Former Wolves and Walsall man Kris Taylor heading for big football milestone
Kris Taylor spent several years on the books of both Wolves and Manchester United at the start of his football career.
That he didn’t end up playing a senior game for either does nothing to take away the experiences and memories or indeed how they shaped his development for the career which has followed.
Taylor has just come through his 24th pre-season – and he will turn 40 in January – but the passion for football means he is still as determined as ever to give his best - and also enjoy - the new campaign with Chasetown.
There is also the mentality there to combine continuing to operate at a decent level of non-league football with a full-time job, whilst also ensuring he can enjoy and savour family life as well.
It’s a mentality that helped Taylor when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, a decade ago next January, when, supported both by family, friends and the football world in general, and aided by a positive prognosis, he faced the disease head-on to make a remarkably quick recovery.
So, he may not have played for Wolves or Manchester United – he does still turn out for Wolves Allstars – but they paved the way for a successful life in football which also included some happy times with Walsall.
And it’s a footballing life which is very much still going strong.
“I’ve just come through yet another pre-season, and I can’t say I ever enjoy them,” Taylor admits.
“It is part and parcel of football and part and parcel of preparing but I’ve never been what you might call a natural athlete and I have to work hard to be ready for ‘go time’!
“But I’m still going, still enjoying it, and I want to play on for as long as I can.”
Taylor is a boyhood Manchester United season ticket holder and still a fan who went to last season’s win against Wolves at Old Trafford, but has been unable to snaffle a ticket for Monday night’s Premier League curtain-raiser.
Living in the Midlands, he can also sometimes be found at Molineux, as he was for the Luton friendly last week, or taking children Lydia and Louie to United games – including last season’s Carabao Cup final thanks to Chasetown chairman Steve Jones.
Had Taylor’s footballing path taken a slightly different turn, had United not come calling as they did when he was 14, he could instead have been turning out at Molineux or Villa Park on a regular basis.
His switch from Wolves to United, just like that of striker Daniel Nardiello who he went on to share accommodation with in Manchester, was somewhat controversial.
Taylor had been spotted playing for his local team, Forest Star, and was training within Wolves’ youth ranks and colleagues such as Jimmi Lee Jones and Mark Danks at the Jennie Lee Centre in Wednesfield, from the age of eight.
“I was really enjoying the training and the games, played at the Grammar School, and I remember the coaches, Sean Kimberley and Rob Kelly, who were brilliant,” he recalls.
“I saw Rob a bit when he moved on to Blackburn, and Sean went to Villa, and I often wonder what would have happened if I had gone there because I got on really well with him as a coach and a bloke.
“But when United came in for me, they were always going to be the only choice, given the size of the club and with being a fan.
“After a few chats they asked me to go up there and have a look and then I got a chance to play at Old Trafford.
“Playing on the pitch, looking over at the seat where I had a season ticket, that was something else, and I think it’s always a kid’s dream to play for the club they support.”
The controversy came with both Taylor and Nardiello having been on Wolves books, and so, led by then Academy manager Chris Evans, the club demanded compensation and eventually took their case to a tribunal.
Ultimately, and to the displeasure of Sir Alex Ferguson, each player cost £200,000.
“Did all that affect me? Not really,” says Taylor.
“We both had to go and speak at the hearings to talk about what had happened but by that stage I knew I was at United.
“Wolves felt that they had put a lot of work into me and helped me progress and improve over a five year period to get to the point that United wanted me, and I think that is fair enough.
“They did alright out of the deal and got a few quid, and for me, I got my dream move.
“Looking back with hindsight, would my career have been different if I hadn’t gone there? Who knows.
“But when a club like United come calling, it was always going to be very difficult to turn it down.”
Taylor, who has operated across various positions in defence and midfield during his career, made a few reserve appearances after progressing to the professional ranks at Old Trafford, but never the first team.
Given the depths of quality players at the club at the time – these were the years following their treble-winning success of 1999 – that statistic is understandable, even though he had been playing at youth level for England at the time.
But ultimately, Taylor’s learning during his spell in Manchester went way beyond what transpired on the pitch.