Matt Taylor interview: West Ham midfielder has learnt to value Upton Park life

As West Ham man's career winds down he is determined to enjoy every minute on the big stage

Many things lose their excitement as they become more familiar but playing football is not one of them. Not, at least, for Matt Taylor. Coming to the end of his 10th season in the Premier League, West Ham United's reliable man feels the buzz of top-flight competition more sharply than ever.

Taylor, 32, is nearly at the end of his contract at Upton Park and is loving his renewed role in West Ham's recent run. They host Hull City on Wednesday night, sensing that two wins will probably be enough to keep them in the Premier League for next season, and three certainly will be.

This, then, is a very big game and the prospect of running out, under lights, in a full ground, with so much at stake clearly means the world to Taylor, even more now than it did first playing for Harry Redknapp's Portsmouth 10 years ago.

"When you're younger, you probably don't appreciate what you're actually doing," Taylor reflects after training at Chadwell Heath, West Ham's Essex base between Ilford and Romford. "The older you get, to be running out at Old Trafford, Chelsea or Upton Park, to be in that position as a professional footballer, you appreciate it. The older you get, you realise it's not around for ever.

"When you're younger you don't think that far ahead, because you're trying to get to the next stage of your career. The older you get, you appreciate everything you have and everything still to come."

Taylor certainly has an eye on the future, already coaching youth teams at his former club Luton Town and working on his badges this summer. But his playing days are not over yet, and he has been as important as anyone to West Ham's new year resurgence; a run of four wins and one draw which dragged them, almost implausibly, from the relegation zone and into the top half.

It all started at Stamford Bridge. On a Wednesday night in January, West Ham went there having just been beaten 9-0 by Manchester City over two legs in the League Cup and, even more damagingly, outclassed 3-1 at home by Newcastle United in the League. They needed to tighten up and so manager Sam Allardyce brought Taylor in, not at left-back but in a narrow midfield three protecting the defence.

"We went into that particular fixture believing that we could get something from the game," Taylor remembers. "There were probably a lot of people from outside the club who thought we couldn't get anything."

Allardyce had a plan and it worked perfectly. Taylor, Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble occupied Willian, Oscar and Eden Hazard far more successfully than many other midfields have this season.

"You can't go to Chelsea and try to play expansive football because they will destroy you," explains Taylor. "I don't think that's being disrespectful to us, that's being honest. So we didn't go there and play open. We all got bodies behind the ball, the shape was very good.

"The way Chelsea play is that their attacking players play slightly infield. Willian and Hazard don't play wide. Because of that we bunched up the midfield and were strong in there, and when they got it wide we defended crosses when we had to come into the box."

West Ham escaped with a clean sheet and a point, and Allardyce felt such vindication that he famously spoke in his post-match press conference of having "out-tactic- ed" Jose Mourinho. "We were resolute in defence and we defended for our lives," remembers Taylor. "We were given a game-plan by our manager and implemented it in a professional way."

Mourinho complained about "19th-century football", but two days after this interview Arsenal went to Stamford Bridge without an obvious plan to stop Chelsea and they were beaten 6-0. That stalemate was a triumph.

"It gave us that little boost," says Taylor, who is now established back in the team having hardly played in the first half of the season. "We went on a good run, we picked up good wins and we were solid." They won their next three games 2-0, and those four straight clean sheets made West Ham look like a true Allardyce side again.

"One of the things that stands out here for the gaffer is that he prepares you and gives you all the information you need for the fixture," says Taylor, "and providing you with that information is vitally important, because as players there is a tendency for it to go in one ear and out the other."

That is not the case with Taylor, who is seriously considering coaching when he has stopped playing and is receptive to seeing what works best. "As a player, you look at things that work with certain managers and you try and implement them yourself, if that was what you wanted to do."

As soon as the season is over on 12 May, Taylor and his team-mate Joe Cole will start working on their Uefa B Licences. But Taylor is already working hard, having taken Luton Town Under-15 and Under-16 teams on Thursday evenings for the last 18 months. Some of the same coaching staff are still there who taught him when he was on the Youth Training Scheme at Luton in the late 1990s. "They've been really good for me," Taylor smiles, "the club have a fantastic youth set-up."

Taylor played three seasons as a teenager for Luton in what is now League One and League Two before Portsmouth signed him, and he knows that for the next generation of players the best beginning is in competitive football. "There's no better start for young footballers than playing against other footballers where it's their livelihood at stake. That is how they pay their bills, that's how they pay their mortgage. So everything they do leading up to the game is spot-on.

"There is a space for youth football, but competitive football allowed me to have a platform to achieve what I have achieved within the game and have what I would say is a decent career."

My other life: Carp fishing

I've got three kids and I don't have a huge amount of time to do what I want to, purely and simply because life is just so busy and I'm constantly on the go. But if I did have a couple of days to spare, I really enjoy carp fishing. Last summer I went to France for five days with a couple of mates, we went to a lake called Fishabil, which is about six hours from Calais. I really enjoyed that and had a brilliant time there.

West Ham United are looking for the Supporter of the Season. Go to whufc.com for details

Suggested Topics
News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Life and Style
Jamie Oliver’s version of Jollof rice led thousands of people to post angry comments on his website
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
Apple CEO Timothy Cook
peopleAnti-LGBT campaigner Vitaly Milonov suggested Tim Cook could bring 'Aids or gonorrhea' to Russia
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Taste the difference: Nell Frizzell tucks into a fry-up in Jesse's cafe in east London
food + drinkHow a bike accident left one woman living in a distorted world in which spices smell of old socks and muesli tastes like pork fat
Sport
Luke Shaw’s performance in the derby will be key to how his Manchester United side get on
footballBeating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
filmThis Halloween, we ask what makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?
News
peopleFarage challenges 'liberally biased' comedians to 'call him a narcissist'
Arts and Entertainment
Liam and Zayn of One Direction play with a chimpanzee on the set of their new video for 'Steal My Girl'
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes