to serve the Reds for 23 years as a player, coach and manager. It's as Bill Shankly's predecessor in the Anfield hot-seat for which he's probably most remembered, but that should not be allowed to overshadow his exemplary playing career on Merseyside.
A teenage footballing prodigy who had captained England schoolboys, he joined the ground-staff at his local side Bristol Rovers when only 14 and turned professional three years later.
It wasn't long before his precocious talents attracted the attention of most leading clubs and Liverpool pulled off a major coup to pip two of the biggest at the time, Arsenal and Sunderland, to his signature in a deal that cost £5,000 and saw Ted Harthill move in the opposite direction. He arrived in March 1936 and immediately made his mark by scoring a last-minute goal that rescued a point in a 2-2 draw away to Derby County on his debut.
The majority of his pre-war football at Anfield was played in the forward line but an injury to Matt Busby gave him a chance at wing-half and it was in this position that he was to firmly establish himself in. Soon being hailed as a player of supreme elegance, oozing class and professionalism, and viewed as the natural heir to Busby's half-back throne - in Taylor, Liverpool had themselves a worthy successor to the great Scotland international.
"A gem of Busbian worth," was the description given to him by one local newspaper and there's no doubt his presence at the club helped softened the blow of Busby's eventual departure.
A keen cricketer, he even made a first-class appearance for Gloucestershire in 1938 but football was the sport in which he continued to excel most. A typical English gentleman, Taylor was always immaculately turned out and proved to be a fine ambassador for the club.
He was one of the first Liverpool players to sign up for the Territorial Army just before the outbreak of war and later served in the 9th King's Regiment, guarding the viaducts on the Liverpool to London train line. He was just four appearances short of 100 for the Reds during the war and also guested for a number of other sides, including Leeds, Newcastle and most of all Brighton. A clever footballer who believed the game should be played on the floor, one of his key assets was the ability to deliver a precision pass to his forwards.
With League football about to resume, the now 29-year old was at the peak of his game and with Busby gone the stage was there for him to prove to a wider audience just what a quality player he was. In a side that contained a young Billy Liddell and Bob Paisley, plus star centre-forward Albert Stubbins, Taylor made 35 appearances for Liverpool in 1946-47 as George Kay's 'Crazy Gang' upset the odds to lift the inaugural post-war Football League Championship.
He remained an integral member of the team for the next six years, and won three England caps in the process, but was unable to stop the sudden decline in Liverpool's fortunes following the title-winning success of 46-47. In 1949-50 he was seen as the natural candidate to succeed Jack Balmer as captain and later that season proudly became the first man to lead this club out at Wembley, although a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal was to ultimately ruin his big day.
As Liverpool slid towards the Second Division in the years that followed, Taylor continued to be a regular and reliable member of the team's defence but played just six times in the season that relegation was finally confirmed. His last appearance was on Christmas Day 1953 and upon hanging up his boots he was offered a position on the backroom staff, working under Don Welsh.
When Welsh was relieved of his duties in 1956 Taylor stepped up to the plate to succeed him. Three successive near misses in the quest to secure a top-flight return eventually took its toll and his managerial fate was virtually sealed after an infamous FA Cup third round defeat away to non-league Worcester City in January 1959.
Before the end of that year he resigned, stating that he'd took the club as far as he could and that, "the strain of trying to win promotion has proved too much." His departure paved the way for Bill Shankly's arrival but Taylor continued to wholeheartedly support the club and was regular in the Main Stand at Anfield for many years after.
Due to illness, little had been seen or heard of him in recent years and his passing at the age of 95 severs the last surviving link with the Liverpool team that won the First Division Championship in 1946-47.