A blog on Wales defender Neil Taylor and his recent move to Aston Villa.
His career has been on an increasing trajectory ever since he walked through the door at Colliers Park over a decade ago. Then a raw teenager recently released by Manchester City, Neil Taylor impressed enough to be offered a professional contract and soon became a regular in the Wrexham team, despite still being in his formative years. Over the course of the next three seasons, Taylor earned rave reviews having made the left-back position his own, and a move up the Football League ladder was inevitable as more and more clubs became aware of this prodigious talent. An eventual £150,000 switch to Swansea City was completed in 2010 and Taylor enjoyed promotion to the Premier League, despite missing the play-off final success against Reading at Wembley through suspension. However, he took the step-up to the top-flight in his stride, and has been a regular figure in the Swansea City starting line-up throughout their Premier League years.
But his recognition and achievements are not just restricted to club football, as Neil Taylor has been a familiar name on the international stage since opting for Wales over India. Representing his country at U16, U17, U19, U21, semi-professional and full international levels, Taylor has amassed a wealth of experience in the colours of Wales. He also featured for the controversial Great Britain team at the 2012 Olympic Games. Neil Taylor is now 27, an age that many believe should bring the best out of player, an age that brings together the perfect blend of physical maturity and experience. However, it seems Taylor has now reached a crossroads in his professional playing career, and his decision to join Championship Aston Villa could prove to be his most important one yet. Ironically, this twist has occurred on the back of Taylor enjoying the pinnacle of his playing career, as he played every minute of all six games for Wales at UEFA EURO 2016.
Neil Taylor has divided opinion across supporters of Swansea City lately, and while many acknowledge the high standards that he set in his earlier years at the club, he has become a target of blame for the current problems that the club face, on the field at least. In fact, Taylor set such a high standard that Curtis Obeng suffered from being constantly being compared to him during his unsuccessful time at the Liberty Stadium. Obeng followed the same path as Taylor, a young full-back leaving Wrexham for Swansea City in a £200,000 move in 2012, but after being released in 2015 after a string of loan moves he has now returned to the National League with Solihull Moors. Although Obeng may not have been up to Premier League standard, there is no doubt that the success of Neil Taylor was a factor in Swansea City moving for the pacey defender, while the success of Neil Taylor was equally detrimental in the comparisons it brought between the two.
Despite a successful summer, the cracks appeared for Neil Taylor early in the current campaign, and he made headlines for the wrong reasons following his reaction to being substituted against Chelsea before half-time by then-manager Francesco Guidolin back in September. Although Taylor was irate at the decision, his public show of frustration highlighted a number of problems within the Swansea City camp, the most obvious being that the dressing room had failed to replace captain Ashley Williams as a the natural leader following his recent move to Everton. Williams and Taylor have played together for club and country for a number of years, and there is no doubt that his departure has had an effect on Taylor’s game. These are tough times for Swansea City, but new manager Paul Clement has already taken proactive action to address the slide, and the recent consecutive victories will be an immeasurable boost for all concerned.
However, Taylor will play no part in Clement’s plans as he starts a new chapter in his career following his switch to Championship side Aston Villa. A sleeping giant, Villa are a club desperate to return to the Premier League, and while few would consider the arrival of Taylor as the most exciting of signings, he will bring experience to their defensive line. In addition, Taylor will link-up with Wales team-mate James Chester who currently captains the side, and reuniting such a partnership may well have played a key part in manager Steve Bruce’s thought process. Wales have had a mixed start to their FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification campaign, and manager Chris Coleman will want his preferred starting line-up playing regularly and playing well heading into two crucial away games that could define the group. Taylor has been a key part of Coleman’s team, and he will not want to risk his international place through inconsistent club form. The Championship offers a better chance to play and to impress, and could prove to be a defining move at what is a crucial stage of his career.