Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Steven Beacom: Maik Taylor a class act on and off pitch

Maik Taylor says goodbye to the Northern Ireland fans following his final appearance between the posts in Italy on Tuesday evening

Maik Taylor was the German born goalkeeper who became a hero for Northern Ireland.

“You’ll never beat Maik Taylor,” was the chant often heard from the Kop at Windsor Park.

And try as they might some of the biggest names on the footballing planet failed to do so.

Taylor’s favourite memory playing for Northern Ireland dates back to September 7, 2005 when he kept out England at one end and David Healy scored at the other to help record a famous 1-0 victory.

It tops a long list of moments to treasure for the 40-year-old who played his 88th and last match for Northern Ireland on Wednesday night.

Typically, even though he has not played any competitive football this season as he is without a club, Taylor was immense against Italy.

The Azzurri may have won 3-0 but it would have been a few more but for the class of Taylor.

Like Aaron Hughes, who recently retired from international football, Taylor deserves to go down as a modern day great for Northern Ireland.

After making his international debut in 1999, ironically against Germany, he has been considered the number one ever since.

Roy Carroll was his main competition through the years but although the Fermanagh man was given the gloves ahead of Maik on several occasions, managers tended to go back to the more experienced man.

It’s forgotten that Carroll began the 3-2 victory over Spain in 2006 with Taylor having to come off the bench early on after the ex-Manchester United star suffered injury.

As a starter or substitute, Taylor rarely let Northern Ireland down.

For me only two goalkeepers have been better in our history — the legendary Pat Jennings and equally iconic Harry Gregg, who played in World Cup finals.

Sadly Maik never got the chance to play in the glamour stages of a major tournament, but it wasn’t for the want of trying.

If I had to pick out one save from his time between the sticks it would be in Poland when somehow he stopped a header going into the net with a full length dive to tip the ball wide.

It was like that Gordon Banks stop against Pele, but better!

While some of today’s footballers appear to have lost perspective in life, Taylor has it in abundance having served in the army when he was young.

He knows the truly important things in life and in his latter footballing years was never afraid to speak out against the egotistical money mad players.

In Italy it was heartwarming to hear his thoughts on the national team and how much pride he felt playing for his adopted country, criticising those who he feels are not giving total commitment to the cause.

Lee Camp could be a fine goalkeeper for Northern Ireland in the future.

I just wish Maik Taylor was 10 years younger.

The Green and White Army will always have a place in their hearts for this good guy who proved to be a great goalkeeper for Northern Ireland.

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