THE Stadium of Light to the Riverside Stadium may be a distance of just 35 miles, but in footballing terms, it has represented a journey of epic proportions so far this calendar year for Charlie Taylor.
The Leeds United defender is pretty much one of the first names on the team-sheet for the club these days.
And he will line up against Middlesbrough on Sunday with bouquets thrust into his lap following a start to the season which has marked the card of not just Whites followers, but a much wider audience.
Taylor, who turned 22 last Friday, crowned a barnstorming spell with his first goal of the season – and best of his embryonic career – in Saturday’s 2-1 victory at MK Dons.
His form has led to Yorkshire Evening Post pundit Noel Whelan to label him as “the best left-back in the Championship” and an intriguing sub-plot to Sunday’s televised clash on Teesside will see Taylor line-up against Boro’s George Friend, named as the top player in that position in last season’s PFA Championship side.
Taylor has certainly come a long way since coming in from the cold in an FA Cup tie at Boro’s north-east rivals Sunderland on January 4, when the York-born player was handed a rare start by former head coach Neil Redfearn.
That appearance on Wearside, his first since August 30 of last year, ended four months of frustration for Taylor, forced to watch as the likes of fellow Academy products Lewis Cook and Alex Mowatt established themselves in the first team.
But an injury to Stephen Warnock in the final game of 2014 at Derby – and ironically his subsequent move there – provided him with a clear first-team pathway this calendar year and he has hasn’t looked back.
A regular ever since and someone who has played every minute of every game this season, it’s been some turnaround for Taylor, which has grasped his opportunity and simply not let go.
On his thrilling renaissance, Taylor – labelled a ‘machine’ by head coach Uwe Rosler for his durability this term – said: “This time last year, I was very frustrated. I had come back from Fleetwood (on loan in 2013-14) and thought I had done well and was hoping to get my chance.
“But I was patient. I had to wait until Christmas and just always thought once I got my chance that I would have to take it with both hands.
“Hopefully, I have done that.
“I am getting more experienced with every game. The Championship is a tough league; I don’t think there is anything like it really.
“It does take getting used to. But the more you play, the more you get used to it.”
Taylor’s performances, if rumours are to be believed, are attracting attention from the top flight, with some reports suggesting that Manchester United, casting their eye over cover options following a horror injury sustained by Luke Shaw, are monitoring him closely.
Taylor, for one, is taking any such reports with a huge pinch of salt and is concentrating firmly on life at Leeds, where he couldn’t be happier.
Taylor, handed his league debut by former boss Simon Grayson as a 17-year-old at home to Crystal Palace in September 2011, added: “I saw the reports, but obviously took no notice of it. It’s just paper talk.
“I am just concentrating on playing for Leeds every week. I am happy here, they are my local team and obviously the aim is getting into the Premier League.
“It is where we belong with the club’s fanbase and history and hopefully it won’t be too long until we are back there.
“We are a young developing side with some fantastic players and this season could be an exciting one.
“But we have to take it one game at a time and pick up as many points as we can, home and away and get as high up the table as we can.”