One spring morning in the early 1960s, along with a colleague from the West Herts Post, I stood outside St Mary’s Church, Watford. Our task was to note the identity of the mourners attending the biggest funeral in town for several years.

It was the custom to identify the mourners and Richard and I wrote down the names of those we understood to be the great and the good. In our naïve, junior reporter days, we were yet to gain the perception that some were not so great and others far from good.

Our vigil was the occasion of the funeral of Watford’s best-loved sporting son, Arthur Grimsdell, former England captain, who also skippered for most of his 350 Spurs appearances. Arthur had attended Watford Fields School and was Watford born and bred, returning to the locality to become a board member at Vicarage Road - the club he had briefly played for.

Arthur did not follow in the footsteps of royalty and buy a condo in Biarritz: money in the 1920s and 1930s football was pretty tight even for a player in the upper echelons of the game. Instead he managed to buy a High Street newsagents’ and have another shop in Vicarage Road. His fame was such that when talking to Liverpool’s famed Bill Shankly in 1966, he asked me if Arthur’s shop was still there, near the ground? “He was one hell of a player,” he said.

I recalled that day people avowed there would never be another funeral like it for Watford would never produce such a famous home-grown footballer as Arthur. Probably they were right, but no one can dispute Wednesday’s (February 1) event was the biggest sporting funeral the town has seen. Strange to think that initially Graham, on arriving at Watford, had been irked by fans shouting “Taylor – get a sub on” instead of referring to him as “Graham”, as was the case at Lincoln. Yet not only subsequently did he take the locality to his heart but was swamped with love, gratitude and admiration by those of a Watford persuasion.

I thought of the callow youth of yesterday, standing nervously at the door of St Mary’s, as I approached it for Graham’s funeral. There was no need for anyone to identify people this time: the names of the 450 invitees were already written down as just one element of a meticulous and superbly organised funeral.

As I noted Ross Jenkins saying hello to some of the 1,500 fans gathered outside, I heard my name being called out, looked without discernment at the sea of yellow and black, smiled and waved acknowledgement.

“Should he have been smiling,” my wife, Ellie, questioned when the photo was WhatsApp-ed to her in France from our Spanish-based son-in-law, a devout Watford fan. He pointed out that most were smiling en route to the church and indeed they were for it had been that sort of morning. It was a bitter-sweet day; one of great sadness but also the celebration of a life well lived with integrity and honesty.

Coffee and biscuits had been served at Vicarage Road from 10.30am in the Players’ Lounge. “What a pity that we all have to get together for something sad like this. It would be marvellous if we could organise something like this to celebrate our Watford association,” said John McClelland, the first to arrive, limping in.

The speediest “cripple” ever to play for the Hornets, as the dressing room claimed, had a point. The room was soon echoing with the sound of former players and associates greeting each other, catching up on the latest news and indulging in the occasional banter. Graham, with his passing, had brought us all together and in doing so prompted a cogent reminder of what were, for many, the happiest days of their lives.

They were to be amazed how the old camaraderie, forged perhaps 20 to 40 years ago, buried for the duration along with so many happy memories, should surface so quickly that day. It was as if they had never been away.

And there were anecdotes too. Kirk Wheeler, former community worker at Watford recalled the day he and Graham went to Blackpool to watch a game. Spotted by the younger element in the crowd, the Watford manager was immediately bombarded with “Orange! Do I not like that” along with a plethora of expletives surrounding a Turnip chant.

Graham ignored that but when one fan at half-time had the temerity to ask: ”Oi, Turnip! Could you sign my ticket?” Taylor made a suggestion. He established the fan did not have a child with him so suggested that he could continue chanting what he wanted in the second half. “You can call me what you want,” said Graham. “But cut out the f’s and c’s because there are children present. If you can do that, then I will sign my match programme and give it to you.”

At the end of an expletive-deleted second half, filled with Turnip-type references, the fan came for his reward. Taylor signed the programme and the fan looked up and said: “Thanks Graham.”

There were probably many and more significant anecdotes being passed on that morning prior to the funeral but I swallowed hard upon hearing that. Graham’s consideration for others, acceptance of his critics’ viewpoint and overall, inherent niceness, shone through in that reminiscence.

I walked up to the church reflecting that we all had a piece of Graham. We helped ourselves and treasured that piece, those memories and the association with such a fine man. Yet, if we put them all together, we could still not do justice to the memory of Graham Taylor. As Ross Jenkins remarked: “We were all better off for having travelled part of his journey with him and you travelled longer than most.”

I lost count of how often people remarked during the day: “I still don’t or can’t believe it.” He was such an influence on our lives, such a presence, enveloping you with warmth and encouraging you, almost unspoken, to meet life’s challenges. He did not just change the course of Watford FC: he changed lives.

We were shown to our seats and I, along with Ross Jenkins, who had travelled more miles than anyone for this day, acknowledged it was a tight fit. Later he murmured in mock indignation: “I’ve travelled 3,000 miles round trip to find myself squashed between you and a pillar.”

I suggested in equally mock admonishment: “Shut up! The bloke in that box would happily trade places”, which brought a few sad smiles.

Ross was to mention that he still had a full head of hair: a ponytail, long and grey. “So many seem to have lost their hair from our day. Maybe it is because we live abroad that we still have it,” he mused.

The service was superb, reverential and quietly emotional. Graham’s daughters were brilliant in their delivery and composure. They were later to admit they had been warned they may break down during the delivery but had shaken their heads at such a suggestion. “HE will not let us,” they pointed out, referring to their late father.

Granddaughter Rhianna caused many giggles among the players near me when she said that, when playing in the garden, Graham called her Karen or Joanne “but never Rhianna”. We can all remember the numerous times Graham reached for the wrong name as he was overwhelmed by the message he was eager to impart.

Graham’s daughter Karen, reading the poem “The Dash”, brought moments of moving and sobering reflection.

Graham had indeed cut a memorable and distinguished dash throughout his life.