A player of Maik Taylor’s age would probably prefer to end his career than pass the time making up the numbers.
Upon signing for Leeds United this week, the 40-year-old goalkeeper was quick to insist that his presence at Elland Road will be felt.
United’s deal with Taylor was the sum of their incoming business on Thursday, the day of the Football League’s loan deadline. Taylor’s status as a free agent allowed him to negotiate a permanent contract but two months at a club who have other alternatives is a brief opportunity for the Northern Ireland international to find himself a niche.
The brief for Taylor was simple – to act initially as cover for on-loan Reading keeper Alex McCarthy and latterly for Andy Lonergan, Leeds’ first choice who is virtually recovered from surgery on a broken finger. “They have some fantastic goalies here,” Taylor said, while insisting that he still holds “aspirations of playing.”
Grayson would expect no less from a player whose senior appearances number more than 500 and whose last competitive appearance was in an international fixture between Northern Ireland and Italy.
Leicester City and Hull City took an interest in Taylor after his contract with Birmingham City expired in May and United’s offer to him arrived on the back of a successful two-week trial. With his services still valued, it has frustrated Taylor to find himself unattached for the best part of six months. He was not a player likely to find himself on England’s long list of free transfers.
“I had a shoulder injury at the end of last season and I was in rehab over the summer,” Taylor said. “My phone was ringing then and I hoped to get fixed up when I was fully fit and available.
“It’s been really strange for me, and frustrating more than anything. The injury came at the worst possible time, but I’ve kept myself in shape and it’s great to be back on the grass now. It makes a change to being in the gym every day.
“My deal’s for two months and it means the management can have a good look at me over time. I’ve still got big aspirations of playing but they’ve got some fantastic goalies here so I understand the situation.
“Alex has come in and done well I appreciated that, and Lonergan is the number one at the club when he’s fit. It’s going to be difficult to get in and play regularly but that’s what I’ll aim to do. The manager makes the decisions and if I can put pressure on other people then that’s good for Leeds.
“I’ve been very fortunate that, until last season, I had very few injuries in my career. I love being out on the grass but I’m not here just to make up the numbers. I really want to do well and we’ll see where that leaves me in two months’ time.”
Taylor’s free transfer to Leeds was facilitated in no small way by Glynn Snodin, the United coach who was until recently part of Northern Ireland’s management team.
Beyond Taylor’s long and familiar CV, which shows commendable service at both Birmingham and Fulham, Snodin was able to vouch for Taylor’s fitness after the keeper cured his shoulder problem.
The option of signing Taylor became suddenly appealing when a dismal performance from Paul Rachubka in a 5-0 defeat to Blackpool convinced Grayson that other options would be needed by Leeds, before and after Lonergan’s return.
Taylor came to Leeds on trial a fortnight ago and did not have to wait long for discussions about a contract to take place.
“It’s the type of opportunity I’ve been hoping would come around,” he said. “They’ve got a very eager, honest and talented set of lads here. The goal is to get promoted and if I can help with that then brilliant.
“This time of year excites everyone and things are looking great. Can they get promoted? Absolutely. The work ethic is second to none, they’re very well organised and they’ve got great quality. It bodes well.”
Rachubka took his leave of Elland Road on Thursday afternoon, signing for Tranmere on a one-month loan. Rovers required a replacement for the injured Owain Fon Williams and Leeds were anxious to give Rachubka a chance to get over his humiliation against Blackpool, away from intense scrutiny in Leeds.
Manager Simon Grayson said: “It’s a good move for both parties. Tranmere need a keeper and we’ve got one who needs games.
“It gives him the opportunity to get back out there and it gets him out of the public eye in Leeds. It might restore some of the confidence he’s lost.”