In a distinguished career that spanned two decades, midfielder Matty Taylor played over 650 games and scored 94 goals, some of which were so spectacular they defied all logic.

His cultured left peg and laudable work-rate led to him being one of the first names on the team-sheet for managers such as Big Sam and Harry Redknapp, while his versatility was an invaluable commodity for West Ham, Portsmouth and Bolton to name just a few.

He was a crowd favourite wherever he played, a fact that speaks volumes. Here, the recently retired Premier League ace discusses the varying fortunes of some of his former clubs and we begin in East London with a relocation that is finally starting to pay off.

 

Hammers' Bubble Will Not Burst

In Taylor’s second of three seasons at the Boleyn Ground they secured a very respectable tenth place top flight finish.

Last term Manuel Pellegrini’s men also ended the campaign tenth but, as admirable as that is any further progress into the highest echelons always seems to elude the Hammers. Until now.

Having settled into their new surroundings following their contentious move back in 2016, Taylor believes West Ham can begin daring to dream of trips to the continent in the near future.

“I think this season I have seen a shift in the mid-set of the players and the fans and by that I mean the Olympic Stadium seems to be becoming home.

"All the little things have helped such as the subliminal message in changing the running track to claret and it helps too of course that they have some of the best attacking players in the league.”

“They’re solid defensively and they’ve got a manager who has seen it, done it. Their training ground is now state-of-the-art. The ground is unbelievable and holds over 50,000 every week.

"They have now got a real chance to go and do something they haven’t for a good amount of time which is to aim for European football. Why shouldn’t they?”

It’s a persuasive argument that very nearly convinces until their lack of a prolific goal-grabber springs to mind.

It’s a shortcoming duly noted by the likeable 37-year-old too, though it hardly dulls his optimism. After all, that is precisely what a summer transfer window is for and better yet he has just the right man for the job.

“Whenever I speak to managers they always say to spend your money on a striker who is guaranteed to get you goals.

"In the Premier League the margins between winning and losing is so slim and having played there for such a long period of time I mean that – scoring a goal is such a difficult thing to do.

"Andy Carroll may be leaving and if he does there is a big chunk of money that can go on another striker and that will be their big thing.”

“I think Mitrovic has done extremely well. Is he someone who West Ham could be in the market for? I think so. He’s a striker who has proven his worth for a team that has struggled this season.

"Location-wise he is already based in London. If you’re looking for someone to step into the void that Andy Carroll has left, Mitrovic seems like a really good fit for me.”

 

Next Step Up For The Clarets

After a mixed opening spell at Turf Moor, largely due to injury, Taylor played a pivotal role in Burnley returning to the Premier League at the first time of asking, as Championship winners in 2015/16 following their relegation the preceding season.

That was under Sean Dyche of course and he insists the loyalty shown by the club to their no-nonsense manager during their bleak period is now handsomely paying off.

“What I really love about Burnley is that so many clubs dispense with their manager after getting relegated or enduring a season worse than they’d have liked. Yet they stuck by Sean.

"He’s an unbelievable manager but first and foremost he’s a great man. He’s a very good leader and I like the way he talks and the solidarity he brings to a club. He’s not changed from when I was there to now.”

Pressed on this Taylor is happy to offer a revealing insight into the methods and mentality of the highly respected coach who routinely excels in getting teams to over-achieve on general expectation.

“Working under Sean Dyche is intense and demanding but incredibly honest and trustful. As a footballer you can’t ask for anything more than that. You want to go into work every day and work hard.

"What he talks about a lot is that you cannot flick a switch so you train as you play. And he is not only demanding of you but of himself and the coaching staff. You’re all in it together and there are no egos. Everybody is part of what is bigger than an individual.”

Three consecutive years in the Premier League is not only a testament to Dyche’s managerial chops but also a sensible transfer policy that has often seen over-looked talent bought for relative peanuts and moulded into internationals.

Taylor however thinks this might be the summer when the Clarets bring in ready-made elite fare such is their standing now.

“Hopefully they will now be able to attract a better calibre of footballer for next season because if you asked me now ‘What are Burnley?’ the answer is they are an established Premier League club.”

“I think Burnley can aim for the top ten. The main aspiration of any chairman outside of the top six is to stay in the Premier League because the riches are so huge now it is vitally important they retain their status.

"So I’d imagine that’s the first thing the manager and chairman is thinking. But beyond that why can’t Burnley go on to have a successful season?"

They’ve got some really, really good players and have a clear view of how they play. Each player is on board. So they can be successful. But it’s all about building on what and who you are.”

 

Portsmouth Are On The Rise

Arguably Taylor’s peak years were spent on the south coast, thriving on pinpoint passes from Paul Merson and returning the favour in kind for Kanu and co.

It was an exhilarating era for Pompey, with Harry Redknapp at the wheel and a FA Cup win to boot but if it all seemed too good to be true that’s because it was. By over-reaching financially administration ensued followed swiftly by a plummeting through the divisions.

Now though, thankfully Pompey are back in fine fettle and not even their recent Play-Off semi-final defeat can wipe the smile off one of the club’s favourite sons.

“I don’t think there will be any playoff hangover going into next season."

"The reason I say that is because Kenny Jackett is one of the most level-headed managers you will find and he has been extremely successful and he’s a well-liked, trusted, and knowledgeable man. That football club is in extremely safe hands.”

“What I like too is that the ownership of that club has the resources to put more money into it but they’re doing it in a sensible way. They’re not chucking millions of pounds in and seeing what happens which was the case after I left Portsmouth.

"I like how they’re going about it and they have the fans too who are huge to them. Their season ticket sales are as high as they have been for some time.”

If the club is experiencing a welcome upturn in fortunes the same alas cannot be said of its ground which – though wonderfully atmospheric and traditional as they come – has unquestionably seen better days.

Talk circulating about a possible move away from Fratton Park has recently led to demands that it is instead rejuvenated and brought into the 21st century. Taylor adamantly agrees.

“I played six or seven years there and for me the ground was massively important to Portsmouth.

"The fans are on top of you and behind you but are quite intimidating to away players so it’s imperative that they can retain Fratton Park while making it as modern as possible.”

Whatever decision is made the future for Pompey looks bright indeed and aptly as our conversation comes to an end talk turns to the future of one of the best midfielder’s to grace the shirt in recent times. What is next for Matty Taylor?

“I don’t know what is around the corner for me at the moment but what I do know is that I had a wonderful twenty-year career and I enjoyed every moment.  I achieved a lot and when I look back I’m very proud of it.”

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