Last Impressions Count

Lyle Taylor in his last game for Charlton Athletic

My personal view on Lyle Taylor’s controversial decision to cut his Charlton career short. First published in June 2020 by Charlton Athletic Supporters’ Trust.

My AFC Wimbledon mates tried to warn me. “He’s a bit big-headed,” they said. “I quite like his hair-style with all those curls piled up on top,” I replied at a tangent, “especially when he dyes it pink to raise money for breast cancer charities.”

“He’s not that good in the air,” they said. I laughed and pointed to his fantastic headed goals for us. “He’s not a team player,” they continued. “Oh rubbish – he’s our talisman and the other players clearly love him!” I boasted. “He got the best out of Karlan Grant. He’s really supported loads of our young players.”

“He’s overly fond of back-heels, mostly unsuccessful,” one of them retorted, starting to sound a little bitter and desperate.

I Tweeted that remark after penning an article called “The Meaning of Lyle” for the away guest page in the Dons’ programme last season. Taylor himself picked up on it and responded via the social medium, indignant at the “mostly unsuccessful” description. I challenged him to prove my mate wrong and score a back-heel goal. He publicly accepted.

It was approaching the end of last season. I’d booked the trip back to Floyd Road from my home in Scotland for the last game v Rochdale. “Why are we going to all this expense and effort for a meaningless match?” enquired my husband. I had no answer, other than the 45-year-old habit of always attending the final fixture. “But it’s not going to be the last match of the season, now, is it?” He said. “We’re already in the play-offs.” Hmmm. Fair point.

Lyle Taylor – I assume in vicarious response to my challenge – came to the rescue and lifted that match out of the ordinary. I watched on incredulously from the front row of the North Upper as Charlton player after Charlton player attempted a back-heel pass, a back-heel flick, a back-heel shot. I swear I counted eight or ten. None by Taylor and most of them unsuccessful. I felt my cheeks reddening as the minutes went past. Never had I expected to influence on-pitch shenanigans in such a way. Thank heavens we won 4-0 and grabbed third place or Bowyer would be after me.

Taylor eventually came good himself on the challenge – with a deft flick of the heel following a corner to secure victory in our first match of this season away at Blackburn.

Even a week ago I was still defending Lyle to my Wimbledon mates: “Yes, he’s out of contract, and Charlton have mucked him about over a new one. We know he’s off. He deserves his last chance at a big payday. He’s been brilliant for us. We wouldn’t be at the bottom of the table if he hadn’t got injured playing for Montserrat and missed a dozen or so games. And he really gets it – he’s been quite outspoken about the craziness behind the scenes and I think he genuinely feels for the fans.”

I was elated when I saw the restart photos of socially-distanced training, with Lyle in the thick of it, looking as fit and lively as ever. Then Bowyer spoke. And now we know. Lyle will not wear the Addicks shirt again. He fears an injury may thwart that lucrative move. Like Scott Parker before him, he has plunged from hero to zero in one petulant moment. Curbishley has admitted that the departure of Parker was the beginning of the end of his Charlton managerial reign. Let’s hope Bowyer does not feel quite so betrayed by his star striker – the one who was a bit disruptive in the dressing room, not very good in the air and pretty useless at back-flicks until Lee and his coaches got hold of him.

I’ve been a football fan and indeed a Charlton fan for more than long enough to realise that footballers have short careers, have to be selfish battlers and mostly think very differently from fans. They wouldn’t survive long on the pitch otherwise.

But each to their own. At the close of last season another stalwart of recent years was about to leave. He’d not been offered a contract reflective of his talents. Indeed, he had been honest that he would be moving on. Yet he strode onto the Valley pitch for the Doncaster home play-off semi-final just hours after his wife gave birth. And six seconds from the final whistle at Wembley, he cemented his legendary status. Like a true Addick fan, Patrick Bauer confesses that he must have watched that goal a thousand times. He will never forget that moment and neither will we.

Does anyone remember Lyle Taylor’s last touch?