Lockdown-under! His own cable car, the Haka and sharing a gym with the All Blacks — ex-Newcastle star Steven Taylor on life in New Zealand… and the 15th anniversary of his famous sending off for saving a shot: ‘I best prepare for the Platoon clips’
- Former Newcastle defender Steven Taylor now plies his trade in New Zealand
- He reminisced about his days at the Toon and playing under Graeme Souness
- Taylor has rediscovered his mojo and is the captain of Wellington Phoenix
- He loves his new surroundings and has learned the Haka and got his own jet-ski
There are worse places to be in lockdown than Oriental Bay, New Zealand, overlooking Wellington Harbour.
But for Steven Taylor there is a tinge of disappointment that the prospect of playing football seemed so close after spending the best part of a week in quarantine in Australia.
The former Newcastle defender is now captain of Wellington Phoenix, who play in Australia’s A-League, and until a week ago the plan was for the final few rounds of the league to be played behind closed doors.
Ex-Newcastle star Steven Taylor is now the captain of New Zealand side Wellington Phoenix
To achieve that, Taylor and his team-mates were put in a two-week isolation camp after arriving in Sydney, only for the authorities to postpone the season.
‘It’s definitely the right call, there is a bigger picture here,’ says Taylor, who joined Wellington in 2018. ‘We had to get back to New Zealand within 48 hours or we could have been stuck in Australia. So for the boys to get back to their families was the most important thing. Now, we’re self-isolating.
‘But, of course, we wanted to finish the season. It looked like that was going to happen and we took the approach that we had a job to do and just got on with it.
‘When you see what is happening, we were lucky to be in quarantine at a sports camp. It just felt like pre-season. There was a bit of talk about our league being the most watched in the world and I had people back home asking about kick-off times.
‘So it felt exciting for a little while, but now we have more information, it was right that the league was suspended.’
Taylor (L) admitted season’s postponement was the right decision though he was disappointed
The enforced break has afforded Taylor some time to reflect. He is reminded it is 15 years ago on Thursday since Newcastle team-mates Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer infamously traded punches during a 3-0 home defeat by Aston Villa. ‘Ah, really?’ says the 34-year-old. ‘I best prepare myself for those Platoon clips, then.’
Platoon clips? Just 10 minutes before Dyer and Bowyer were dismissed in shame, Taylor had been sent off for handling on the goal-line. In an attempt to deceive the referee, Taylor clutched his stomach in melodramatic fashion, buckling his knees as if taken out by a sniper.
‘I’m still reminded of that, even down here. Darius Vassell was through and I instinctively stopped it — it was a cracking save! I just thought, “Maybe the referee couldn’t see”. But yeah, he saw it.
Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer traded punches during a loss to Aston Villa 15 years ago
‘I’m 19 and it’s my first red card in front of 52,000. I thought, “Well that’s the end of my career”. I went in, had a shower and was sitting in the changing room.’
By that time, unbeknown to Taylor, his red card was no longer headline news.
‘Suddenly, all I can hear is arguing coming towards the changing room. It was Dyer and Bowyer with two of the masseurs restraining them. Bowyer’s shirt was ripped and Dyer was saying, “Bow, you punch like a p***y”. I’m thinking, “What’s going on here?” I thought Bowyer had had a fight with one of their players and Dyer had jumped in. I didn’t know what had happened until I saw it on TV and thought, “God, they’ve just saved me”. After the game, Alan Shearer came into the dressing room and said, “Right, you two, go and explain yourself to the press”.
‘Graeme Souness (the Newcastle boss) was furious. I tried to say sorry for the red card, but he wasn’t bothered. As a young lad, you’re just thinking, “I’ve got away with one here”.’
Taylor was sent off in the same match but Graeme Souness was more angered by the fight
Not that Souness was always so forgiving with the academy graduate, who made his debut at 18 under Sir Bobby Robson.
‘I made my home debut under Souness against Everton. I was up against Kevin Kilbane and Souness said to me, “If you don’t lay one on him early on, I’ll drag you off”. He was hard on me but I liked that.
‘He always used to say, “You look like a player, but are you really? Can you do it in front of 52,000?” It got the best out of me.’ Taylor spent 13 seasons at his boyhood club and made two England squads without winning a cap. ‘I think in another era I would have played, my competition was John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Jamie Carragher…
‘I’m proud of what I achieved, though. Playing for Newcastle was my dream and I did it. I remember being on matchday duty aged 16 and was cleaning out the changing room. I asked Ray Thompson, the kitman, where Alan Shearer sat. I went in his seat and told Ray, “This will be me in a couple of years’ time”.
Souness ruled with an iron fist at Newcastle but Taylor said he got the best out of him
‘Within a year I was training with the first team and getting battered by Alan every day, but I loved it.’
Shearer and Co not only recognised Taylor’s talent, but also his eagerness to impress.
‘I got sucked into something by the older lads one day… putting a remote controlled fart machine under Sir Bobby’s chair in the dining room.
‘I pressed it the first time and Bobby looked disgusted, but he let it go. But I did it again and he went off it, “That’s disgusting… who was that?”. The lads were in stitches.
‘They eventually told him about the machine. The lads had stitched me up but I got away with, Bobby just laughed, “You b*******”.’
Taylor does not see himself swapping New Zealand for Newcastle any time soon.
‘It was a difficult couple of years after leaving Newcastle (in 2016). I went to Portland Timbers and then Ipswich. I only played there three times. Honestly? I thought I was finished. But then I went to Peterborough, never missed a game and got my mojo back.
‘I love it here now. When I arrived I was shown this one property that only had access via a cable car – I thought, “This is a bit of me”.’
Here’s a secret – while at Newcastle, Taylor had plans drawn for a slide from his bedroom to his basement swimming pool.
Taylor (left) has fallen in love with Wellington and has soaked up all the culture on offer
‘Ah man, that was the dream, but the council wouldn’t let me do it – that’s why I had to go for a cable car!’
Instead of the slide, Taylor bought a replica Only Fools & Horses van, the classic yellow Robin Reliant complete with Trotters Independent Traders insignia.
‘I’ve still got that at my mam and dad’s. But I’ve got an upgrade here, it’s a jet-ski now! That’s why I love it. Myself and the other lads go island hopping, have a barbecue, and no-one recognises you.
‘I love the culture and the club make sure you’re aware of it. We share a gym with the All Blacks and I’ve even learnt the Haka dance. I’ve just signed a new two-year deal and I’m happy.
‘But we’re in a difficult situation right now. We all need to do what we have to to get through it.’
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