Charlie Taylor may be in the early stages of what one hopes will be a long and illustrious career with Leeds United, but he’s already played at Wembley and won a promotion. Lee Sobot reports.
CHARLIE Taylor has made 73 appearances in his young career yet he’s already bagged one promotion.
Elevation from League Two in the 2014 play-off final with Fleetwood Town was the icing on the cake to a fine loan spell last season in Lancashire.
And the left-back hopes that experience will set him up for the most prized promotion of all in getting his boyhood club Leeds United back into the promised land of the Premier.
Taylor, 21, is the latest Whites Academy graduate to become a regular in Neil Redfearn’s young side with the left-back seamlessly filling the void left by the January departure of club captain Stephen Warnock to Derby County.
The 33-year-old’s Rams switch provided the opening that Taylor needed but the full-back insists last season’s loan spell at Fleetwood was also crucial in his development.
Taylor was just 17 when making his Whites debut in the Carling Cup tie of August 2011 against Bradford City whom the youngster then joined on loan for a month in January 2012. Loan spells at York City and Inverness followed in 2012-13 but it was at Fleetwood where the York-born ace truly blossomed last term.
Rapidly improving Taylor says the importance of 42 outings for the League Two side cannot be forgotten and the last of them – sealing promotion by beating Burton Albion at Wembley – will live long in his memory. Buoyed by that Fleetwood learning curve and now a regular starter under Redfearn, the defender is dreaming of doing something similar with Leeds.
“Going on loan to Fleetwood helped me massively and I can’t really stress enough how helpful that was to me,” Taylor told the YEP. “Everyone at Fleetwood helped and just getting a promotion at the end topped off a great experience.
“Now, to get back up into the Premier League with the club I have supported all my life would be an unbelievable experience and I don’t think anything could really top that in football. We’ve got to put the hard work in from now really to get there.”
Taylor has certainly grafted his way into United’s first team and the left-back slot now looks his for keeps.
Worries over who would fill the void left by Warnock have been replaced by a different Whites concern in who would deputise at left-back should the rising star become injured.
Liam Cooper can operate as a left-sided full-back but is clearly more effective at centre-half while it’s a similar scenario with right back Gaetano Berardi.
Academy ace Tyler Denton is a left-back bubbling beneath the surface and he’ll take plenty of inspiration from the manner in which Taylor has become a permanent fixture of the side.
“Last season was great at Fleetwood and I came back in the summer looking to kick-on here,” said the full-back.
“The first half of the season was a bit frustrating as I just wanted to be playing football like every other professional does.
“When Stevie went the opportunity came around and I made sure I took that opportunity with both hands.
“I’m just loving it at the moment, I’m delighted, and since the new year I have just been enjoying playing every week and gaining more experience.
“Every game is an experience and I suppose you are getting better with every game the more experience you’re getting.
“Hopefully I can stay in the team and I just want to keep improving.”
There’s no denying that Taylor was particularly impressive in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat of Millwall in which he lined up behind fellow Academy graduate and match-winner Alex Mowatt on the left hand side of the park.
Another former Academy star, Sam Byram, caused Millwall problems on the opposite flank with arguably the brightest young star of all, Lewis Cook, again a class act in the centre of midfield.
Taylor says he is thriving linking up with three fellow former Academy stars with plenty more where that came from. Asked about featuring for Leeds United’s first team alongside Byram, Mowatt and Cook, Taylor beamed: “I’ve known them since I was young and we’ve played in the same age groups all through the years.
“Now that we’re all playing in the first team together it’s just brilliant and I’m enjoying it.
“Everyone is working hard for each other – there’s no individual players and we’re all team players. It’s getting results now. When anyone scores we are all celebrating together and everyone is just happy for each other and on Saturday Alex’s birthday couldn’t have been any better for him!
“Confidence is also a massive thing and with us being on a high at the moment it’s showing out there on the pitch. The results are coming.”
Thirteen points from a possible 18 over Leeds United’s last six games is proof of the pudding with Saturday’s success against Millwall making it four wins from the last five games.
A tougher test awaits on Saturday lunchtime at second-placed Middlesbrough but Taylor is champing at the bit ahead of the latest chapter in both his and the young Leeds United side’s development.
Defeat could leave United back to within five points of the dropzone should third-bottom Millwall beat Fulham, but Taylor is looking at the potential of a third consecutive away win putting Leeds within 12 points of the top six.
Taylor reasoned: “Everyone wants to test themselves against the best and Middlesbrough are one of the best in the division. You can tell they are a top side and it will be a good challenge but it’s one we are all looking forward to.
“Winning against Millwall has taken us up a few places and above a lot of teams and I think we have got to be looking more towards the top half of the table.
“And stranger things have happened than the play-offs really. We need to be looking up rather than down.”