From Weston to Manchester, the rise of Gareth Taylor
PUBLISHED: 13:00 24 September 2020
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With women’s football back this weekend, after the international break, Manchester City Women’s manger Gareth Taylor will look to help The Citizens reach the semi-finals of the resumed 2020 FA Cup when they take on Leicester City Women at Farley Way on Sunday.
Taylor was announced as their new manager in May, after nine years of holding a number of roles with the club.
Most notably he helped develop young talent within the Academy, first with the under-16s and then the under-18s before being appointed at the start of the summer.
But it was in Weston, growing up a mile away from the seafront near the sand dunes, where Taylor first started to play football and where his love for the game began.
“I love the place and it was a great place to grow up and there was always opportunity for sport – that’s the one thing I do remember,” said Taylor.
“Whatever sport it was, whether it was cricket, football, badminton, squash, rugby especially. I remember playing all these sports growing up and it felt a safe place. It felt that you were always looked after.
“There was always a game going on whether it was jumpers for goalposts, but it was great times.”
It was in the Weston & District League where Taylor first honed his skills and he says his time in the league helped build his character which stood him in good stead going forward.
“It helped me gain resilience,” he said. “Most of the decent players were playing in the couple of age groups ahead so that was always a challenge against the older lads.
“You had your good days, bad days as well, and it was how you reacted to those bad days.
“In that district league there was some tough, direct teams, some physical teams and you had to learn quickly. It was a great grounding for me coming through.”
Having joined Weston Pumas under-nines Taylor, who would go on to play for Milton Nomads and Avon – now North Somerset – revealed it was a fortunate meeting which started his journey.
“I just enjoyed it, it was real competition. Like most leagues there were two or three teams who were always there or thereabouts at the end of the season,” he added.
“Fortunately, I was always playing in one of those teams fighting for the honours but I look back on that period when I was playing around from 12 to 14 where I never thought about it.
“I always wanted to be a professional footballer, there were no examples of anyone in Weston who had come out of it and been a footballer. It was just by chance I was spotted by a retiring Stoke City scout moving to Weston.
“He was in his 80s, an old guy by the name of Mr Toft, he worked for Stoke City but literally just relocated, retiring to the coast. He used to come and watch our games on a Saturday or a Sunday morning and he made a call to Stoke and said ‘I think you need to look at this lad’.
“From there I went for trials with Stoke City and I was just about to sign associate forms with them at 14 when Southampton became interested. They heard of Stoke’s interest and it kind of went from there really.”
As a result, Taylor had a message for all the players in the Weston & District League.
“Follow your dreams and you will make it happen whatever you want to do in life,” he said.
“If you have an ambition to be really successful and it is something you love and enjoy doing the opportunity is there for you.
“That is the main thing, though, make sure you enjoy what you do. There can be a lot pressure these days to perform and sometimes it can come away from being enjoyable – you have to enjoy what you do.”
After starting an apprenticeship at Southampton as a 16-year-old, Taylor faced heartbreak as he was released by The Saints two years later before he moved to Bristol Rovers the following summer.
Despite starting as a defender, Taylor was moved up front during his time with Rovers, a move he never looked back from as he moved all over the country, including playing for Wales, of which he was ‘very proud’.
Scoring against boyhood heroes Tottenham Hotspur in the fifth round of the FA Cup at White Hart Lane as captain of Nottingham Forest is the other highlight from his playing days.
And as he looked back on his 21-year career Taylor draws on all the experiences he has picked up whether as a player or a coach.
But now Taylor, who says it was a seamless transition to take the role as manager, looks to build on City’s ‘really good short-term history’, which has seen the club win three league cups, two FA Cups and one FA Women’s Super League title in six years.
“I just want to make an impact, I want to leave my mark,” added Taylor. “When you look at the previous coach Nick (Cushing), who is a good friend, he left a real impression on the club and that obviously wasn’t solely down to him, there was a lot of people who had to put in a lot of effort in to make that happen.
“I’m looking to achieve big things, I really want to be successful. I understand that’s it’s very difficult because everyone wants this, but the way we are moving forward in what we are trying to achieve, It won’t be for a want of trying if we are not successful.
“We’re really working hard, we’re really trying to support each other and give our very best.”
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