The Smiling Executioner
In their search for a new forward, Manchester United had been watching Taylor for several months. Aware that other First Division sides were hoping to sign the striker, Matt Busby and Jimmy Murphy made their move. Their most difficult task was to persuade the humble man that he had the makings of a First Division player. Busby paid Barnsley £29,999 and reportedly tipped the tea lady £1, preventing Taylor from feeling the pressure of being a £30,000 player.
Taylor scored twice in his debut against Preston North End, once from outside the penalty area, and by the end of the season, had netted seven times in 11 matches. He was phenomenal in the air, as accurate with his head as many contemporaries were with their feet. Throughout his time at United, Taylor was nicknamed the ‘smiling executioner’ for his pinpoint accuracy and good humour. Within a few weeks of his United debut, he received an England call up, earning him the first of his 19 international caps. He played a leading role in helping his country to qualify for the 1958 World Cup and had taken over from stalwart Nat Lofthouse as his nation’s first choice centre-forward.
By 1957, Matt Busby was in the position to refuse Internazionale’s then-astronomical offer of £65,000 for the striker; Tommy Taylor was not for sale at any price.
Just before the third take off attempt, Taylor, and close friend David Pegg moved to the back of the plane to sit with Eddie Colman, where they believed they would be safer. All three men were killed instantly when the plane crashed.