The signing of former Newcastle United and England U-21 defender Steven Taylor could be a masterstroke that turns Odisha FC from a mid-table club into one that could challenge at the top of the Indian Super League.
Since leaving his boyhood club Newcastle United at the end of the 2015-16 season, following the club's relegation from the Premier League, Taylor has enjoyed a nomadic career. He had short spells at Portland Timbers and Ipswich Town before making 51 appearances for League One side Peterborough United in the 2017-18 season.
Taylor will bring a much-needed defensive nous to an Odisha FC side which finished sixth in the ISL in the 2019-20 season. Defensive issues undoubtedly cost them a higher position in the table, and the team conceded 31 goals in just 18 matches. Taylor will bring vital experience, leadership and a calm head to the heart of Odisha FC's defence.
The former Premier League star is arguably enjoying some of the best form of his career after an excellent spell for Wellington Phoenix in the Australian A-League. In two seasons at the club, Taylor made 50 appearances, scoring three goals.
His fitness, something which affected him during the early years of his career, has also been excellent. He completed the full 90 minutes in all but one of the 27 games he played during his final season at Wellington. The team finished third, their highest league position since joining the league in the 2007-08 season.
Taylor will also provide Odisha FC with some much-needed quality and composure in possession. His distribution throughout his career has always been one of the most impressive parts of his game. This is evidenced by the fact he averaged a 90% pass completion rate in three successive seasons for Newcastle United in the Premier League.
In an interview with Goal.com, Taylor referenced working with Stuart Baxter, his desire to learn even at this late stage of his career, and working with Odisha FC's young talented squad as his reasons for joining the club.
“I spoke to Stuart a good few times, and hearing his plans for the season and the club, was exciting. It was clear after speaking with him that I would be joining Odisha FC. You just have to look at his CV and see his experience. He will be good to learn from and you're never too old to learn,” said Taylor.
“They have a very young and exciting squad with ambitions to have an exciting season. There are a lot of up and coming new Indian talents, so it will be good to see them express themselves this season and for us to do something special,” added Taylor.
With Taylor's ability, experience and leadership qualities, Odisha FC could mount a real challenge to reach the end of season play-offs for the first time since 2016.Published 21 Oct 2020, 19:42 IST