Since the first week in January, 21-year-old Charlie Taylor has become a mainstay of the Leeds United defence, starting every game for Neil Redfearn’s side in 2015. Leon Wobschall caught up with him.
If the first half of 2014-15 was inauspicious for Charlie Taylor, the second half is turning into the polar opposite.
As the strains of Auld Lang Sang approached on December 31, the York-born defender was probably entitled to wonder just where his next craved-for chance at Leeds United would arrive from.
It came in Leeds’ first assignment of 2015 in the FA Cup third-round encounter at top-flight Sunderland on January 4, with Neil Redfearn throwing the likes of himself and Luke Murphy a lifeline to freshen his side up after an insipid loss at Derby County.
Safe to say that Taylor has not looked back since.
Just as the start of 2014 proved fruitful for the left-back, who played his part in helping Fleetwood clinch promotion to the third tier through the League Two play-offs during a buoyant loan spell there, so the first few months of the current year have proved enriching.
Taylor’s appearance on Wearside was his first start for United since the end of August and he has lined up from the off in all 13 games this year.
The flower of youth is certainly blossoming at Elland Road with Taylor having stepped out of the shadows with the sight of himself, Sam Byram, Lewis Cook and Alex Mowatt in the United starting side, with the likes of Lewis Walters, Kalvin Phillips and Chris Dawson representing the next cabs off the rank, a wholly positive one for the future.
The hope in the long term is that it can inspire a Leeds renaissance to the top table of English football.
For the time being, that is still some way off, but in the here and now, a top-ten finish is in Leeds’ sights and achievable, according to Taylor, who believes the club is in rude health.
On the upturn for himself and Leeds, Taylor, 21, said: “Earlier in the season, it was a bit frustrating.
“But since the turn of the year, I have enjoyed every game really. I will hopefully try and improve every game and it’s been a good run in the side.
Adamant that Leeds can achieve a top-ten finish for the first time at this level since 2010-11, he added: “I don’t see why we can’t. From where we were in December, it would be a great achievement.
“All the young lads keep getting better and if everyone is together and we keep building the team, you never know what can happen.
“We want to build a team and keep doing for next year. It’s exciting times ahead over the next year or so and players are going to be attracted to come to Leeds.
“We are in a good position and the best I have seen in quite a few years.”
The departure of Stephen Warnock to Derby County may have played into the hands of Taylor somewhat, but he has proved he has more than one positional string to his bow – surely no bad thing for a young player.
He has featured on the left hand side of midfield in United’s past two games and victories – most latterly against Wigan on Saturday, with Mowatt’s latest keynote goalscoring contribution clinching a maiden victory at the DW Stadium in front of almost 5,000 visiting supporters.
It may not be Taylor’s natural position, but his industry for the collective good – something United are showing throughout their line-up – was admirable.
Leeds’ side had an average age of 23 on Saturday, with energy hardly in short supply as they secured a seventh win in ten Championship outings on a negligible playing surface.
Taylor said: “We are all young lads and fit and just keep on running until we have nothing more to give and I think it showed out there.
“Everyone put in as much as they could and put in a great shift.”
Happy to operative in midfield for the greater good, he added: “I don’t mind, I like it when I play full-back and I like to get forward, so it just gives me that option of getting forward.
“I try and help with the full-back whether it’s (Gaetano) Berardi or Coops (Liam Cooper). I have enjoyed it in the last couple of games.
“It is different. At full-back, you get the ball in front of you. At left-wing, you have your back to play, but you have got to adapt to it and do the best you can.”