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Neil Taylor: Defender on his first 10 months at Villa, the fight for his place, moving to England and exploring the Midlands

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Neil Taylor: Defender on his first 10 months at Villa, the fight for his place, moving to England and exploring the Midlands

Neil Taylor is rapidly closing in on his one-year anniversary at Aston Villa, a period the left-back admits has flown by since he signed on the final day of the January transfer window last season.

Having never lived or even played professionally for a club outside of his native Wales, it took just 11 days for Steve Bruce to thrust him into the limelight following his move, and he’s now a near permanent selection at left-back.

One of the squad’s low-key characters who goes quietly about his business, Taylor has opened up on the less profiled challenges of switching clubs.

He recalls the multiple hurdles he faced during his transfer period, including relocating his family and readapting to Championship football.

"It's a big challenge to change clubs and move to a new country in the January window," Taylor told the club's Official Website.

TaylorOnYoungLionsMainWeb

"When you join a club in the summer you've got a few weeks to get yourself sorted, get the kids into school for the start of September and allow your family to integrate into the new area.

"I'd never played football for a club outside of Wales before that point, let alone gone through a big move.

"Coming in mid-season, you've got competitive games coming thick and fast as soon as you move. But you've got to embrace these things and for me it's been a case of so far, so good.

"Also, when you come out of the Premier League and into the Championship it can take you a good five to 10 games to readapt and get your brain thinking in a different way. 

"This league is a different animal. It's a completely different style of football with three games every week. The preparation is different – the game moves a lot faster, it's more physical and you have to be very fit. It took me a good few games to get my head around that again."

Since then, he's been a mainstay in Steve Bruce's starting XI – nailing down his left-back position.

That was until recently, when his sending off against Bolton Wanderers in September opened the door for Alan Hutton, who has since grasped his opportunity.

Taylor was made to wait until the QPR match last month to start again, as Hutton switched to right back – where he has remained – in place of Ahmed Elmohamady.

Neil Taylor trains

And although the Welshman had to remain patient for that spell, he is fully on board with the manager's philosophy of keeping the shirt when performing well.

"You're always fearful of losing your place," he added. 

"Professional football is the most played game probably throughout the world, so there's always going to be someone after your position wherever you go. You have to expect that.

"And that's how it should be. I had to take it when Alan [Hutton] was playing well. Ahmed [Elmohamady] is now having to wait his turn because Hutts is still doing enough to start. 

"I know footballers who think of themselves as self-employed, but here we're all part of a huge project. The important thing is that we all look at the bigger picture, which is Aston Villa in the Premier League.

"I've played plenty since I've been here and I'm happy with the way it's gone. The main thing is that we've got a 25-man squad full of individuals who can step straight into this team. 

"Hopefully that's going to be the difference with regard to promotion this year. We've proved it in the last few weeks with John Terry, Jonathan Kodjia and now Mile Jedinak being out for lengthy periods. The key is that it doesn't weaken to the point we can't win games when people fall out of it."

Neil Taylor QPR

The 28-year-old father of three is in a good place right now, with things going well on and off the pitch.

He now considers himself fully at home in the Midlands, and his happiness is transferring to his football.

"It's been a challenging, exciting first 10 months here. Before, my main memory of Birmingham was driving down the M6 and always being able to see Villa Park from the motorway. That stuck with me and I felt when the chance came along to come here that it was something I needed to have a go at.

"I've done a bit of exploring and have taken the family up to Warwick Castle and things like that. I've also done a lot of other stuff previously like West Midlands Safari Park, Drayton Manor and the Bullring.

"I'm very pleased with everything. The team are in a good place, too. There's a steeliness amongst us. Every team I've been a part of that's had success in the past, whether with Swansea or Wales, has had that. It's a good sign for the future."

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Dan Connor
By @danconnor 6th December 2017