If someone paid a million pounds for a midfielder nowadays, you’d probably expect them to be a fourteen year old Portuguese midfielder who has only seen a football once. A few years ago, a million pounds (plus Guy Whittingham) bought you a lifelong club supporter and servant who would play hundreds of games over a nine year period, score a goal in a cup final and become a club legend.
Ian Taylor, ex-footballer, philanthropist and businessman, began his career at non-league side Moor Green and moved to league side Port Vale in 1992 before going on to play for Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa, Derby County and Northampton Town.
As a boyhood Aston Villa supporter, Ian did what many dream of and played week in, week out in front of the famous Holte End at Villa Park.
“It was something that was so special to me and never about money. You ask any supporter, it would be a dream to pull on the shirt of the team you support and I managed to do that.”
Supporters from all of the clubs Ian played still comment on what he gave to their club. This is what made him stand out and it is the reason why in his final professional game, Northampton Town v Huddesfield Town, Aston Villa fans turned up and chanted his name from the stands.
“I made sure that every time I played I gave 100% even if I didn’t play that well at times, to fans watching, all they wanted was commitment, hard work and just to do your best.”
This was one of the many aspects of Ian’s game that separated him from the modern professional. Ian began his playing career in the time of perms and short shorts, he ended his career playing the same game but in a very different atmosphere. Many suggest that now, in the time of £100,000 a week salaries, football is no longer the great working class escape that it once was.
“I do think that footballers are detached from the man in the street. I think that these days, players have been made into pop stars and are in a position now where they are kept away from the public, but on the other hand I think players, when they can, should interact with fans a lot more. I also think there is a desperate lack of characters in the game now, mainly because you can get in trouble for picking your nose these days!”
Ian practices what he preaches and is a regular in the stands at Villa Park, where he still holds cult status amongst their fiercely passionate supporters.
I first saw Ian play for Sheffield Wednesday in 1994. He was a hard working player, full of enthusiasm and someone who struck up an instant rapport with the fans, so much that he was the first person that I contacted to interview. It seems an impossible thought that he only wore the blue and white stripes of the Owls only fourteen times before being sold for a million pounds (plus Guy Whittingham) in December 1994.
During his career Ian won promotion with Port Vale and Northampton Town but his two cup final appearances for Aston Villa stand out in his mind. After all, how many kids have stood on a terrace and then ended up lifting a cup for the club they love at Wembley?
“Winning the League Cup was special. The walk up those famous steps was something I will never forget. In the whole scheme of things, there are only a handful of players that win something and I am amongst those so I’m happy. I also got to an F.A Cup final with Villa but unfortunately we lost.”
Despite playing for five mainstays of English football, Ian would have taken his chances on the continent if the opportunity had arisen.
“If I could have played for any club in the world, I would have to say, at that time, it would have been AC Milan. They were the kings back then. The Milan derbies were always unbelievable games with a fantastic atmosphere. Obviously, Italian football isn’t what it used to be right now, so right now, Barcelona are a team I drool over!”
After a career like his and as a man who will never have to buy his own beer in the claret and blue hald of Birmingham, Ian could have rested on his heels but he didn’t, turning his hands to several businesses and charity work that spans continents. Ian started working with the Aspire Football Academy when a former team mate from Moor Green asked him to get involved.
“I had no hesitation in getting involved and now I’m an ambassador for them. I love working with children and plan to get involved with a number of charities in the future. Aspire go into schools with different programs encouraging kids to be healthy and active, they’re a great bunch that do a fantastic job for the community.”
The community commitments aren’t limited to the Midlands. Ian recently ran a half marathon to raise money for a school in Tanzania.
“These projects aim to give kids in places like Tanzania things that we take for granted, especially schooling. Just being able to kit these schools out and help the children there is an amazing feeling. Like I said, I plan to get involved with various charities, some of which are run by footballers.”
An example on the pitch, now Ian is leading the way off the pitch,
“Well Right now, I have a number of things I’m involved in. I’m a Director in a business working with Premier League rights in China, working with clubs and their profiles in that part of Asia. I also have directorships in Black Ice PR and Media Group and a company called Taylormade Events Management & Sponsorship and along with my ambassadorial role at Aspire there is plenty for me to do!”
On a final teasing note, Ian adds,
“There is something else in the pipeline which you’ll hear about soon, it’s all exciting stuff!”
Having followed his football career and seen the results of his entrepreneurial spirit take hold, there is little doubt that his next move will be an exciting one.
Ian Taylor’s select XI (plus manager) from the players that he has played alongside during his career:
Chris Woods (Goalkeeper-Sheff. Wed) Dan Petrescu(Right back-Sheff. Wed) Alan Wright (Left back-Aston Villa) Paul McGrath (Centre Back-Aston Villa) Gareth Southgate (Centre back-Aston Villa) George Boateng (Centre Mid-Aston Villa) Paul Merson (Attacking mid-Aston Villa) Andy Townsend (Centre mid-Aston Villa) Dwight Yorke (Striker-Aston Villa) David Hirst (Striker-Sheff. Wed) Juan Pablo Angel (Striker-Aston Villa)
Manager would be Pep Guardiola