After 12 years at Newcastle, it was time for a change for Steven Taylor '“ and the club
What started on a wet night in Mallorca ended on a bright summer's day on Tyneside.
Twelve years ago, Steven Taylor was sent on the Estadi de Son Moix by Sir Bobby Robson for a UEFA Cup tie.
Then a teenager, he left the field clutching the sodden jersey of Samuel Eto’o, then on loan at Real Mallorca from Real Madrid.
It was to be the start of a long first-team career at Newcastle United.
Taylor’s appearance against Tottenham Hotspur on the final day of the season last month would prove to be his last for the relegated club.
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All told, the 30-year-old, a committed centre-half, played 268 times, and scored 15 goals, for the club he supported as a boy.
Had it not been for injuries, Taylor could well have played closer to 500 games for Newcastle and got close to the career records of some of the club’s all-time greats.
But it wasn’t to be.
And it’s those injuries, many serious, which eventually, and inevitably, took a toll on a promising career.
Never afraid to put his head, literally, where it hurts, Taylor’s body took some punishment.
Taylor fought back from ruptured Achilles tendons, hamstring problems, dislocated shoulders and knee injuries, among other things, in his United career.
They took a toll on a player who captained England’s Under-21s and was once called up to the senior squad by Steve McClaren, who would briefly manage him on Tyneside last season.
Taylor, a popular figure behind the scenes, loved the club he represented, yet he was not universally loved by fans in the latter years of his career.
But he cared when others didn’t, and the antipathy felt towards him was striking, even accounting for the mistakes he made on and off the field.
Taylor never hid. Not many players who have served Newcastle in recent years can say that.
The club offered him an incentive-based deal to keep him at St James’s Park.
United manager Rafa Benitez, tellingly, wanted him to stay and help the club win promotion from the Championship.
But it was time for a change. He knew that.
Taylor lived the dream for 12 long years.
There were nightmares along the way – he has two relegations on his CV as well as 32 European appearances – but he came back again and again.
Somewhere in the Taylor household is that framed Eto’o shirt.
We’ll never know what happened to Taylor’s own jersey, which he joked would be used as a duster by Eto’o.
Taylor himself went on to gather too much dust in the treatment room.
Newcastle need a fresh start. And so does Taylor.