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Jodie Taylor: The apple of England's eye

Shambhu Ajith
123   //    02 Aug 2017, 14:36 IST

England v Canada Quarter Final - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015
Jodie Taylor celebrating her goal against Canada in the 2015 World Cup

Passion comes easily. But the power which impels that passion to yield success rests with obsession. And that obsession is exclusively for achievers who are ready to champion their one tenet and make it their credo.

When England took on France in the Euro Women's 2017 Cup, the odds were stacked against the Lionesses. They hadn't beaten Les Bleus in 43 years. Moreover, it was the England team and nobody needed to be reminded of their history in cup competitions.

Consequently, not many were willing to bet on England's chances. France started off well and a goal seemed to lurk on the horizon as their playmaker Camille Abby dictated terms in the midfield, ably supported by Marie-Laure Delie and Jessica Houara.

But in the 59th minute of the match, they encountered an anomaly of sorts. Lucy Bronze stole the ball near the halfway line and darted forward with ferocious intent. She stroked the ball into the path of talismanic striker, Jodie Taylor, who had made a habit of being a nightmare for goalkeepers.

As her first few touches closed down the angle towards goal, it seemed unlikely that the Lionesses would see the net bulging. But Taylor had other ideas. The 31-year-old proceeded to dink the ball over the diving goalkeeper who did get a hand to it but failed to keep it out. Jodie thus raked in a staggering 5th goal in the competition and ensured that England defeated France for the first time in over four decades.

Jodie Who?

Taylor scoring the decisive goal vs France

Born in Birkenhead, United Kingdom, Jodie Taylor's life up until now can best be described by one word - nomadic. She made her first appearance in top flight football at the age of 15 when she represented Tranmere Rovers in 2002. When Tranmere got relegated in 2004, Taylor had banged in 29 goals in 38 appearances.

The then 18-year-old moved to the United States after accepting a 4-year sports scholarship at Oregon University.

Taylor, who has played for 12 different clubs across three continents, is now the main attacking outlet for English giants Arsenal. She has strutted her stuff in England, USA, Canada, Sweden, and Australia.

When she was 24, Jodie gave up football for six months, deciding to take up a day job. But her love for the game would bring her right back into the football field and she would go on to sign for Birmingham, who finished 2nd in the league, behind her current club Arsenal.

Despite all her experience, the front runner for Euro 2017's Golden Boot did not make her England senior team debut until 2014.

Watching the England team in the 2013 Euro Cup, Taylor felt a thorn in her heart as she longed to be a part of the international side. Blessed with an immense amount of self-belief, Jodie mailed the then England coach Powell expressing her intentions to be a part of the England camp. She received no reply.

Taylor's nomadic voyaging came to a halt when England hired their new coach Mark Sampson who begged the meanderer to come back home.

The England coach treasured Taylor so much that he took her to the World Cup in Canada in 2015 when she was still recovering from a knee surgery.

Sampson's faith in Taylor bore fruit when she netted the opener at Vancouver's BC Place Stadium in the quarter-finals against Canada. His belief in Taylor's abilities was further justified as she gobbled up a hat-trick against Scotland to join the likes of Geoff Hurst and Gary Lineker as the only England internationals to have scored a hat-trick in a major tournament.

Retreat! Jodie Taylor is on us!

Mark Sampson, head coach of England's women's team
Mark Sampson, head coach of England's women's team

Under the tutelage of the 34-year-old coach, Jodie's game has undergone a severe transformation. Her astounding burst of pace coupled with her immaculate positioning has made her one of the finest forwards the England team has ever had the fortune of enrolling.

“This is not luck, this is not just down to ability, Jodie has an obsession with scoring goals and we are so, so proud of her. She puts so much work in for the team, too, we are very fortunate to have her,” said Sampson in praise of the prolific goal-scorer.

Taylor, one of the most clinical finishers in the game right now, is obsessed with the artistry behind goalscoring. On the eve of matches, the Oregon scholar can be found reviewing tapes of the opposing side, attempting to pick up on the tiniest of details; she tries to learn the intricate body language of the defenders, and observe the maneuvers of the goalkeepers so that when she faces them the next day she knows whether to lob the ball into the net or finesse it with her sidefoot.

Taylor, in an interview with the Guardian, revealed the same. "You watch five or six video clips and you start to see people’s tendencies and are able to visualize what they’ll do in games."

Take her goal against France as an example. Taylor, who charges into the box, taunts the goalkeeper, almost saying, 'Make your move'. Sarah Bouhaddi throws herself to the ground but the 31-year-old, who is in a bid to make up for lost time, has already decided to not to roll it along the ground but instead proceeds to dink it over her head.

"When we played Spain, I knew their goalie flies off her line. For my goal against them, she went down early, so I knew to dink it over her. Watching her definitely helped."

Timing, precision and, above all, the tranquil cranium that rests on Taylor's shoulders, has seen her hit the target with five out of her six shots in the tournament so far with all five of them rattling the inside of the net.

Whither to from hither?

Taylor will soon become a familiar name in England. After starting to play football with the lads and a lack of female idols to look up to, it has been her dream to become one to the younger generations.

At 31, many people feel that she has reached the twilight of her career. But Taylor, who is finally injury-free and feels at the peak of her powers, pooh poohs her detractors with a Zlatanesque 'I'm only warming up' swagger.

Taylor's domestic future is still far from settled. She could very well fly back to the USA to play in the Women's Super League and you can't blame her for that; her system is just wired like that.

England will take on the Netherlands in the semi-final of the Euro Cup. With all the big names crashing out, England are the favourites to have their name etched on the trophy. And in all likelihood, the world will acquiesce to the shine on Jodie Taylor's fresh pair of golden boots and embrace their new heroine.

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Shambhu Ajith
Football is a whole skill to itself. A whole world. A whole universe to itself. Football is freedom - Bob Marley
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