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Martin Taylor and Gianfranco Zola on defender's departure and why Watford couldn't offer him a two-year deal
Martin Taylor is a model professional, is liked in the dressing room and has proved himself to be one of the best defenders in the Championship, so Watford’s decision to sell the player angered many supporters.
The fact Watford went on to lose 5-1 at Derby County the next day did not dampen the fans’ disappointment.
When the Hornets announced Taylor’s departure moments before the transfer window closed on Friday, the club stated the experienced defender was sold “following the player’s request to leave”.
But it is worth stating this was not an example of a player forcing through a move against the club’s wishes, although it is obvious Gianfranco Zola is indeed a big fan of the tall centre half and wanted him to stay.
The Watford Observer understands the Hornets initially welcomed the prospect of Taylor leaving the club and interested sides were told the player may be allowed to leave on a free transfer.
Sheffield Wednesday, and a host of other clubs, were first made aware of Taylor’s possible availability more than a month ago but since then, the player proved he could suit Zola’s new style of play and with John Eustace out injured, captained the team on several occasions this season.
Watford subsequently told interested clubs that the price had risen substantially and in the end, the player was sold for an undisclosed fee, which we understand is in the region of £100,000.
Taylor spoke exclusively to the Watford Observer this week and admitted he was keen to move to Hillsborough and stated a few reasons why.
But this certainly wasn’t a situation similar to Mike Williamson ’s move three years ago, where the Newcastle United defender forced through his Watford departure, and Taylor, who is renowned for being a model professional, spoke fondly of the club and his time at Vicarage Road .
When asked about his desire to leave and whether a written request was submitted, Taylor replied: “I didn’t put in a written transfer request at all, I definitely didn’t do that. Obviously I talked to the manager [Zola] all the time about various things but whilst I really enjoyed my time at Watford, the opportunity at Sheffield Wednesday was an excellent one for me.”
Taylor signed a new one-year contract in May under former manager Sean Dyche. Watford have a policy of not handing older players longer contracts this early in the season, whereas Wednesday were offering the player a two-year deal.
Zola wanted Taylor to remain at the club but said he has to respect the player’s decision and the Hornets’ stance on contract extensions.
The Watford boss said: “The reason [Taylor left] is that he had the possibility to go to another club and have a longer contract, something that I believe the club [Watford] have made a statement on.
“They have a different policy on that and they couldn’t give him a contract right now even though we appreciated – myself and the club appreciated – Martin Taylor very much.
“But the policy of the club was that we couldn’t offer him a contract right now. So therefore Martin asked to leave and I certainly understand Martin’s reasons, although I know I’ve lost a good player.”
On the club’s contract policy, Zola explained: “I believe it relates to age. I believe the club has a policy of not offering longer contracts to players of a certain age at this stage of the season – and it is important to stress that it is at this stage of the season.
“This is the policy of the club right now so we have to respect that.”
Taylor stated the two-year contract was a factor in his decision to leave but added it wasn’t the only reason and said he hopes Wednesday will be able to challenge for a play-off place this season.
The defender said: “Obviously [a two-year contract] is an attractive thing. I understand Watford’s policy on that – for older players like myself, clubs don’t really like looking beyond 12 months.
“The two years came into consideration but it was not just that. Wednesday have a good chance of pushing on and they are a massive club so they were the main factors.”
Watford have signed seven players this summer who can play in defence and those at the club last season will find it increasingly difficult to secure time on the pitch.
Taylor does not believe it is of huge concern to the current squad though, and stressed most of the Watford players have been at clubs with big squads in the past.
He admits the influx of new signings was on his mind when it came to his decision to leave but claims it was not a major consideration.
When asked if the high number of new signings was a factor in his decision to leave, Taylor replied: “Yes. You always have to believe in your own ability and you like to think that if you have the jersey then you can keep it.
“But to be honest, it wasn’t too much of a consideration because that happens at football clubs all the time and you know managers can bring players in. So it is no different at Watford than it is anywhere else.
“So you’ve always got to be mindful of that and that is just part of being a professional.”
Sheffield Wednesday’s interest in Taylor stretches back more than a month but Zola was hopeful the defender would stay and had him pencilled in to start at Derby County on Saturday.
Zola said: “We knew there was a possibility of him leaving but personally I was hoping that he might stay. Unfortunately it wasn’t the case so he left just the day before the game.”
When asked what day Taylor had asked to leave, Zola replied: “I knew that there was a possibility he would leave a couple of days before. We knew Martin had a couple of teams looking at him and offering him a good contract.
“We really were hoping that we would be able to keep him but unfortunately it wasn’t the case and therefore we lost a very important player.”
Taylor has been one of the Championship’s most consistent defenders since his arrival from Birmingham City on a free transfer in January 2010.
The defender, who grew up in the North East of England, made 95 appearances for Watford and scored ten goals.
“I will definitely look back on my time at Watford fondly, I had a fantastic time,” Taylor said. “I came to play games in a good set up and it was a fantastic set up there; they have great facilities and infrastructure at the club.
“There are a lot of good people there who I will miss and I will try to stay in touch with them.
“I really enjoyed my time there and I’m sure I’ll look back in a few years time with immense fondness and will always enjoy going back there.”
Taylor, who is affectionately known as Tiny due to his size, was hugely popular among the coaching staff, fellow players and supporters.
When asked whether he had a goodbye message for the fans, Taylor replied: “I want to say thank you. I have always had incredible support from the fans and they have always been great to me.
“On the pitch it is noticeable when you get a good reception and things like that but also off the pitch, I have always had a good rapport with the supporters.
“When you are at Watford you do lots of things in the community and events like question-and-answer sessions. Everyone has always been very welcoming and I’ve always enjoyed meeting the fans. So I want to thank them for their support,” he added.