Belfast Telegraph

Taylor is still true to Northern Ireland cause

By Stuart McKinley

He may be the only man every to represent Northern Ireland who doesn’t have a blood relative born in the country, but there is no questioning Maik Taylor’s commitment to his adopted nation.

Born in Germany, Taylor’s British Passport allowed him to declare for Northern Ireland when Lawrie McMenemy invited him into the squad a decade ago.

Since then the rules have changed and no longer can simply holding a passport qualify a player to play for that country, without having a parent or grandparent born there or being resident for two years.

That makes Taylor unique in terms of Northern Ireland football as no other man without a background in the country will ever pull on the green shirt — although that’s currently blue in Taylor’s case.

After winning 73 caps — making him Northern Ireland’s second highest capped goalkeeper — Taylor hasn’t lost his hunger to gain even more and although he is scheduled to play for Birmingham City against Swansea on Friday night as the Blues battle to get back into the Premier League, missing tonight’s Windsor Park friendly against Hungary was never a consideration.

“It never crossed my mind not to be here,” said Taylor.

“I am fit and well and there is absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t be here.

“It is an honour and a privilege to play for Northern Ireland at any time.”

Manager Nigel Worthington half expected to have to do without his first choice goalkeeper and if that had been the case Alan Mannus and Johnny Tuffey would each have been given 45 minutes, with Roy Carroll remaining on the outside despite making himself available again.

“The Maik Taylor situation speaks volumes for what he is about and what we’re about,” said Worthington.

“He has an important Championship game on Friday night, I didn’t get a phone call, which I expected, from his manager Alex McLeish, I didn’t get a phone call from Maik to withdraw.

“If he had it wouldn’t have been a problem, but he wants to be here because of the importance of getting another cap for his country and to be part of something that he enjoys.”

In the absence of Aaron Hughes, Taylor has been named as captain, but the armband is likely to end up with someone else later in the game as Worthington will try to give either Mannus or Tuffey an outing in the second-half.

One man who the international manager will hope that he can put onto the pitch in the near future is Taylor’s Birmingham City team-mate and captain Damien Johnson.

The midfielder hasn’t played at all this season and has appeared in just five international games in the last two years due to first suspension and then a catalogue of injuries.

The good news is that the 29-year-old Lisburn-man is on his way back and that is a boost for both Birmingham and Northern Ireland.

“Damien is probably ten days to two weeks away from playing in a reserve game,” revealed Taylor.

“He is fit and well and on course and very pleased to be back training with the rest of the lads again every day now.

“He’s continuing to do his rehab in the afternoons after everyone else has gone home.

“It’s been a difficult time for his being out for so long, but hopefully the job is done with the operation and we can see the best of him again.”

Belfast Telegraph

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