Wonderful times and a wonderful player: Neil Allen’s tribute to retiring Portsmouth favourite Matt Taylor
Matt Taylor’s DW Stadium penalty sealed the Great Escape – and iconic 70-yard celebratory sprint cemented a place in Pompey folklore.
That 2-1 victory over Wigan represented the left-sided player’s favourite match of his 203 Blues appearances.
A remarkable culmination to the 2005-06 Premier League campaign, when Harry Redknapp’s side scrambled back from the certainty of relegation.
Taylor’s five-and-a-half year Fratton Park tenure produced the Division One title, wonderful goal-scoring moments against Sunderland and Everton and, of course, that Great Escape.
Today arrived the announcement of impending retirement, ending his playing days at Swindon come the season's end, aged 37.
With 28 League Two starts for the Robins this term, thankfully there has been no winding down towards a career’s completion.
As those of Pompey persuasion present at the County Ground for last summer’s pre-season friendly between the sides will testify, Taylor has remained a class act until his playing conclusion.
On that July 2018 afternoon, familiar chants of ‘Super Matty Taylor’ emerged from the travelling support.
It had been more than a decade since his Blues exit for Bolton, yet some players are never forgotten.
It was June 2002 when, as a 20-year-old, Taylor arrived at Fratton Park. Disgruntled Luton boss Joe Kinnear cursed the £400,000 price tag, muttering comparisons with Dick Turpin.
Soon his swashbuckling displays at left-back were a key element of a side which won promotion to the Premier League in his maiden campaign.
Once in the top flight, initially injury kept Taylor out of the first-team frame until Christmas – yet from that point remained a regular under a succession of managers.
And there were those goals, 29 of them for Pompey.
The stunning 45-yard shot against Sunderland in October 2005 was a favourite. Incidentally, he gatecrashed the team that day after Laurent Robert walked out at midday claiming he wasn’t fit.
Then there was the sublime strike from the halfway line against Everton in December 2006. Taylor elected solely to rejoice with Richard Hughes by the Fratton Park dugout, following a pre-match promise.
Another fond occasion was the over-exuberant celebration in front of Southampton supporters in response to Arjan De Zeeuw’s headed goal in the 4-1 hammering of April 2005.
Later presented a framed photograph of the moment by the Betting Room, it continues to hang in Taylor’s Oxfordshire home.
Then, at Wigan in April 2006, he was presented with a spot-kick to earn his side the lead and maintain their Premier League status.
The previous week, Taylor had dramatically supplied an 88th-minute winner through a penalty against Sunderland in a crucial 2-1 triumph.
He repeated the trick against the Latics, before racing to the opposite end of the pitch to celebrate with the jubilant Pompey support.
Wonderful times and a wonderful player.