Birmingham City’s Martin Taylor has had an eventful six months since the arrival of Alex McLeish and the giant defender still has a big part to play in Blues’ bid to return to the Premier League, the manager has stated.
The 28-year-old looked on his way out of St Andrew’s when McLeish arrived last November. After a successful spell on loan at Norwich City, his future looked to be in Norfolk, especially when McLeish said publicly he was looking to move the 6ft 4in defender on to make way for a new centre half during the January transfer window.
However, McLeish’s failure to entice Gary Cahill to Blues gave Taylor a reprieve and he went on to produce some solid displays until his horror challenge on Arsenal’s Eduardo in February.
McLeish said Taylor wasn’t the same player after that incident, which left the Croatian striker with a dislocated and fractured ankle, and facing a year out of the game. Taylor had to serve a three-game ban as a result of his red card but it was the psychological damage left by the guilt of the challenge that affected him.
Taylor was said to be devastated by the injury and received death threats in the post. Now the Blues boss admits he rushed Taylor back too soon after his suspension when the defender wasn’t ready to return.
McLeish is now backing Taylor, affectionately called ‘Tiny’ by his team-mates, to bounce back from the trauma and play a valuable part in Birmingham’s Championship campaign.
“It is a different situation now than in the Premiership,” McLeish explained. “When I came in I wanted to make swift and decisive decisions in January but unfortunately things didn’t quite materialise the way I wanted. We struggled to get the players in we wanted and at that time there were players set to go out to allow me to bring players in. That is why I made those quick decisions. At the time I thought it was the right thing to do.
“Martin stayed and made a contribution in the Premier League. He is still here and he has a lot of experience. I am not going to rush to get rid of any of my defenders at the moment.
“He played very solidly last year for a few games. He was affected as much as Arsenal were, and we were, by the Eduardo incident. When he came back I didn’t think he was quite himself. He played at Wigan and he wasn’t the Martin who had been playing previously.
“The Eduardo incident was a factor here as well, without question. I think Liam Ridgewell must have played with five different partners last season. If you look at most teams who are successful, their back fours stay the same. They don’t make too many changes over the course of the season. Sometimes they use the rotation system to keep their players fresh so they can keep their edge at the end of the season when they are going for the big prizes.
“I would hope that Martin is over all that now. I was concerned when he came back that it would have affected him but he had to get on with it.
“Whichever division we would have ended up in, he would have had the chance to rebuild his career. It was probably too soon after the incident when we brought him back into the team, which is why I was a little reluctant at the time, but it came to the situation that I didn’t have a choice.
“It didn’t quite work out for us that day at Wigan, as it didn’t on many occasions away from home, but we move on now and we are all looking forward to the new challenge that lies ahead.”
Meanwhile, McLeish is set to receive an honorary degree from the University of Aberdeen. The former Aberdeen defender will be presented with a Doctor Honoris Causa in recognition of his services to football at a ceremony on July 3.