Unsung Heroes: Chris Taylor


By Pete H

It’s hard to help lay foundations for the future or follow in the footsteps of a club legend. But that’s what Chris Taylor did; arriving at Boro’ at a time when we’d come through a challenging transition campaign. The task at hand for the Midlands-born stopper was to provide a steady and reliable presence between the sticks. And, for more than two seasons, that’s what he did – even if he couldn’t help us to silverware in the short-term.

When did Chris Taylor join us?

Taylor would sign for Boro’ in summer 1998; brought in by Paul Fairclough as his new number one. Was that a big deal? Well, you can argue the signing of any new stopper is one you have to get right. And, in this case, it was made all the more significant by the fact that Taylor took over the reins from the one and only Des Gallagher.

Where did he play for Boro’?

Well, you’ve probably clocked by now that he played in goal.

What makes him an unsung hero?

Taylor perhaps isn’t an obvious candidate. But do hear us out on this one, if that’s cool with you. There are two big reasons why we reckon the ex-Bromsgrove Rovers and Kettering Town stopper is deserving of such a title.

One reason why Chris Taylor is an unsung hero is because he had the unenviable task of replacing Des Gallagher
Photo: Keith Mayhew via stevenagefootballarchive.com

The first is that he came in and displaced Dessie as our number one. That was no mean feat in itself; the veteran ‘keeper giving huge amounts of service to the club since first appearing for us back in summer 1985. Yes, there’s an argument to suggest that Dessie was in the latter years of his career – yet he was still our first choice stopper during the 1997-8 campaign. And he was still playing for us as recently (or as late) as January 2000.

We’re trying to make the point here that Taylor had some big boots to fill. Not only that, but he had to establish himself at a club that had a) been used to Dessie’s presence for a fair ol’ while and b) seen unprecedented success during that period. Sure – the 1997-8 season ain’t one to look back on fondly from a league perspective. The flip side, however, is that level of expectation that would now be placed on a Boro’ side.

The second big reason for crowning Taylor as an unsung hero is the fact that Boro’ had gone into a lean spell. As he joined in summer 1998, we were now going through our longest spell without a league title since 1990. As fans, we wanted to see us battling at the top of the table again. For the players and management, that meant rediscovering a magic touch last seen in 1996 (well, 1997). And that’d be a job to fall upon the shoulders of a new generation.

Oh, and he played behind a midfield that featured Ian King.

Taylor’s time at the Boro’

In his first campaign, Boro’ were going alright in the Conference; sitting third in the table as Christmas started to loom on the horizon. At this point too, we’d just gone out of the FA Cup after a Round Two defeat to Lincoln City. Still, chairman Victor Green decided the sacking of Paul Fairclough was the way to go. In came Richard Hill and we would ultimately finish sixth; 12 points behind champions Cheltenham Town – who also dumped us out of the FA Trophy.

Despite our on-field and off-field tribulations, Chris Taylor was one of our more consistent performers
Photo: Keith Mayhew via stevenagefootballarchive.com

On a personal level, Taylor was one of our more consistent performers. He made 40 outings in between the sticks; his appearance streak disrupted during the second half of the season. And, yeah, his copybook was blotted in February with a red card in our original FA Trophy tie against Cheltenham – but it was a rare blemish. In all, he kept 15 clean sheets out of 40 too; conceding 38 (based on a very rough count).

Into the 1999-00 campaign and Boro’ made a riotous start; winning six from six at the top of the season. Things quickly went south, however, and our poor form meant Hill wouldn’t last a full season as boss. Taylor did – and ended it with 45 appearances to his name, along with Carl Alford, Ryan Kirby, and Mark Smith. No-one made more. If you want to be picky too, the stopper was the only one to start 45 times.

Stats-wise, Taylor wasn’t helped by the dreadful run of results we suffered under Hill. There were only 11 clean sheets to reflect on; the number of goals conceded totalling 58. Again, it’s a very rough count. And another caveat is that five of his clean sheets came in those first six games/wins. Mind you, the uptick in goals conceded isn’t something you’d pin on Taylor. For us looking back, he was a player who’d rarely be caught making a mistake.

Chris Taylor: Epilogue

For us looking back, Chris Taylor was a player who'd rarely be caught making a mistake.
Photo: Steve White/EMPICS

After the departure of Hill, Steve Wignall came in – and left again before he’d even warmed his hotseat. As we came out of summer 2000, Cloughie was back at the helm – the man who had brought Taylor in to start with. But the stopper’s days were numbered for some reason. Well, one big reason is that Paul Wilkerson came in. It didn’t push him completely out of the picture – but 18 first team outings compared to 28 unused sub appearances tells the story.

We don’t want to speculate too much – but it wouldn’t surprise us if Taylor opted to depart in summer 2001 to secure regular football. And so he left for Boreham Wood; Boro’ securing the services of Dean Greygoose as a ‘replacement’. Was Greygoose brought in purely to be a back-up to Wilkerson? It’s tough to say when he played 23 times compared to Wilko’s 29. But Taylor moved on and that was the end of his time with us.

He also turned out for Bedford Town during the first half of the 2001-2 campaign, before his career took back to his native Midlands. As far as we know, he was last seen in senior action for Bromsgrove Sporting during the 2010-1 season. And we can only assume that – after that – it was into retirement. Of course, Taylor won’t be regarded as our greatest-ever stopper of all time. Even so, we still rank him among the best – even if he flies in under the radar.

Main Photo: Steve White/EMPICS

CHRIS TAYLOR103 (0) appearances, 0 goals (1998-01)

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