STEVE EVANS has labelled buccaneering Leeds United left-back Charlie Taylor as an ‘outstanding talent’ and says the club are blessed to have him on their books.
After a breakthrough second half of 2014-15 under former head coach Neil Redfearn, the York-born player has raised the bar further in an exemplary campaign which culminated in him being crowned as United’s player of the year at the club’s end-of-season awards night following last Saturday’s home game with Charlton Athletic.
That followed hot on the heels of being presented with the Yorkshire Evening Post’s player-of-the-year accolade with the 22-year-old now firmly established as one of the Championship’s premier left-backs alongside the likes of Middlesbrough’s George Friend and Hull City’s Andrew Robertson.
Evans says that the achievements of Taylor – the club’s third-highest appearance maker this term – are all the more laudable given the fact that he was sidelined for almost two months in the autumn due to glandular fever.
Heading into this lunch-time’s Roses encounter at Simon Grayson’s Preston North End, only one outfield player – fellow Academy product Lewis Cook – has started more Championship games than Taylor.
Evans believes that there is plenty more to come from the left-sided player, with the Scot full of praise for his performance in last weekend’s 2-1 home loss to Charlton, with his tireless stint particularly in the second half being indicative of his desire, ability and class.
The United head coach said: “He is a top player and a top lad and he’s getting better.
“It took him a little while to come back from what was an eight or nine-week illness and it really floored the boy.
“But after about three or four days training, he went straight back into the team and he’s been outstanding.
“He’s an outstanding talent that this football club is blessed to have and we are blessed to work with him.
“The second half against Charlton on Saturday, Charlie played in such a way in that it was probably the best left-sided performance I have seen at Elland Road.
“I have not seen lots of games when I have not been head coach, but that’s as good as it can get.”
United face a familiar face in the dug-out at Deepdale today in ex-manager and lifelong fan Grayson, whose concerted play-off tilt and seventh-place finish back in 2010-11 comfortably represents the club’s best finish since their return to the Championship.
And Grayson, whose 11th-placed side are three points ahead of Leeds and unlikely to be overhauled even if they lose – with North End’s goal difference being eight goals better – remains proud of that statistic five years on.
Grayson said: “The seventh place I got has never been bettered since I left.
“When I got sacked the following season, Leeds were only three points off the play-offs.
“People made that decision, I had to accept it even if I didn’t agree with it – that is part of history now.
“Leeds are a big club and have not been getting anywhere near the expectancy levels which the supporters have.
“When they look back over the course of this season, Leeds will be thinking they have under-achieved.
“With the size of club they are, the budget they have which is probably two or three times bigger than ours, they should be striving for the top six.”