Many players are described legends by football supporters, but the truth is that only the very few are deserving of that accolade; one such player was Stuart Taylor.
Today the Bristol Rovers Former Players Association (BRFPA) is in mourning following the death of the former Rovers central defender and skipper.
Stuart, who was 72, remains Rovers record appearance holder with 546 league games to his name, but passed away today after a long illness.
Born on 18th April 1947, he began his football journey as an amateur with Bristol City and then played for Abbotonians and Hanham Athletic for whom he appeared just ten times before signing Rovers.
He signed his first professional contract in December 1965 and played the first of those 546 league games for The Gas on 26th April 1966, a goalless draw away at Workington.
A Watney Cup winner with Rovers in 1972, he was an ever present in the promotion winning side of 1973/74 and went on to captain the side in the Second Division.
Stuart was reliable, dependable, and fully committed to the Rovers cause and he was also very consistent at the heart of Rovers’ defence. He had to be to have played League Football for the club in fifteen consecutive seasons. It seems likely, in the current climate, that his record number of appearances will stand for all time.
Of his total appearances 275 came at our former home, Eastville, and he also appeared in 38 cup ties for Rovers.
He scored 28 league goals, but the first time he found the back of the net was in an FA Cup replay against Bristol City at Eastville in January 1968, though Rovers lost 2-1 that day.
Bristol City had an offer of £40,000 for his services turned down in August 1979 and Chelsea also submitted a bid, but he joined Bath City as player/manager in May 1980 and missed just three games as the Romans finished sixth in the Conference in 1980/81.
He also enjoyed a brief stint as Commercial Manager back at Rovers and continued to play locally for Taylor Brothers, as well as becoming their reserve team manager. He also managed Cabot Access Towers and was player and reserve team manager for Cadbury Heath.
Stuart managed The Crown Public House in Old Market for three years from 1979 and worked in Coalpit Heath before resuming the plumbing work he had trained for when he was a young man and acting as a freelance market consultant for a coach drivers’ publishing company based in Yate. He was also mine host at the Beaufort Hunt public house in Downend.
He continued to follow the fortunes of the club for whom he played for so many seasons. As someone who saw him play for Rovers, it was a privilege to get to know him when I began working for the club and to chat with him, albeit briefly, in the Guinness Suite on matchdays when he enjoyed a pre-match drink with many of those supporters who had followed his career from the Eastville terraces.
A true gentleman off the pitch and a gentle giant on it, Stuart will be missed, not only by his close family and friends, but by his wider football family, particularly those at Bristol Rovers.
Everyone at BRFPA sends their condolences to Stuart’s nearest and dearest.
By Keith Brookman