Finished? Not me, says Maik
Keeper: I can do a job for Northern Ireland
It’s been a curious close season of rest, recovery and reflection for Maik Taylor.
The Northern Ireland goalkeeper, recently released by Birmingham City following eight years service, is playing a different kind of game now — a waiting game, where he hopes his undoubted quality and experience will tempt a few suitors.
It’s a strange situation for Taylor, accustomed to a high profile with the likes of Birmingham and Fulham, as well as accumulating 87 caps for his country — all in dependable fashion, too.
Summer is far from turning sour for the German-born, Northern Ireland star, though.
Although very much in the autumn of a fine career, Taylor — recovering from a shoulder injury — remains optimistic that his time in football isn’t about to suddenly wither on the vine.
But still, how does a 39-year-old veteran feel at such a crossroads? For a goalkeeper at least there’s nearly always another chapter to enjoy. Just ask Pat Jennings, for instance, who, at 41, featured in the 1986 World Cup finals.
Well, Taylor is keen to keep going as long as possible between the sticks, encouraged no doubt, by recent positive appraisal by another Northern Ireland legend, Harry Gregg, who insists he has much to offer.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Taylor explained: “I’ve had a couple of weeks getting towards full fitness after having a shoulder operation which kept me out of football for much of last season at Birmingham. So, at the moment I’m working hard to get properly fit again.
“With my fitness, age and injury just now I’m realistic. I have a routine operation on the shoulder and I expect to make a full recovery.
“What was really unfortunate was that it was my first major injury in my whole career which affected me quite badly last season.
“There has been interest from a few clubs so far but it may still be a few weeks before there are any proper offers on the table. Other clubs know exactly what I can do.”
With Lee Camp emerging as a solid candidate for future Northern Ireland duty, Taylor takes a pragmatic view these days.
Nevertheless, there is a determination to prove he hasn’t made his last appearance in front of the Green and White Army.
He said: “As far as Northern Ireland are concerned, I would hope to get back and involved again, but not having a club at the moment means I will probably have to put all that on hold.
“The most important thing is to firstly find a new club and start playing well again, then hopefully I will still feature in the manager’s (Nigel Worthington) thoughts.”
If ever there was evidence of how quickly — and often ruthlessly — the football world moves, Taylor felt it first hand when exiting Birmingham in a manner much more rapid than he would have liked.
With the Midlands outfit losing their Premier League status on the last day of the season and boss Alex McLeish eyeing the departure lounge for bitter rivals Aston Villa, St Andrews was a place in turmoil.
“When I left Birmingham it was all over very quickly,” said Taylor.
“After our last home game when we lost to Fulham, there were a few of us still in the dark over our contracts and whether we would be kept on.
“To be honest it would have been nice to know beforehand so I would have had the opportunity to give my appreciation to the fans, as I gave good service to the club for eight years. But that’s football.
“It was a busy and frantic time at Birmingham with so much going on and no-one knowing what division we would be playing in.”
Not much in football surprises Taylor, but McLeish’s controversial switch did.
He admits: “I’m surprised Alex ended up going to Villa as they are Birmingham’s main rivals.
“But he’s Scottish and has that kind of special character about him, so I guess he wanted the opportunity to continue managing in the Premier League, to keep progressing in his career. I’m sure he’ll do well there. I have no grudges whatsoever with him, he was always fine with me as a manager and I have all the praise in the world for him. Alex is an excellent manager.”
Somewhere soon, Taylor will be rising to a fresh challenge under a new coach. And one suspects this is a free agent we haven’t seen the last of.