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Taylor made for success

LOCAL HERO: Ian Taylor is still a popular figure in Birmingham

MODESTY AND humility. Not two words you would normally associate with a professional footballer but an hour spent in the company of former Aston Villa midfielder Ian Taylor reveals he has these qualities in abundance.

Looking back at my notes after interviewing him I realise I’ve quoted him several times saying: “There were better players than me” or “some players had more talent than me.”

This is coming from a player who scored at Wembley in 1996 during Villa’s 3-0 League Cup final victory over Leeds United, while also netting crucial goals in Villa’s 1997-1998 UEFA Cup run.

It’s easy to see why he’s a favourite with the fans. Taylor, or “Tayls” as he’s affectionately known, retired from professional football four years ago but he’s very proud of his new role – as an official ambassador for Villa.

“Sometimes it takes me an hour to get to my seat at Villa matches,” he smiles, clearly enjoying all the pre-match glad handling that goes on.

And his story is straight out of any football fairytale. As a young Brummie kid he would watch his Villa heroes from the Holte End terrace with dreams that one day he’d make it on to that hallowed turf.

CONTRIBUTIONS

With his career history it’s hardly surprising he’s made it into this year’s Voice Black List which recognises the contributions made by the Black community at all levels of football.

Taylor also happens to be one of those rarer celebrity/ sports personalities who remembers how he made it and wants to show other young hopefuls the way.


DYNAMIC DUO: Ian Taylor and Michael Johnson (right)

He’s teamed up with one of his old rivals ex-Birmingham City and Jamaican international Michael Johnson to help mentor the young sporting stars of tomorrow with the launch of their own PR company Black Ice.

The pair knew each other while at opposing Birmingham teams, but struck up a strong friendship when they became senior players together at Derby County.

And in the wake of the August riots, they believe it’s even more important to help youngsters on the right path.
“A lot of these kids want a chance – they need something to aim for,” adds Taylor, a regular TV and radio football pundit, who is also involved with a business working with Premier League rights in China.

“A lot of football players have come from nothing and many see the game as the promised land, but they can’t simply magic themselves in there. Professional footballers all have their own story to tell.”

Johnson agrees, adding: “I think the riots of August showed us all that young people feel they do not have a voice.

“It’s important to remember that many of today’s professional footballers came from the same cities and the same streets that these young people want to get out of.

“Whether we like it or not professional footballers are role models for today’s young people and we have a responsibility to them.”


LEGEND: Taylor during his Aston Villa days

Johnson, a former player with Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz, is currently in talks with councils and police in Birmingham and his home city of Nottingham to set up “mini parliaments” to give young people a voice.

He also believes councils should draw up a ‘Fab 50’ of role models who pledge to support their own city’s youngsters in any way they can.

SCHOLARSHIPS

He is currently setting up a London-based project called Sparks, where the rich and famous are being approached to help with a variety of scholarships to help young people along the way.

It’s humbling to think that if more professional sports people and celebrities felt the same way as Johnson and Taylor, the next generation would not have so many problems.

Father of four Taylor adds “I was very fortunate. When I was growing up, myself and my two brothers weren’t rich, but my mum was a strong matriarchal figure who always wanted to know where we were and what we were doing. She kept us all on the right path and she’s still the boss.”

To contact either Ian Taylor or Michael Johnson please e mail ian@blackicegroup.co.uk or michael@blackicegroup.co.uk.

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