There is a lot of anger out there for Matty Taylor, the Bristol Rovers striker who has just signed for Bristol City. From the usual “I hope he suffers from a career-ending injury” to “I hope Bristol City get relegated” comments, it is clear that Taylor is not the most popular man in Bristol. I can see why people are angry because it’s golden rule among Rovers fans that as a player you don’t leave to sign for the City. This is punishable by serious bouts of anger and schadenfreude. Then we move on.
Taylor, or more specifically, his agent have form for messing Rovers around. Just last summer, the player was banished to train with the youth team when he stalled on signing a new contract. Eventually he signed it but what we didn’t know, but certainly suspected, was that this contract would have en escape clause. Today, Bristol City triggered it.
Am I disappointed about Taylor’s departure? Of course, I am. He has become a good League One striker under Darrell Clarke and Marcus Stewart’s tutelage and when we are looking to make the play offs, his virtually guaranteed goals will dent our campaign, unless tonight we sign a mystery replacement striker from, say, Dover. Taylor was known for kissing the badge on his Rovers shirt which always makes me suspicious about a player who, in most circumstances, is not a supporter of the team for whom he plays. I don’t know why a player kisses the badge when he scores a goal for the team he plays for, but doesn’t support. It could be sincere, if he gets caught up with the emotion and it could be to curry favour and adulation from supporters. We know after today that Matty Taylor is not, and never was, a supporter of Bristol Rovers.
For the buying club, the signing of Taylor represents desperation. They have been plunging down the Championship unchecked in recent weeks and their manager has reacted, I suspect, with a series of panic buys, the latest of whom is Taylor. We know that Taylor is a class act in League One but the Championship is a different ball game altogether. City’s hapless (hopeless?) supremo Lee Johnson has bet the house, or rather the door-knocker of one of owner Steve Lansdown’s houses, on blue. If Taylor can’t raise his game and hit the ground running at the higher level, Johnson is sunk as a manager and Bristol City are back down in League One.
My view of Taylor is basically the same as it is with so many professional footballers these days: it’s all about the money, money, money. A few weeks ago, former club legend Stuart Taylor was a guest at Bristol Rovers, much diminished by the dementia that is the legacy of his long and distinguished career at the club. But while his mind and body suffers the ravages of such a terrible illness, he and his family can rest assured in the knowledge that he lived by old fashioned values such as loyalty, decency, honesty and commitment to a football club that gave him a chance. We will always love you, Stuart. In contrast, Matty Taylor is the modern, badge-kissing player, born into a professional game that has ripped up the rulebook. I do not blame him for following the money – my guess is he will more than double the £6k a week salary he trousered at the Memorial Stadium – but many won’t respect him for biting the hand that fed him, deserting the club that nurtured him. Hand on heart though: who wouldn’t want to double their money and earn upwards of £600k a year?
I certainly do not blame anyone at Bristol Rovers. If Taylor had left in the summer, we’d have ended up with nothing. And we would have not been anywhere near the play offs without his goals. His agent dictated the terms of Taylor’s contract and for Rovers it was take it or leave it. What would the fans have said if we’d said leave it and just go?
Above all, the departure of Taylor makes one thing more urgent: a new stadium. The fact that Rovers now have a rich owner is irrelevant because Nick Higgs’ and Geoff Dunford’s boards of directors were very rich too and they couldn’t stem the flow of top players from the club. Wael al-Qadi and his team are set on building a successful and sustainable football club that is not reliant upon a rich benefactor plugging the gaps when things start to go wrong, as at Bristol City. Rovers will need to new ground in order to become a Championship club at least in the long term. This will generate higher income by way of bigger crowds and business opportunities. Remaining at an undeveloped Mem, if that’s what happens, sees Rovers destined to a lifetime of Matty Taylor’s taking the money and running away with it.
I no longer care about Matty Taylor’s future career. He no longer plays for Bristol Rovers and by next week he will be kissing the City badge. Onwards and upwards, in Wael and Darrell we trust. Let Taylor go, wipe him from our memories and, if it makes you happy, pray for Bristol City to get relegated, if that’s what floats your boat. I care far more about Rovers succeeding than City failing. It’s not even close.