Steven Taylor’s Newcastle United career tonight hangs by a thread, with the North East club placing the popular defender on the transfer list after he refused a new deal at St James’ Park. Despite Taylor apparently living the dream of playing for the team which he supported as a boy, this was seemingly not enough for the player, who, after a number of discussions with the club, rejected a four-year deal worth £40,000 a week in the hope of the offer being upped to an alleged £65k. Newcastle, who are currently in the process of trying to reduce their wage bill, said no and reportedly angered by the stance of Taylor and his agent, Paul Stretford, promptly put the 24-year-old centre-back up for sale. In stark contrast to Craig Bellamy divorcing the attractive and glamorous Manchester City to be with his dowdy childhood sweetheart in Cardiff (ADW 20/8/10), Taylor’s relationship with his first love is all but on the rocks.
Born in London, but raised in Whitley Bay, Taylor’s Geordie father gave young Steven little choice when it came to selecting his football team. His younger years saw him progress from season ticket holder, to ballboy, to trainee, joining the Magpies’ academy in 1995 and making his first team debut nine years later. Despite suffering some early injury setbacks, it did not take long for the local boy to endear himself to the Toon Army with his committed, heart-on-sleeve style of play. Even some of his more unfortunate moments won him fans – his infamous Platoon moment in a torrid 3-0 defeat to Aston Villa, elevating him to near cult status. The Newcastle supporters, like any other fans, were thrilled to have one of their own out on the pitch, particularly one who played like a fan, with determination and desire. When he scored his first Newcastle goal, an 86th minute winner in a UEFA Cup game against Celta Vigo, Taylor celebrated with a mad dash, running the length of the St James’ Park pitch, earning the nickname ‘Forrest Gump’ from his teammates in the process. Even in Newcastle’s relegation season of 08/09, Taylor was one of the few players who performed to a decent level. This naturally led to transfer speculation, with Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton and Manchester City all rumoured to be keen to offer Taylor, by now England U21 captain and pushing for a full cap, a swift return to the Premier League. Taylor replied that England could wait and pledged his future to helping return the Magpies to the top flight, which he duly did, holding down a regular spot in the starting eleven and captaining the side for the first time in a League Cup match against Peterborough.
An injury in pre-season has ruled Taylor out for the first four months of Newcastle’s return to the Premier League, but his failure to agree a new deal could now see him miss the final six as well, as Newcastle look to sell him before his contract runs out next summer. Taylor’s departure would be a dreadful shame for both player and club. Apart from being a fantastic player, Taylor’s passion makes him a valuable asset to Chris Hughton, someone who will run through brick walls to further the Newcastle cause and if necessary drag the rest of his teammates with him. A home-grown star, whose mere presence on the pitch raises the St James’ atmosphere that one notch higher. His influence is of great importance off the pitch too, as Taylor has always been keen to promote togetherness and a healthy morale among his colleagues, even if that does mean occasionally shaving the heads of players who absent themselves too early from social functions, as fellow youth team graduates Fraser Forster and Jonny Godsmark will testify – all in the name of team bonding of course.
Likewise, whilst Taylor may wish to boost his weekly income, it would surely come as a huge disappointment to him to walk away from the club that has been a part of his life from birth. It would be a sad end to a twenty-four year long love affair, if it were to conclude with a financial disagreement. Taylor’s agent claims that his client is extremely disappointed to have been transfer listed and is keen to re-open contract negotiations and Hughton remains optimistic that Taylor will eventually sign a new deal. But while the Newcastle board may allow the original contract offer to stand, they will almost certainly refuse to compromise the club’s finances, even for a player of Taylor’s calibre. Taylor must respect this and swallow his pride if he wants to remain at the club he loves.
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