It’s no bad thing that the Charlie Taylor saga is done and dusted. It’s drawn a lot of attention over the past 12 months and you get to a stage with inevitable transfers where everyone needs to move on.
That was then, this is now and he and Leeds United have more to think about than each other.
The manner of his exit and his apparent refusal to play at Wigan last season meant Taylor was condemned to criticism in Leeds and the only way in which his decision would have been reluctantly accepted was by him joining an especially big club. If, for example, he’d gone to Liverpool then even his most ardent critics would have said ‘fair enough’. Anything below the clutch of five or six stellar sides who dominate the Premier League leaves him open to scepticism.
The size and prestige of Leeds United means some supporters of the club will find a move to Burnley odd.
Personally I don’t. My father-in-law, Brian O’Neil, played for Burnley in the 1960s at a time when they were competing for major honours.
They’re a good club and they’re well-supported given the size of the town around them. The bottom line below all of that is that they play in the Premier League.
You’d assume that Taylor did his due diligence on Sean Dyche and the way in which Burnley work under him. You’d assume that he’s had some assurances, if not actual promises, about how likely he is to play, and he can expect a decent amount of game time at Turf Moor.
Aside from anything else, there’s the money he’ll be earning. Let’s not beat around the bush. He’ll do very well financially out of his contract at Burnley and I’d be the first to say that, as a 23-year-old, that’s hard to disregard. Football’s a professional career after all, easy though it is to forget that.
Whatever you think of Taylor’s decision, it’s his call and the consequences of it will be carried by him. If his chances are limited and he loses two or three years, that’s his problem. If he settles in quickly and looks at home in the Premier League, he’ll be pleased that he made the jump at the first opportunity.
None of this changes the fact that the way in which it all ended at Leeds left a very sour taste round here and, as I said at the time of the Wigan game, in later years he’ll probably regret the way in which it panned out. While I’m inclined to think that there were two sides to the story (in which we haven’t heard his) and plenty of shades of grey, supporters will never accept a player refusing to play for their club.
They’re right not to accept it and Charlie knows that any time anyone reflects on his years at Elland Road, that will be one of the first points of reference. The stories are there in black and white. It’s a sad situation because, when all’s said and done, Charlie’s a good player who, at his best, showed masses of commitment at Elland Road. You forget now that it was Charlie who rushed back from glandular fever during the 2015-16 season and went on to win the player-of-the-year award.
That all seems long ago. I don’t begrudge young players trying to make the best of their careers but you don’t want to see their reputation trashed either. I was lucky when I left Nottingham Forest for Southampton that there was no ill feeling and no bitterness about it. It was a big leap at the time. I was leaving the club where I started my career and heading a long way south, but it felt like the right thing to do in so many respects and I don’t regret that transfer at all.
I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but I know full well that had I not played in the Premier League – had I stayed at Forest and spent four or five more years in the Championship – the doors that have opened to me post-retirement would probably have stayed closed.
It’s a totally different environment in the top flight and, as cynical as this must sound, there’s plenty to be gained on a personal level there.
You meet people who help you further down the line. At the time, what I really wanted was the chance to play in that division. But looking back now I can’t deny that it did me favours in other ways. That might be true for Charlie too.
I don’t expect people in Leeds to wish him all the best at Burnley. I expect them to be disappointed by the way this worked out.
I guess, as a footballer, you see these situations from a slightly different perspective, which clearly doesn’t mean my perspective is automatically right.
What I can say is that deep down, Charlie will be grateful for his time at Leeds. He’ll be grateful for the way he was handled as a young player and the way in which he was brought through.
However it ended, he’s got a lot to thank the club for.