Taylor is the football sponge bringing a Spanish influence to Ipswich... and he used to clean Lambert's boots
PUBLISHED: 06:00 15 November 2018
ANDY WARREN spoke to Ipswich Town No.2 Stuart Taylor about his journey from cleaning Paul Lambert's boots at St Mirren to assisting him at Portman Road.
It all started in the St Mirren boot room in 1991.
That’s where a young Stuart Taylor was tasked with cleaning the boots of three players who would ultimately help shape his journey in professional football.
The first was Steve Archibald, a veteran Scotland international who won trophies with Tottenham and Barcelona and had brought his talents to the Paisley club in the final years of his career.
The second was Victor Munoz, a highly-decorated Spanish international who had won seven trophies as a midfielder in Barcelona and would go on to manage the likes of Real Zaragoza, Villarreal and Panathinaikos.
But it’s the third player who has ultimately had the biggest impact on the new Ipswich Town assistant manager.
Paul Lambert was a young first-teamer whose star was rising at St Mirren, having taken a path Taylor was looking to tread.
Little did he know, though, that cleaning Lambert’s boots was the start of a relationship that would ultimately take him on a footballing journey which, after a playing career with some good clubs in Scotland, has led him to Portman Road.
“The gaffer’s a few years older than me and I was a young kid at St Mirren when he was a professional who had been in the first team for quite a few years,” Taylor said.
“We came through that way and I suppose he was always the one I looked up to because he was playing in the first team. I did his boots and I was his apprentice back then because that’s how it was. I’m still waiting for my tip, though! I might actually remind him now.
“At the age I was you’re always looking up to first team players and there was him, Steve Archibald and Victor Munoz whose boots I did, they were my group, and they were always good to me in terms of giving me advice, speaking to me and setting me off on a path in my career that I will be forever grateful for.
“I still keep in touch for them all now and they have been helpful to me.
“But Paul left and went to Motherwell and then Germany (with Borussia Dortmund), but when he came back to Celtic I played against him once for Airdrie and we beat them 1-0 – a game the gaffer has somehow forgotten about! It’s nice to remind him anyway.
“That was probably the only time we crossed paths again for a while and you end up going different ways as he went into management.
“I got a job managing Limerick in Ireland and he phoned to congratulate me, wished me all the best and from then on I saved his number and phoned for advice and different things. We’ve been in touch since.”
That phone call ultimately led to Taylor joining Lambert’s staff at Aston Villa before following to Wolves, Stoke and now Ipswich.
Theirs is a relationship based on honesty and trust.
Trust that Lambert picks the right situations for himself and his staff to enter and trust in each other that they will do the right things for the players and clubs in their care.
“It’s all about honesty and doing what’s best for the football club and for the players. The manager’s the same,” he said.
“If you do things that way then you have success but it’s all down to working hard, having trust and doing the right things at the right time. You have to stick by your plans.
“This all comes down to trust and we trust the gaffer will make the right decision in terms of all number of things, in this case whether or not to go into a club,” he continued.
“You don’t really have to do your own due diligence because you trust he has already done it. When you do get the shout it’s a case of ‘brilliant, excellent, let’s go’.
“I know the way the manager is and he’s very fussy and particular, especially when it comes to joining a football club because there are different types of football club out there. I know he wants to be at the right football club and I know he has refused some jobs in the past because it wasn’t right.
“Certainly when he phoned about this he was very excited about it and had so much enthusiasm about it. That makes it a no-brainer.
“It’s a massive football club with great support and everything that comes with that. We were just desperate to get started.”
You don’t have to spend long in Taylor’s company to realise he’s a sponge when it comes to gaining knowledge, or that he is a vital component in creating the ‘fun’ working environment Lambert has spoken of.
‘Sponge’ is a term Taylor uses glowingly to describe his Ipswich players’ work during two hectic weeks following he and Lambert’s arrival, and it’s a trait in evidence throughout his own career.
He remains in touch with the three players whose boots he cleaned nearly 30 years ago and his thirst for knowledge has not stopped since.
“I had connections with Spanish players and players who played in Spain during my time at St Mirren and I’ve seen the success Spain have had over the years,” he said.
“I did my pro licence and then went to a couple of Spanish clubs and did a case study on one club in particular over there.
“I like the way they go about things over there and the way they work, as well as the footballing philosophy they have.
“Since working with the gaffer, who has worked from the German model, there’s a good mix. It’s good to learn that as well as the Spanish way, which hopefully works out well.
“In football it’s important to bring a broad range of experience and knowledge where you can take the best out of everything and then give that to the squad you have at the time.
“It’s about implementing what’s suitable for the group at that moment in time and there are a lot of things we’ve done in the last few weeks and it will continue to be that way. It’s about driving the message home and sticking to the message that will get the best out of the players and out of the football club.”
That thirst for knowledge was quenched further last week when three Blues legends, all with links to Scotland, were invited into the club to speak with Lambert and his staff about all things Ipswich Town.
It’s a chance Taylor simply couldn’t pass up.
“I’ve met Terry Butcher a couple of times up in Scotland when I was at Hamilton and he was with Inverness and then Hibs, but to see him the other day in this environment was special,” Taylor said.
“Same with George Burley and John Wark and the whole thing was great. To hear their stories, particularly from George with his experiences of being a manager here was great for me on so many levels.
“They are players I used to look at when I was younger and had on Panini football stickers, so to hear the stories and benefit from their experience first hand was so valuable. Just hearing what the football club means to those guys, even now, is fantastic and we want to create a little bit of that atmosphere and love for the club again within the players.
“They have it, so it’s just a case of making it stronger and helping those new players coming in as well.”