Growing up in a footballing city and having an ever-growing passion for the game. Jon Taylor may only have wanted to be one thing in life, but how has and will his career shape out to be?
“I think the area I lived in, I love it still now. When I go back, everyone there is close to each other”, describes Jon Taylor on what a 1990’s childhood in Liverpool was like. Growing up in the same area as boyhood idol Steven Gerrard may be the expected reason why he became interested in football, although “I just grew up with a ball so I don’t know.”
“The only subject I really enjoyed was PE. The other subjects I didn’t really find interesting, but you’ve obviously gotta learn things”, added Taylor. An early sign of a mind focused on the future during his school days, perhaps, before putting education aside for a new task ahead.
“I was there for seven years so it was a big part of my life.” Joining Wigan Athletic’s youth set-up was the opening to bigger things, a pathway to the professional game. As a youth player, looking up to the likes of “Henri Camara, the little striker” and “Jimmy Bullard” were players to aspire to, but the luck of youth football was priceless.
“If I didn’t have a professional contract, I wouldn’t know what to do”, said Taylor on how fortunate he was to become a footballer at a young age. Studying a sports course at university was ‘Plan B’, even if he “wouldn’t have wanted to do that”. Then again, being left to think of where to go next was vital.
“Tony Kelly said to me ‘I’m gonna take you to Shrewsbury; it’s a great club when you move down there’.” Released by Wigan in 2008, finding a way back into youth football became unlikely for Taylor, until family friend and former player Kelly took a chance in the young winger. “I was getting away from Liverpool; my mates were drinking all the time.” One major effect, though, was leaving his social life behind, which was something that he had to be more familiar with in Shropshire.
Carving a way into the professional side wasn’t an easy ride though. “There was one point where, if you don’t get signed today, you’ll quit. I was devastated. The manager got sacked and he gave me the contract; it was that lucky. It was early but that’s what happened.” A move he would never live to regret since making his senior debut in January 2010, being one of four players from Shrewsbury’s youth academy to ever progress to the first team: “I think I’ve been lucky but deserved to be lucky as well”. A lucky breakthrough began a memorable time with the Shrews.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything better really, but I think it was time to move on. I wanted to go on to get better as a player.” A fair summary of a 22-year-old who has made 144 appearances at senior level for Shrewsbury and felt the time was right to advance. “Moving to Posh was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make”, described Taylor on the difficulty of signing for another club, but the chance to play in Scotland whilst at Greenhous Meadow did not go a miss.
“I was looking onto the pitch and I thought, ‘do I actually wanna leave here?’”. A major decision to make at the tender age of eighteen, but with a second opinion, choices can be made much easier. “I rung my dad and I said ‘what do you reckon?’ and he said ‘just go with what you think’.” Remaining in English football on a lesser wage bill proved dividends for Taylor, as did his philosophy of “money isn’t important. Getting better as a player is more important.”
A summer move to Peterborough United in 2014 for an undisclosed fee encouraged him to become better as a player, but there was one other influence. “Darren Ferguson, I still like him to this day”; a rather positive reflection on a man who became a managerial villain than a club favourite.
“It is my life to be fair, I live for football”. Just like his youth days, Taylor may not have known anything different to living with the sport, a similarity to how the future is shaped for him.
“I wanna get better each day as a player and as a person. There’s a long-term goal but you have to take each step at a time.” The wise but gentle approach towards a future that only evolves around one career, the alternative being a “professional gambler”, just in case.
“I’d like to work with children with disabilities.” Although his dad thinks Taylor could still be involved in a footballing role, working in a new environment may be the aim. But the one main ambition in life, though, is to play “at the highest level possible.”
Jon Taylor may only be passionate for one thing in life, but his focus, motivation and determination to reach the top after a long-winded journey is second to none.