Former Burnley striker Gareth Taylor on his favourite strike partners, the genius of Glen Little and missing out on the play-offs

Gareth Taylor’s two years at Turf Moor were the most prolific of his career.

Tuesday, 14th April 2020, 11:49 am
Updated Tuesday, 14th April 2020, 1:20 pm
Gareth Taylor scores against Fulham in 2003

The striker hit 37 goals in 106 appearances, and he puts that down to being settled and happy at the club.

He also praises the quality of delivery from either flank, from wingers Glen Little and Alan Moore, as well as Robbie Blake's quality.

Taylor was particularly lethal in the air, and Stan Ternent certainly played to his strengths in a side which went within a goal of reaching the First Division play-offs in 2002.

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Taylor said: "I always look back on my career and think about the clubs where I did well, Bristol Rovers, Sheffield United, Burnley, and patches elsewhere, and it was always because we played with two good wingers.

"I wasn't a prolific goalscorer, but they were my two most prolific seasons, and I think it was down to being happy, playing for a manager who believes in you, and playing to your strengths.

"My strengths were heading the ball, so playing me on my own up front with no crosses...I can do that job and hold it up, but Glen always makes me laugh, I scored my 13th goal in the 2001/02 season at Crewe, and he came to me after the game and said 'do you know Gaz, that was your first goal this season without your head!'

"I scored 12 headers on the bounce before a left-foot drive at Crewe in February."

Taylor was a big admirer of Little, who he later linked up with again at Wrexham: "Glen was class. I had a spell with Glen at Wrexham, I was there with Dean Saunders when I was coming to the end of my career.

"I said to Dean 'get Blakey in, he's brilliant around the young lads, good in the dressing room', and by that stage he was playing more as a holding midfielder.

"He never had pace but didn't want to do that tucking in, graveyard shift he used to call it.

"I left Burnley to start working at Man City and went to watch a game at the Racecourse, and Glen came on, and I swear to god the whole stadium stood up and started cheering. They loved him, he was just class, he still had it, he couldn;t run, but his quality was just top class,

"He was great to have around, people like him and Robbie Blake, they were the whipping boys, they took the rap for the rest of us because Stan was on them every day, but they took it well. They were a big part of the dressing room."

Taylor played with a variety of strike partners at Burnley, as well as up front on his own.

But which was the best?: “They all had different qualities, Payts (Andy Payton) was coming to the end of his career but would always still grab a goal.

“I played with Mullers (John Mullin) a few times, Jonno (David Johnson), who I played with again at Forest.

“Probably the most consistent partnership was with Mooro (Ian Moore).

“Fair play to him, he used to really work hard, chase down, work the channels, and play off me – do a lot of the work I didn’t really want to do.

“We always had a bit of a pact, whenever Glen or Alan Moore or Robbie were crossing, I was always going to the back post, I’d spin to make sure I was in a position where the defender couldn’t see me and the ball, and fair play to Mooro, he used to do the horrible run to the near post, which you were never really going to get the ball, but you were attracting defenders. He was a good lad, worked really hard for the club and had a decent spell there.”

Taylor scored 16 goals in 2001/02, and went one better the year after.

But it still galls him that Burnley missed out on the play-offs in 2002, having led the First Division over the first half of the season, only to tail off and finish seventh, a goal worse off that Norwich.

Taylor scored the only goal on the final day against Coventry, coming off the bench with Paul Gascoigne.

And Gascoigne went agonisingly close with two late free kicks, saved by Magnus Hedman, which denied the Clarets the goal they needed to finish sixth.

Taylor said: "We did well, and were so unfortunate we didn't hold on in that first season I was there, we just dipped at the wrong time, probably struggled with the squad and a couple of injuries.

"It just wasn't to be, but we were very close.

"We lost out by one goal, it was weird, I must have fallen out with Stan because I was hitting 20 goals that season and I was on the bench for the last three games!

"We knew if we won and scored more than Norwich, we were through, and they were playing Stockport and the keeper got sent off early on, which killed it for us.

"We still won and I came off the bench and scored. I remember my eldest lad Tom, who is 21 now, he was mascot that day, and thinking back about the nerves and tension, and the fact I'd probably committed to it weeks ago, Tom being mascot, but I remember a photo he had with Gazza in the dressing room.

"Me and Gazza came off the bench, I scored early on, and Gazza had the series of free kicks, and their keeper was inspired.

"It was a weird feeling because we were trying to get information onto the pitch, but we didn't really know.

"I would have fancied us if we had got through, to go and do the business in the play-offs.

"We had good players, defensively we were solid, we had good ball players in midfield and we had quality crosses coming in all the time."