Exclusive Interview: Sam Taylor

In his latest instalment of interviews with members of our successful 1999 FA Youth Cup Final team, Blowing Bubbles writer Dave Clements catches up with left back Sam Taylor

DC: At what age did you start at West ham, who was you playing for before you joined West ham?

ST: I went to West Ham as a nine-year-old, I played for Heath Park and then Ferns on a Sunday, my school team, Havering and Essex .

DC: How did your move to West Ham come about?

ST: My district (Havering) manager Ron Whitehead was a West Ham scout and got me over there for a trial.

DC: Who was your biggest influence in your time at West Ham?

ST: There where so many good people in and around the club but I would have to say Peter Brabrook in the early part and Tony Carr as we got older.

DC: What are your memories of the FA Youth Cup final?

ST: Even having a 3-0 lead from the 1st leg I was very nervous as I always was before games. All the first team staff and players like Rio (Ferdinand) were there wishing us all well so that was a nice touch . Once the game started you don’t notice the crowd at all and I just remember how dominant we seemed to be and how quick the game went and the team celebrations after where fantastic.

DC: Other than the youth cup final what are your best memories of your time at West ham?

ST: Some of the friendships forged with lads you see week-in, week-out for years growing up, some of whom are now household names and some that are not. When you see them it’s like your brothers again. Also the wins and tournaments we played in, including in Northern Ireland, Italy, Germany, France, and the USA.

DC: When you left West ham what other clubs did you play for?

ST: I went up to Darlington, Kidderminster, Bournemouth and then dropped into nonleague playing for many sides as most players tend to.

DC: When you knew that you wasn’t going to become a pro footballer what occupation did you decide to take up?

ST: I didn’t want to go into an office environment so did my personal training qualifications after completing sport science at college with the Hammers. This seemed good for me then , also there was quite good money in non league football so the two worked well together.

DC: How did your involvement in the academy set up come about, what age group are you involved in?

ST: I had worked in Kent with The Glen Johnson Soccer School and Trevor Bumstead who works in the academy had told me West Ham where recruiting for more staff. I also spoke with Dave Hunt who is in player recruitment in the academy as he was a past team mate at Barking and East Ham. They spoke to Tony Carr and I came in and delivered a session with the U10s with all the academy guys in attendance watching my session. Thankfully I got the role and I now mainly work with Danny Searle and his U11s squad.

DC: During your time at West ham as a player, there were a few characters in the youth team are there any funny stories you can tell us?

ST: There where some great characters around but the two who stick out in my age group were Bertie Brayley and Steve Clark (psycho). Back then the first team and youth teams shared the same training ground and facilities so at training you often mixed with the first team giving them their clean boots and doing your jobs etc. Whenever Neil Ruddock and Steve Lomas where injured you could often find Bertie and Clarky earning a few extra quid doing their versions of bushtukker trials in the physio room. This often involved ice buckets, body parts and a stop clock!

DC: Who was the best player you have played with and against in your career?

ST: Maybe not the best player but who I personally had to mark over the years was Jermaine Pennant. I think I earned him another two years at Arsenal one year because, if I remember correctly, he scored a hat trick playing wide right against me. I played with some fantastic players over the years at West Ham. Some that stand out are Glen Johnson, Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Richard Garcia, and Ian Wright but playing in the same team from the age of nine up to 18- 19 and seeing what he did throughout those years week-in, week-out without doubt it has to be Joe Cole.

DC: Do you still get to watch the current first team, are there any individuals you look at for the academy players to look up to?

ST: Yes when I get a chance I will watch a first team game, Whenever we work with a young player it is good to give examples of the players that play in their position. We won’t always single out a certain player but say to watch what players do in your positions, take note and can you put this into your game. It is good to speak about players who have come through the academy set up right through to playing in the first team though!

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