BY TOBY PORTER
Charlton striker Lyle Taylor has described how he decided to prove Millwall wrong after boss Kenny Jacket released him in 2009.
Taylor was hotly tipped to make an impact at The Den as he came through the ranks at the Lions academy.
And he revealed after signing for the Addicks last Wednesday that he was shocked to be released.
But his step-mum told him he could either give up or find another route to playing regularly in the Football League.
That was exactly what he did – via a very roundabout route involving 11 different teams.
And he has at last found himself where he wants to be as the main striker of a similar size of club at a similar level, having snubbed a money-bags offer from an even bigger one, Sunderland.
“It was very tough at the time,” said Taylor of that 2009 decision. “I was on the phone to my step-mum and told her. I remember welling up because at 18 I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had worked and grafted and got a first-year pro – the next thing I had been released.
“My step-mum said you can either crumble and give up or stick your chest out and say ‘I will prove you wrong.’ Which is kind of what I’ve done. There’s more to come.
“I have since spoken to Jackett and [his assistant] Joe Gallen, and they said ‘you’ve done brilliant – fair play to you. But I don’t think I was ready then – I was not mature enough as a footballer. Hopefully I am now.”
Taylor also revealed he had been on trial at Charlton when he was 13.
He said: “Bert [Dawkins, senior academy scout] pulled me last week at the training ground and said ‘I’m Burt.’ It was 15 years ago. It’s a lifetime.”
Addicks boss Lee Bowyer was determined to bring him back.
“I am glad the manager wanted me to be here and worked as hard as he did for me to be here,” said the 28-year-old. “I am grateful to him and Steve Gallon. And the owner for allowing it to happen. That is massive. Hopefully the way to thank them is to score goals.
“The way the manager wants to play is important. I had meeting with the manager – we talked about a lot of things and that was one of them.
“It is important how the team want to play and what my role will be. That was part of the decision-making process.
“It always helps when you can see the previous of the manager, the players in the building, the squad is almost assembled. There is a few players in rather than wholesale changes. Hopefully there will be a continuation of what happened at the back end of last season, reaching the play-offs.
“It was not crucial to stay at home. I am very family-orientated. But if it’s right for my career it is right for my career. There has been a lot said about another team in this league. The decision was not based on being away from home. If it was just based on money I would be there. This is a footballing decision and I can’t wait to get started and playing in front the crowd at The Valley. After playing here for AFC Wimbledon for two seasons, I can’t wait to be on the other side.
“I went to a couple of Arsenal games cos I was a fan of theirs when I was a small boy. We used to get tickets for Millwall from the Millwall Community Scheme through my primary so me and my dad went to a couple of those. Football was more about playing when I was younger, rather than going and watching. I am not avid viewer of football matches. I steer clear.
“The World Cup and Champions League are different, they are something I watch. But once I leave the building I am not football-orientated or interested in FIFA, Championship Manager, watching it on TV. It’s not for me.”
Taylor was brought up in New Cross but only went to a handful of Charlton games.
“When I was growing up it was Arsenal and Manchester United,” he said. “There were a few Millwall fans, living in New Cross. There would have been Charlton fans. But it was mostly the glory hunters – then when I went to college it was the Chelsea fans came out of the woodwork.
“But me and the people I grew up with were all about running around until we literally couldn’t run any more, which was normally a good few hours, and playing and pretending to be the best players in the world.
“That is a true love for the game.
“I knew Jason Pearce from time at Bournemouth [in 2010-12] – the only one I’ve played with.
“I knew Josh [Magennis] from playing in Scotland – not too well cos we were never team-mates. I had conversations with one or two from playing against them. The boys have been very welcoming and I feel like a part of the group already.”
But he is very grateful to AFC Wimbledon for the three years he spent there.
“I wrote something out on my Instagram to say thank you,” he said. “It was hard writing it, to be honest. I thought walking off the training ground today, it’s mad. Three years is a long time and I was three years at Wimbledon. What we achieved as a club and I did as an individual was amazing, under the guidance of the manager, and the staff and the support of the fans and my team mates.
“Neal Ardley pulled me out of obscurity. I was bouncing around club to club up north and in Scotland. Never at home anywhere. He changed that for me. I have a lot to thank him for and probably won’t realise how much until I look at the end of my career when I look back. He knows I will always respect him and enjoyed working under him. You never know, I might end up working under him again and I would look forward to that if that ever was the case.
“Playing AFC Wimbledon at home it will be another game, seeing my old mates. But going back to Kingsmeadow will be strange. There’s every chance I will walk into the home changing room to see all the boys. I’ve never been anywhere other than Partick where I have been liked by the fans almost unconditionally.”
Taylor does not know if Charlton will be his last club.
“Who knows?” he said. “Things change in football so quickly.
“I didn’t expect to be at Wimbledon for three years. If I have a good year, we could be talking about a new contract. Right now, I need to get fit. I need to be ready and when the games start, I leave everything I have on the pitch and hopefully get these fans singing my name.
“I hope I will be able to recreate my form of the last three years here – maybe even be better. Hopefully fans and players will take to me the same as the Wimbledon ones did.
“I haven’t got a goals target. I will sit down with the manager and we will go from there. The target for me is a successful team. If I have to sacrifice myself then so be it.”