WONDERS OF THE PYRAMID: Matt Taylor reflects on the volatile world of football management after taking charge at Shrewsbury Town… plus, why we can’t scrap FA Cup replays
- Matt Taylor has taken on his second managerial role with Shrewsbury Town
- The former Premier League full-back has reflected on life as a football manager
- What is the WORST Premier League hat-trick? – Find out on It’s All Coming Up
When Matt Taylor entered the volatile world of football management, he was unsure what to expect and knew only one thing was guaranteed. ‘The only thing in this job that you can be certain of is that at some point, you will lose your job,’ the Shrewsbury manager tells Mail Sport.
You will remember Taylor from his time at the likes of West Ham, Portsmouth and Bolton in the Premier League. He is known for a couple of long-range screamers and his England career was perhaps stalled by the fact the competition in his position was Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge.
‘Until I started my coaching courses, my life had solely existed up and down the left-hand side of a football pitch,’ says Taylor, joking at Shrewsbury’s training ground after taking a rainy session. ‘But doing my badges while playing was the best thing I ever did, it made me a better player.
‘I was about 28, at West Ham, and I had spoken to and seen so many previous footballers who had retired and didn’t have a plan. I didn’t want to be one of them. So I started coaching Luton Town Under 16s on a Thursday night and my coaching career snowballed from there.
‘Many finished playing and didn’t have a clue what to do with their lives but I always wanted to stay in football. Doing the badges so young definitely made me a better player as I became aware of other people’s roles and responsibilities on the pitch.’
Shrewsbury Town boss Matt Taylor has reflected on the volatile world of football management
Taylor (middle) transitioned from a Premier League star to a football league manager
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A decade-long journey commenced and Taylor, who made 742 appearances in English football during his career studied alongside Steven Gerrard and Peter Schmeichel as he slowly progressed to the A Licence and Pro Licence.
‘At the start of the journey it was literally like training to be a teacher,’ he says. ‘That was alien to me. I had to learn to teach the game as if it was to someone who had never kicked a ball before. Throughout my whole career you sort of just presume everyone knows and loves football.
‘But then I did my A Licence over two summers which is more of an 11v11 element. I was more nervous doing the assessment for that than any game in my playing career! You learn a lot from the tutors but I found my best learning was from speaking to fellow candidates.
‘There’s such a broad spectrum of people – coaches from the men’s game, women’s football, academy staff – and that helped open my eyes to so much. Everyone sees the game from different perspectives. You learn a lot about yourself, which is really important.
‘For you to be the best version of yourself as a coach you need to understand who you are. To be successful as a player, you have to be driven and quite selfish. With coaching, you have to change and become selfless… to be empathetic and understand dynamics of people.’
But training courses and two decades of experience playing at the top level count for nothing if you are not getting results on the pitch. Taylor found that out the hard way, as have so many other young coaches starting out in management, when he was sacked at Walsall.
There are two roads for young managers when they get dismissed in their first job. Many give up and step away from first-team management but Taylor was committed to putting it right and he spent the next year bettering himself.
Taylor spent less than a year as Walsall boss before landing the job at Shrewsbury
The former Premier League star has become familiar with the problems managers face
‘My biggest learning from Walsall was that I didn’t change what I should have quick enough and that ultimately cost me my job,’ he adds. ‘When I was at Walsall, I was really keen to implement my philosophy around the way that we would play. And I think I leant on that too much at times.
‘While you have a philosophy as a coach in your head, you have to be adaptable. You must adhere to your non-negotiables, but how a formation looks can change. Keep the core principles, but be adaptable.
‘Getting sacked was extremely difficult to deal with, there’s no hiding from that. But it’s about not letting that define you as a manager. It gave me time to go home, see my family and kids, and then reflect openly and honestly on your own.
‘I spoke to a lot of people in the game that had been through it. What is important is that you make sure you learn from the mistakes you made and do your best not to repeat them. It’s difficult – you struggle to fill Saturday afternoons! – but I spent time improving myself.’
Taylor’s start to managerial life led to a couple of raised eyebrows when he was hired by director of football Micky Moore at Shrewsbury. He is aware results can improve but he has made a solid start to his tenure in Shropshire, with the League One club clear of a relegation battle.
Shrewsbury have made a solid start under Taylor’s guidance in the 2023-24 campaign
‘Shrewsbury is a great football club,’ says Taylor. ‘I love the town, it’s a really beautiful place near the countryside. The players have been brilliant. I’m trying to implement a style to make us better and more effective.
‘Our home form has been really good. We haven’t scored enough goals, so that’s the area we’re really keen to get better. The chairman, director of football and everyone at the club are pushing in the same direction.
‘The league is tight this year, if you put back-to-back performances together you can fly upwards. I am really enjoying it, very thankful to the chairman and Micky. I’m going to give it everything I can to be successful.’
Why we can’t scrap FA Cup replays
Next time there is a debate about whether to scrap FA Cup replays, someone should point to last weekend as evidence to why they are a crucial element in producing the ‘magic’ that the TV cameras so often crave.
Horsham and Cray Valley Paper Mills, whose manager and chairman spoke to this column last week, were buoyed by taking League One Barnsley and Charlton to a replay back at their place next week.
It will give them a transformative £25,000 broadcast fee – both matches will be televised on terrestrial channels – plus a day to cherish for everyone involved with the clubs, many of whom are hard-working volunteers.
At the other end of the spectrum, Derby County, perhaps the biggest club in the first-round draw, were also helped by a replay. Paul Warne’s team were two goals down at injury-depleted Crewe Alexandra but scored two late goals to force a rematch at Pride Park next week.
Horsham and Cray Valley Paper Mills will host Charlton after their 1-1 draw in the FA Cup
Fletcher to take up role with the PFA
Bath City forward Alex Fletcher, who nearly died in an accident that saw him collide into advertising hoardings reinforced by concrete blocks during a National League South match a year ago, is set to take up a role with the Professional Footballers’ Association.
The family of Fletcher, then 24, were told he ‘might not make it’ and there was a ‘slim chance’ he would recover to be the same person. But he made an admirable, fighting comeback to play football again and returned in August.
But the striker has now departed Bath City and will take up a position with the PFA working on brain health education. He will also campaign for improved safety around sports pitches, arguing that ‘you wouldn’t put a brick wall at the end of a 100m running track’.
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