This is what Indian football fans are shouting at former Newcastle United defender Steven Taylor
The Indian Super League (ISL) team is on the field early because of the intense heat and humidity in Goa, India. And most days there are shouts of “Taylor, Taylor!” from the other side of the fence.
Those shouts are aimed at Steven Taylor, the former Newcastle United defender whose career has taken him around the world since he left his native Tyneside four years ago.
The 34-year-old has played for Portland Timbers in the USA and Wellington Phoenix in New Zealand, and has also had spells at Ipswich Town and Peterborough United.
However, Taylor will always be synonymous with Newcastle, his boyhood club, and he’s given daily reminders of his time at United by those supporters peeking through the training ground fence and perched on top of cars.
Some play clips on mobile phones and tablets of two particular incidents from Taylor’s long career at Newcastle – and imitate his actions.
There was that time when he handled a goal-bound shot from Aston Villa’s Darius Vassell – and went down as if he’d been shot by a sniper in a bid to avoid a red card. Taylor’s also reminded of when he danced around in front of Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic to distract him before Yohan Cabaye took a free-kick.
“They come down and watch,” said Taylor, who is preparing for Odisha’s season-opener against Hyderabad on Monday night. “They’re looking into the training area we’re in. They’re sitting on top of cars, and like to interact.
“They keep mentioning the handball and the Cabaye free-kick. I’ve heard that about 100 times so far! They ask what happened with the free-kick and the keeper, and are doing the dance moves pretending I’m the keeper and they’re me.
“They do the shot by a sniper too, that’s very popular here with the dance moves in front of Begovic.
“I get it from my team-mates as well. They waited until I was bedded in a bit, and then started dropping it in, throwing the ball at each other and dropping. I get a lot of that. They’ve seen clips where I’ve been hit by the ball in the face or on the body, and ask if I love getting hit.”
Taylor was hit a lot of times in his 268 appearances for United, but he kept getting back up for more.
“I said all my Newcastle career that I loved the opportunities and challenges, from when I was 16 and had seven centre-halves ahead of me,” said Taylor, who will captain Odisha.
“I always backed myself. It’s got to challenge me. Going across to New Zealand was the biggest one. To go there and create something special was big.
“Coming out to India now is a similar sort of scenario. This is Odisha’s second year. I’m not frightened to try something different. You want to test yourself.
“Four or five years ago, some players that came out here, and they were acting as if it was the back end of their careers. I don’t look at it like that.
"You’ve got to go on the training pitch and set an example. You don’t miss sessions because you’re an older player. I’m there every single day doing extra work.”
Odisha’s Covid-secure base is tantalisingly close to Goa’s famous coastline, but Taylor and his team-mates are confined to their hotel due to the coronavirus pandemic. The beach will have to wait.
“I’m very lucky,” Taylor told the Gazette. “I’m just glad the season can go ahead. You’ve got to buy into it, and deal with it. Come March, the season will be over, and you’ll have time off after that.
“You know why you’re here, so you can’t moan about. Is it tough being stuck in your room a lot? Yes, but you change your mindset and keep yourself busy. You’ve got to make the best of the situation you’re in.”
Taylor had to spend the first two weeks in his room due to quarantine rules.
“The hardest thing was the quarantine,” said Taylor. “It was tough. Then you get into a routine. They give you a bike in the room. I couldn’t complain. We train before 8am because of the humidity out here. It’s very, very hot. It’s something to adapt to.
“The season starts on Monday night. It’s something new, a new challenge.
“There’s a lot of responsibility on myself. I’m trying to help the young Indian players coming through. We’re the youngest team in the league. It’s similar to when I was at Wellington. It’s going to be exciting to see what happens.”
Taylor – who led Wellington to a third-placed finish in the A-League last season – was recruited by manager Stuart Baxter, who he knew from his time in the England youth set-up.
“When I was England Under-17 captain he was the Under-19 coach, and he called me up to the Portugal game away,” said Taylor. “Funnily enough Cristiano Ronaldo played that game.”
Taylor joined the exodus from the A-League, which has been badly hit by the pandemic, to India.
“The A-League had just finished,” he said. “Stuart Baxter was calling me. I spoke to him a few times, and he was very positive.”
Interest is steadily growing in the ISL in what is still a cricket-obsessed country.
“The football is big now,” said Taylor, who still follows Newcastle’s fortunes closely. “The cricket starts straight after the season. It’s getting a lot of publicity. It’s grown quite a bit the last two years, and I’m looking forward to seeing what lies ahead.”