The death of Stuart Taylor at the age of 72 will be, first and foremost, a terrible loss to his family. Secondly, it will be a terrible loss to football in general and Bristol Rovers in particular. Rovers were the only club Taylor ever played for, making 546 league appearances between 1965 and 1980. I would describe his passing as the death of a legend.
I was fortunate enough to watch Stuart Taylor play for the Rovers. He was an old fashioned centre half, totally reliable and tough as nails. His would have been one of the first names on the team sheet.
The word legend is bandied about these days like confetti. Wayne Scrote, who plays at a club for two years before moving on for more money at a bigger club is often regarded years later as a legend And maybe he is. For it is a subjective matter. One man’s legend is another man’s traitor.
I confer legendary status upon Stuart Taylor because in all likelihood, no one will ever do what he did. Perhaps it is because times have changed and that loyalty doesn’t mean quite so much as it used to. Perhaps because at clubs like Rovers, it is increasingly rare that players come through the ranks and even when they do, the better ones usually move on. And maybe it’s because at so many clubs there is little or no continuity, with owners and managers coming and going a football club’s psyche can change overnight.
I didn’t know Stuart Taylor but I met him on many occasions. Once was at a reunion night for the Watney Cup winning Bristol Rovers team of 1972, arranged by my old friends Tim Blake and Steve Slade. Some players, like Bruce Bannister, sent their apologies, most did not even acknowledge their invitations. Stuart Taylor turned up, though, and his presence made the evening worthwhile. He was and will always be one of our own.
We know his latter years were difficult, as he courageously battled against dementia. I know from personal family experience what that evil disease can do to someone and I would imagine that amid the sadness and grief, his passing could be a blessing, a deliverance to those who loved him most and did not want him to suffer.
Nothing can take away my memories of Stuart Taylor. I can still see him at Eastville, our spiritual home, through the damp, grey mist on a night game, beneath the occasional flickering floodlight, giving his all for the club he loved.
Sleep well, Stuart. You really were a legend and you always will be.