Belfast Telegraph

Serbia v Northern Ireland: Maik Taylor can play for years yet, says Harry Gregg

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland legend Harry Gregg has told Maik Taylor to carry on playing — until he’s at least 42!

With Nottingham Forest’s Lee Camp coming into the squad, there is now serious competition for veteran Taylor, who has excelled in a 12-year career at international level.

Taylor is 39 and in recent times has often been asked about how long he can go on for.

Many Northern Ireland fans, with whom Taylor is a big favourite, would like the answer to be forever.

The man himself simply says as long as he feels he can do the job.

Former Manchester United hero Gregg, who shone for his country in the 1958 World Cup finals, believes there’s a few years in Taylor yet.

“Maik has been an outstanding goalkeeper for Northern Ireland for more than a decade now and is a credit to the country on and off the pitch,” said Gregg, who won 25 caps.

“He has ability, but I’ve seen hundreds over the years who have ability yet don’t have the temperament to go with it.

“Maik certainly has the right mindset, something that has proved valuable to Northern Ireland in lots of games.

“He is not a screamer or a shouter and always seems composed which is good for the defence in front of him.

“Most important of all, he is not a flapper — to me he’s someone you can rely on.”

Against Serbia in Friday’s European Championship qualifier, Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington must decide whether to play new boy Camp or Taylor, who has amassed an impressive 87 international appearances since making his debut 12 years ago this week against Germany.

Former England under-21 ace Camp, who has received Fifa clearance to play with Northern Ireland, is a regular with Nottingham Forest while Taylor has had a few injury problems and has hardly played for Birmingham this season.

Gregg, though, suggests the latter point is not a major problem for someone of Taylor’s experience.

He said: “Obviously it would be better if Maik was a regular with Birmingham City in the Premier League, but he’ll be doing the same training as always and he’s the type who would do everything professionally, so it’s not the biggest problem in the world.”

Nor it seems is Taylor’s age.

“Football is a lot different to when I played all those years ago. It is a lot less physical and that means players, especially goalkeepers, can go on for a lot longer,” added Gregg, whose opinions are always worth listening to.

“If you look at the Premier League in England the two best goalkeepers in my mind, Edwin van der Sar and Brad Friedel, are either 40 or hitting it.

“They have the experience, just like Maik, who I believe could go on and play until he is 42 or 43.”

As for whether Camp or Taylor starts against Serbia, Gregg says: “I don’t know anything about Lee Camp because bar a few clips on television, I haven’t seen him, so I wouldn’t want to comment on his ability, but if he gets a chance obviously I want him to do well, just as I’d like Maik to do well.”

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