Time in America gave Steven Taylor the drive to come home
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Sports writer WILL RIDGARD chats to defender Steven Taylor about a shared experience – living and working in football (or should that be soccer?) across the pond in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Steven Taylor and I will never be able to look at sweetcorn, tomatoes and yoghurt the same.
The experienced defender signed for Ipswich Town in January after a four-month spell (August 2016 - December 2016) playing ‘soccer’ in the USA with MLS side Portland Timbers (based in Oregon on the west coast).
I was out in the States at the same time as Taylor, and was actually there 15 months in total, returning in December 2016, but spent my time on the east coast in Richmond, Virginia, working for XL Sports World, alongside the Richmond Kickers, who were playing in the third tier of professional US soccer when I was there – in the USL (United Soccer League).
It was a pleasure therefore to chat to Taylor about life in the States recently.
And, believe me, he is not wrong in his answer when I asked him if Americans struggled to understand his accent.
“They didn’t have a flipping clue (what I was saying),” said Taylor, born-and-bred in Newcastle.
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“They asked if I came with sub-titles!
“You’ve got to speak really slowly, especially with the terms.
“They call sweetcorn ‘corn’ – and they had no idea what I said when I asked for tomatoes (pronounced toe-mate-os in the US).
“I was like ‘come on, you’ve got to understand me!’ I don’t think they liked the Geordies for some reason!”
Compared to Taylor, I guess I am a ‘southern softy’, having been born and raised in Suffolk, but I did find that the people of Virginia struggled to understand me most of the time, especially when things got competitive and heated on the ‘soccer’ pitch!
Professional football is slightly different in the States, there is no promotion or relegation, and the mentality is very different to here.
“It’s just a different mentality (over there),” continued Taylor.
“It doesn’t mean as much if you win, lose, or draw, while over here there is so much more pressure, it’s proper.
“It’s nice to be back and I did miss the banter around the place as that’s one thing I didn’t have in the changing room alongside the hunger and fight in training.”
From my experience, I agree with Taylor to a certain extent on this - Richmond Kickers’ head coach, Leigh Cowlishaw, is English so always wanted to win and wasn’t happy when they didn’t!
It has to be said that the popularity and standard of football in the States is rapidly improving as well. Attendances are increasing all the time in a very culturally diverse nation that sees lots of different styles of playing.
“It’s definitely getting better,” said Taylor.
“There are some players from El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Mexico who I would’ve never thought about being good!
“There’s some top players out there who could easily come and play in the Championship.”
Again, Taylor is not wrong. In July 2015, I saw West Brom’s first-team edge past Richmond Kickers 2-1, and in July 2016, I saw the Kickers deservedly defeat a strong Swansea City side 2-0.
Both games were played in variable weather. I remember slapping on the Factor 50 one minute, and then the next, being absolutely soaking wet as the heavens opened.
Adding to this, there were extreme thunderstorms as well - something I got used to, but West Brom and Swansea weren’t as they all looked concerned and confused when the game took a two-hour delay as the storm passed.
“People go on about it (the weather) - and especially the thunderstorms - but it’s completely different once you actually experience it,” said Taylor.
“It was a good experience (overall) and I enjoyed, it was something new for me and gave me the drive and mojo to come back to England.”
Me too Steven, me too...