FORMER AFC Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Gillingham footballer Rod Taylor has passed away at the age of 74.

Rod’s career began at Portsmouth as a ground staff boy in 1958, signing his first professional contract in 1961, before going on to represent Gills and Cherries under manager Freddie Cox.

He was born on September 9, 1943, in Corfe Mullen to parents Victor and Dorothy Taylor, as the only male sibling to seven sisters. As a child he attended Lockyers First School and went on to study at QE School in Wimborne.

Throughout his youth Rod was a keen footballer and this led to a professional career, which began along the south coast in Portsmouth.

At the age of 17, he signed his first professional contract at Pompey, going on to play at Fratton Park for two seasons.

Rod met Penny Browning at The Oddfellows dance hall in Fratton and the couple went on to marry in Portsmouth in 1964.

When they first met Rod was with fellow footballer Brian Yeo, who on the same evening met Penny’s friend Jenny at the dance and they also went on to tie the knot.

Rod and Penny had two children, Spencer who was born in 1965 and Rachel who was born in 1968.

After his spell at Portsmouth, Rod joined Gillingham in July 1963 and spent three years at Priestfield. In 1966, he returned to Dorset playing under manger Freddie Cox, who had signed him at Gillingham. Rod made 30 appearances for Cherries in the Fourth Division, before joining Poole Town in August 1967.

He was known as a tough tackling wing half, who had a good footballing brain.

While playing for the Dean Court club, Rod and his family lived a stone’s throw from the ground on Thistlebarrow Road in a house owned by the football club.

To support his family after his playing career, Rod went into partnership with fellow Pompey and Cherries player Tony Priscott in the building trade.

Together the pair were involved in building projects across Dorset and Hampshire, including the construction of the Ringwood football team’s clubhouse and a church in the town.

Having purchased five acres of land, Rod and Penny designed and built a new family home in Arrowsmith Road, which was later converted into Alhambra Nursing Home.

After his playing career, Rod remained involved in football as a member of the Portsmouth Former Players Association.

Rachel said: “He was funny, enthusiastic and outspoken, but he always had a thirst for life. He expected high standards from all the people he worked with.”

Rod passed away at the age of 74 in Poole Hospital on Monday, April 16, following a courageous battle with Alzheimer’s.

He is survived through his wife Penny, son Spencer and daughter Rachel who are extremely proud of him and will miss him very much. Funeral arrangements are being dealt with by Tappers Funeral Service at Harbour View.