The Birmingham City defender Martin Taylor spoke yesterday for the first time about his sadness at the injury to Eduardo da Silva and said that it was his greatest hope that he will see the Arsenal striker play again. Taylor told The Independent that it was never his intention to hurt the Croatia international and that he will not allow the internet death threats made against him to affect his career.
In the six days since the challenge that left Eduardo with a fractured left fibula and dislocated ankle, Taylor has endured calls from Arsène Wenger to ban him from the game – later retracted by the Arsenal manager – and threats against him sent to Birmingham. His life has also been turned upside down, but it is the recovery of Eduardo that concerns Taylor above all. "I will be really happy on the day when I see he is back in the Arsenal and the Croatia line-up and when he is scoring goals again," Taylor said.
"The injury was terrible enough. When he gets back to fitness and he puts the ball in the net for Arsenal for the first time we will all feel much better. People will be able to see that accidents like these are the nature of football and you can recover from it."
Taylor said that, during his visit to Selly Oak hospital to see Eduardo, the player himself made it clear that he did not blame him for the challenge. "I went to see him on Saturday but, unfortunately, he was still recovering from an operation, so first thing on Sunday morning I went to the hospital and he was really good to see me," Taylor said. "He didn't need to see me. I heard Tony McCoy [the jockey] talking on the radio about injuries in horse racing and he said the worst feeling is when you wake up after the operation because that is when the reality hits and the drugs start to wear off.
"I was mindful of this and I thought maybe he [Eduardo] wouldn't want to see me, which would have been fair enough because of the trauma. But he was really kind to see me. Although there was a language barrier, I just said that I didn't mean him any harm at all and that I hoped he made a quick recovery.
"He took it on board and nodded. I was just really glad we could communicate. He is obviously a really strong man. Since then I have read in the papers that he would be happy for me to visit him. That's something I'd like to do."
Wenger's initial comments on Saturday that Taylor should be banned for life for the tackle – which the Arsenal manager later admitted were "excessive" – have been blamed in some quarters for inciting the extreme reaction to Taylor among some fans. Birmingham have received more than 80 threats they have passed on to the police.
Taylor said that he was simply relieved that Wenger, who he spoke to in the aftermath of the game, had realised that he had gone too far in his criticism.
"Personally, it [Wenger's words] hasn't changed my view because I know it was an accident. But it has affected the way people react to it," Taylor said. "Arsène Wenger is one of the most highly regarded managers in the game and people listen to what he says. They look at it in a different light because someone who is so learned has said something like that.
"At the time it didn't register too much what he [Wenger] said. Because I knew I had gone for the ball I knew it was an accident. That Arsène Wenger later retracted his comments demonstrates that he now accepts it was an accident.
"I went to see him [Wenger] but I said exactly what I would have said if I hadn't heard his comments. I just said that I didn't mean any harm to his player and that I wanted to visit Eduardo in hospital. Talking to the manager of a team who has lost a player to injury is difficult because he cares for his players and works with them every day – so he will be upset."
Taylor said that he was grateful for the kind words of supporters all over the country. Their emails and messages have far outnumbered the threats and he said that he was determined to carry on with his career once he had served out his three-match suspension for the red card given to him by the referee Mike Dean on Saturday.
"It has been difficult, the whole incident shook me and my family, but I have had a lot of support that has helped me through a difficult time," he said. "I have had support publicly and privately. I have had great support from my manager, Alex McLeish, my team-mates and Birmingham fans as well as supporters across the country – including those from Arsenal.
"I also want to thank ex-managers and also friends coming round to my house or talking to me. It has been exceptionally helpful. It is a strange situation, looking in from the outside, watching the news, reading the newspapers. It feels like it is happening to someone else," Taylor said.
Hutton has sympathy for Eduardo
The Tottenham defender Alan Hutton, who was out for eight months at Rangers with a similar injury to Eduardo, said yesterday of last Saturday's incident: "I was cringing, thinking about the next day when I was lying about in hospital seeing all the papers, and you could see how far my leg was gone. I know what he went through, and it will take a long time, but I'm sure he will get back to playing the way he can."
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