So long, Steven Taylor. We hardly knew you.
There must have been an old version of Championship Manager in which Steven Taylor was rated pretty bloody highly…
This is the only explanation I can think of for why I have always had an inexplicable tendency to defend him as a quality player, to people who clearly watched his performances through lenses less tinged with the exploits of his fictional alter-ego.
More than a decade ago, I had a long-running pub-based argument with a disbelieving uni friend, where I made the persistent claim that he was a future Geordie legend and nailed-on England regular. I think I even suggested that he was an obvious captain to lead us to glory once Big Al retired.
Of course, I can see now how hopelessly optimistic I was being, yet I’m pretty sure I genuinely believed it at the time, despite all evidence available to the contrary.
I have a vague recollection that at some point, he threw in a couple of good shifts in consecutive games, which might have been what I based my faith in real-world Steven Taylor on.
Yet, if I try to remember his contribution now, my overwhelming memories are of that Forrest Gump goal celebration, the shot-by-a-sniper effort to (try and) avoid conceding a penalty, and the near-permanent image of him sitting miserably on the subs bench after overcoming injury, to lose his place to yet another member of our long roll-call of overblown defensive liabilities.
As he departs us, there’s some definite personal relief in no longer needing to feel any residual sense of defensiveness when an article or YouTube video knocks his credibility as a player. No more will I have to stifle that small voice inside me that wants to believe he still might reach his potential – even if, at 30, his shot at that level of glory must be fairly remote indeed.
I’ll also no longer need to feel compelled to proclaim any virtue that comes from his being an obvious “personality” in the squad – which is helpful, because the “dressing room practical joker” tag is as big a red flag of a major character flaw as you’re likely to find.
Whatever else though, you couldn’t argue that Stevey Taylor didn’t care. His local lad credentials might have unreasonably kept him closer to the first team than many would have liked, but his obvious passion for the club and the city was pretty hard to dispute. This evidently didn’t make him a better player, but was a refreshing change from the many, many, many journeymen pay-cheque hunters we’ve seen in recent years. He might not always have had the skills required to wear the black and white, but at least he seemed to give a sh*t that they were letting him wear it.
So farewell Steven Taylor.
Your moments of brilliance were far fewer than your moments of comedy, but you were also a player who was obviously a fan, and that does count for something. While I hope you don’t leave much of a defensive legacy behind, I wouldn’t be sad if the team next season shows some of your passion.