Phoenix's shock win stirs memories of Taylor's Premier League underdog days
This is why Mark Rudan made Steven Taylor such an indispensable part of his Wellington Phoenix re-build.
Relegated twice from the Premier League and written off at various stages of his career in England, the 32-year-old’s pent-up resilience exploded in the best way possible on the weekend, as Taylor commanded a stunning 3-1 win over Sydney FC.
It is arguably the standout result of the 2018/19 campaign, and one that may ignite a new dawn for the Hyundai A-League’s traditional strugglers.
Taylor and Wellington had not been given much hope ahead of their visit to the reigning Premiers.
But the Englishman, who spent over a decade with Newcastle United, knows a thing or two about defying noisy critics.
“I remember we were up against Chelsea [in November 2013] who hadn’t been beaten all season and everyone was telling me before the game the odds are all on Chelsea to win, everyone’s writing you off to even get a draw,” Taylor told www.aleague.com.au.
“It’s about how many they’re going to stick past you whether it’s three, four or five, all week you’re hearing this, and that’s the kind of motivation I’m driven by.”
Newcastle would stun Jose Mourinho’s frontrunners 2-0 on that day thanks to goals from Yoan Gouffran and Loic Remy, and the build up to Wellington’s daunting visit to Sydney’s backyard was eerily similar.
“I had that all week after Perth [Glory in Round 6]. Everyone I was speaking to had already written the Phoenix off against Sydney,” he continued.
“Everybody was talking about Sydney’s got this, Sydney’s got that, they’re going to hurt you in different situations.
“But if you’ve got a group of players like we’ve got, the quality that we’ve got, especially the pace and the power and experience in the side, we look at teams and always back ourselves in every game.
“The biggest thing I’ve found with the A-League is its 50/50, every game is 50/50 and about who wants it more. It’s as simple as that.”
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Having a man of Taylor’s considerable pedigree and experience should prove essential if the Phoenix are to kick on from such a landmark result.
The Kiwi cohort will look to put down another marker against Central Coast Mariners this weekend.
It’s a chance to not only tally back-to-back wins for the first time since April 2017, but distinguish themselves as genuine contenders rather than also rans.
A greater marriage of youth and experience at the Kiwi capital, symbolised by the combination of all-time leading goalscorer Roy Krishna and the explosive Sarpreet Singh, gives Taylor huge confidence that the Phoenix can build upon their memorable day at Jubilee Stadium.
“To have Roy Krishna in your team is a massive thing,” he said.
“I go into every game believing I’m going to win when you’ve got the likes of Burnsy [Nathan Burns], Willo [David Williams], Preet [Sarpreet Singh], Krishna… flair players who can hurt teams.
“Especially with Preet at the moment, who is just flying. He’s got a bit of everything - he holds the ball up, can get in behind, use both feet… the guy is going to get better and better.
“He’s doing the extra work day in, day out. Mark is very strict on him as well, he just keeps at him every single day working on different things.
“He hasn’t got many weaknesses in his game you can see how much confidence he’s got at the moment which for us is fantastic.”