Welcome to Last Word on Footballs ‘Returning Players’ Series. In this edition, we take a look at striker Matty Taylor.
Taylor began his career at his hometown club, Oxford United, where he came through the academy. The striker made 11 appearances for the U’s before his release as a teenager in 2009.
However, as a 29-year-old, he rejoined the U’s on a season-long loan from Bristol City before making the move permanent at the beginning of the current campaign.
Returning Players – Matty Taylor
First Spell at Oxford United
Having come through the academy at Oxford United, Matty Taylor made his senior breakthrough with the club in the fifth tier of English football. However, the striker managed just seven league appearances over two seasons, amassing to just 83 minutes of football.
He was released from the club in 2009 having made just 11 appearances in all competitions.
Teams That Taylor Played for Before Returning
Taylor spent time on loan at Abingdon United before his release from Oxford. He then joined Didcot Town before signing for North Leigh.
The striker hit the ground running with the Millers. In his first season at the club, Taylor netted 40 goals in all competitions and scored “nearly 80 goals” in total over two seasons.
As a result, it prompted Conference side Forest Green Rovers to make a move for the 21-year-old. His time in Gloucestershire was also productive. In three seasons, Taylor netted 24 goals from 106 appearances. However, after struggling for form in his final season, he spent time on loan at Chester, where he netted six times from seven appearances. He was recalled but couldn’t add to his Forest Green tally.
Forest Greens’ loss was Bristol Rovers’ gain. His performances attracted attention and the Gas were the side to prize him away. Also in the Conference, Taylor netted an impressive 18 goals from 45 league appearances as Bristol Rovers secured promotion back into the Football League after winning in the playoffs. Ironically, Rovers came up against Forest Green in the semi-finals and Taylor netted in both legs as the Gas progressed with a 3-0 aggregate scoreline.
Taylor’s first experience in the Football League was all the more impressive. As Rovers secured another promotion, this time to League One, the striker netted 27 goals in the league from just 46 appearances, becoming the highest scorer of that season in the entire Football League.
In League One, Taylor remained lethal. 19 goals from 33 outings in all competitions prompted rivals Bristol City to activate his £300,00 release clause on January deadline day. He became the first player to move from Rovers to City since Trevor Morgan in 1987. Despite the mid-season move, Taylor was still Rovers’ top scorer at the end of the season.
Taylor scored on his debut against Derby County and ended the season with two goals from 15 Championship outings.
The following season, he netted in cup games against Stoke City and Crystal Palace as the Robins reached the semi-final of the League Cup. However, Taylor managed just one league goal before only adding four more the following season. Injuries had played a part, but Taylor needed a move to rediscover his form.
Return to Oxford – On Loan
And what a move it turned out to be as Matty Taylor returned home to Oxford. Bristol City were happy to loan the forward out and the U’s were more than happy to bring him back to the club.
Taylor had found game time hard to come by at Ashton Gate. The striker has made just 75 appearances over four years, scoring eight goals while playing just 3,036 minutes for the Championship outfit. To put that into context, Taylor played 2,513 minutes last season alone for the U’s.
Taylor joined the club on August 19, with four games of the season having already been played. He made his debut a day later but Oxford suffered a home defeat to Burton Albion. The next game would be a feisty affair as Taylor returned to Bristol Rovers for the first time since his dramatic exit. However, it was an afternoon to forget. Taylor got booked after just 15 minutes and was substituted off after 33 minutes having picked up a groin injury. Despite the U’s being 1-0 up at the time, they lost the game 3-1.
After sitting out the games against Coventry City and Fleetwood Town, Taylor played six minutes in a 3-0 win over Tranmere Rovers before getting 78 minutes in a goalless draw at Bolton Wanderers.
Taylor started on the beach for the next game away at Lincoln, but came on with just over 20 minutes remaining and scored his first Oxford goal in a record-breaking away win for the U’s as they won the game 6-0.
The following week, Taylor netted his first home goal in a 3-0 win over Gillingham. Despite not scoring against Accrington, the forward would go on to net a further four goals in three games, including a brace at Southend United.
Taylor then went 11 league games without a goal before finding the net and adding an assist in a 2-2 draw at Burton. A 1-0 loss against Sunderland followed before Taylor scored six and added one more assist from the next four league fixtures.
It wasn’t just the league that Taylor impressed. He laid on assists in FA Cup wins over Hayes and Yeading United and Walsall before netting in a third round win over Hartlepool United. In the Carabao Cup, the striker scored and provided an assist as Oxford beat West Ham United 4-0 and levelled the scores against Manchester City, before Pep Guardiola’s side won 3-1.
From 37 games, Taylor ended the season with 17 goals and five assists as the U’s eventually ended the season with defeat in the League One playoff final.
Matty Taylor Joins Oxford Permanently
With Oxford missing out on promotion to the Championship, it looked like they would miss out on the chance to sign Taylor, also. Speaking ahead of the League One playoffs, the striker wanted to wait until the end of the season before committing his future. However, with his Bristol City contract set to expire in the summer, Taylor was released by the Robins.
Oxford managed to persuade the 30-year-old to join his hometown club permanently, signing a three-year deal. The striker has continued his rich vein of form into the new season.
So far, Taylor has one assist and 11 goals from 29 appearances. He opened his account for the season with a brace at Accrington before adding goals against MK Dons, Wigan Athletic, Swindon Town, Northampton Town (2), AFC Wimbledon, Burton Albion and another brace against Bristol Rovers.