There will likely be precious few slipping on the rose-tinted glasses when it comes to looking back on 2020, though it will at least stick in Glen Taylor’s mind as the year that he reached a century of competitive goals for Spennymoor Town. The former Ashington star brought up the ton in his 200th game, all the way back in February, and as sure as night follows day, he has been in the scoring groove lately.
Enjoying one of the foremost reputations for non-league frontmen, he continues to feel he’s in exactly the right place with the National League North outfit (and not just so he can avoid a singing initiation at another club…).
As we speak now, is this a rare, relatively peaceful time for you, with it being half-term, or are you still full on?
I work in alternative education so it’s a bit more relaxed than your typical mainstream school. I’ve done that for a good four or five years, had a little one, and it was a bit tough to juggle all three, with family, football and work. When it’s half-term, you get to fully relax with your family, so it’s perfect, to be honest.
Coming into this season with Spennymoor, what did the manager (Jason Ainsley) say to the players when you first came back? ‘The title’s there for us’?
Yeah, I think every season. The chairman’s well invested in the club and the lads get looked after. Every year, the goal is to try and achieve promotion. Last year, obviously different circumstances with the season finishing early, but we were disappointed to not even finish in the play-off places. I think we would have done, if the season had run its course, but we were where we were on points per game. This season, we’ve come in and Jason’s told the lads exactly how it is: we want promotion and we should really be winning the league, I think. It will be difficult, because obviously there’s a lot of good teams in there, but we’ve got a really good squad on paper. If we can perform each week then I think we’ve got a really good chance.
How has Jason approached it with you over the years, will he build you up, even rile you up, or does he mostly just leave you to go and do what you do?
Yeah, to be honest, he does. I’ve worked with Jason five or six years now and I think he knows what I offer to the team. I know how to do my job and he does literally leave me to it. He’s very much an affectionate manager, if you like, he’s always giving you cuddles before games! Telling you you’re the main man really. He’s great for that, he makes you feel good, but his message to me is just basically ‘good luck’ before most games.
Congratulations from everyone at the club!
— Spennymoor Town FC (@SpennymoorTown) April 29, 2019
Jason aside, has there been a manager who you’ve felt understood you best?
I think my first manager actually, Gary Middleton. I was at school at the time and he used to come in at lunchtime and do a club. He was the West Allotment manager and that’s where I started, I was about 17. I was in sixth form, and I remember I scored this Di Canio-esque volley on the 3G at lunchtime at school! He just said ‘do you fancy coming along to training?’ There was me and Mark Wood actually, who now plays cricket for England, me and him used to go training for West Allotment. (Gary) said ‘it might be a couple of years before you get into the team’, but I was in the team in about three months. He really just set me away on my non-league career, to be honest, so I’ve got him to be thankful for. He just understood I was a young lad, I worked hard, and if he didn’t give me the chance, I would have never had that exposure to non-league football.
Speaking of England cricketers, you had Steve Harmison at Ashington as manager. Was his approach to try and bring certain standards in for the team that he could draw upon, or was it more laid-back than that?
Growing up in Ashington, I knew Harmy anyway, because I played for Ashington Cricket Club as well, and he was in and around the club. It was good because I think it brought a lot of exposure to the club. Harmy had his coaching staff and he just kind of ran the dressing room really. He was a really good man-manager; obviously had a lot of experience with people in that way. I think people give him a bit of a hard time, because he knows football really well, but people just saw him as a cricketer who was gonna be a football manager. It was a really good experience. We were on a bad spell before he came in, I remember we won our first game under him, and we had a good season, to be honest. I enjoyed working with Harmy; got a lot of respect for him for what he’s achieved in his cricket career, and he showed that he could manage a football team as well.
Going back to last season with Spennymoor, coming to a stop in March, and the lockdown that followed, what was life in general like for you during that period?
We had two weeks off from work straight away, and then we realised we had vulnerable kids that needed to be looked after really during the day, so we did actually have to be in. There was only a couple of kids and there was three staff, so it was a nice time for us with the kids that we teach. It was great as well, because those two weeks that I had off, obviously stuck in the house, which might sound like a nightmare but I was with my wife and my daughter. We did loads of things, went on lots of walks, and then it got to the point where I just started running three or four times a week. I prefer going to the gym but there wasn’t much else to do, so I got quite into running. With Jamie Chandler and Rob Ramshaw, who obviously both play for the club, we just used to talk about how fast we can do 5ks and things like that! So it got quite competitive.
You mentioned growing up in Ashington, who did you support?
My team was Sunderland. It’s probably 60/70 per cent Newcastle in Ashington, and 30 per cent probably support Sunderland. My dad’s always said that because it’s a mining town, that’s why it was split, so when my dad was younger, he had a season ticket for Newcastle and Sunderland. I think when it got to the time to decide, his favourite player played for Sunderland, so he went with that and I just followed suit really.
Back to your own football, are there any teammates from over the years who you’ve felt an especially strong understanding with on the pitch?
There’s probably three players. AJ (Andrew Johnson) was at West Allotment when I first started, we became like best mates and played together as well at Ashington, before he had four years at Spennymoor. AJ would be the one that stands out the most, because he used to come in from the left-hand side, and the amount of goals and assists between us would be frightening actually. There’s Rob Ramshaw, who I obviously play with at the minute. He plays in the ten and we’ve got a good relationship; he likes to get in behind and I like to come to feet really. We work well together, and then I should give Sparky a mention, Mark Anderson, because two seasons ago, me and him got 78 goals and assists between us, which was brilliant.
Anyone think of a nickname for the duo? 🤔
— Spennymoor Town FC (@SpennymoorTown) May 3, 2019
Are there any opponents you’ve had particularly memorable battles with? Whether it was verbal, or they just stick in the mind for the test they gave you.
Yeah, to be honest, I’m not the type of player that gets into verbal battles, but when I was 17, I played for West Allotment against Gateshead in a friendly. That’s when James Curtis played for Gateshead, and I remember thinking ‘there’s absolutely no way I can get past this guy.’ He was a bit faster then! I like to think I’m quite good in the air but James just dominated us that day. I just remember thinking ‘he’s got the sharpest, boniest elbows I’ve ever played against!’ He’s the best centre-half I’ve played against, to be honest, and it just so happens we’re best mates now at Spennymoor. I’m not sure how he hasn’t played his whole time in the Football League, but that’s another conversation.
Thinking about the training you have to go through with teaching, being assessed, standing in front of a class and so on, how do the nerves for you compare to playing in a big game?
It’s a strange one actually, I get a lot more nervous for maybe meeting a class for the first time. When I was having to present in front of lecturers, for example, I found that really nerve-racking. With football, I’m not…overly confident, but I just feel so comfortable on a football pitch that I just feel like I thrive in that environment. Teaching’s something I knew I could do whilst playing football, and football’s always been my passion, so I’ve just felt like whatever situation with football, I can thrive in it. I love the thought of a big game and the potential to win the game for the team.
You’ve been asked about chances to go and play higher in recent years. Has it been that you desperately want to go up with Spennymoor, or it also has to fit alongside teaching and life outside football? Has there ever been a possible move that you were seriously weighing up?
I had that year, when I was I think 28, and I won the League Player of the Year, top goalscorer in the league and my contract was running out in the summer. The chairman approached us in the January with a good offer, and to be honest, it would be different if I was 21/22 at the time. I’ve seen lots of lads from our league go up to the Football League at that sort of age, that I think I’m a better player than, and fair play to them, I wasn’t as good as them when I was that age. So I just think age. Never really got to the point where I would let my contract run down enough to then be offered something. There was always talk and you’d always hear things, but my wife’s got a good job in Sunderland, we’d just had Grace who was three or four months at the time, and I just thought the last thing I’d want to do is move away. Obviously, you’d never get paid enough to move your family, so I’d have to be coming home and travelling. I just thought I was happy, I’ve got a good career outside of football, and I’m well looked after at football as well, so it just was never right. I’d love to say I’ve played professional football, because that’s what I suppose everyone’s dream is when you start out, but I think there’s more than just being able to say ‘I’ve played in League Two, League One.’ I never thought I’d make Championship or Premier League, so I just weighed up the options and realised sometimes it’s better to stay where you are. I could have left and then played every other week for a club, been the third-choice striker.
Spennymoor seem to do a lot of things right as a club, including the communication side, with co-operation and courtesy, which from plenty of other clubs is a million miles off. Overall, what sort of aspects have impressed you most since you joined?
Just everything really. Even when we were in the Evo-Stik, we had Leitchy, (David Leitch) who’s the secretary/kitman, in a full-time role, so just the little bits of detail, like asking what size kit you want. I know that doesn’t seem like a big deal but obviously you want to feel decent on the pitch. The nutrition before a game. The club’s unbelievable, to be honest. You get lads that come into the club who’ve played in the League and they’re blown away by how professionally the club’s run. The chairman’s obviously invested a lot of money into the club, the stadium’s improved. Honestly, everything’s just well looked after, everything’s thought of, from your nutrition on the bus beforehand, to half-time and after. The chairman does a yearly trip to Marbella, which might not seem relevant to football, but to get all the lads together after a tough season, it’s an amazing trip that all the lads just thrive on and we really appreciate. There’s not a part of the club that I think could be run better, to be honest. Everyone that does a job does it really well, so it’s just trying to get the club to the next level.
In an alternate universe, where you’d gone back to Blyth Spartans, who were interested, instead of Spennymoor five years ago, what do you think life looks like now for you? How much consideration did you give to joining Blyth at that time?
I don’t think I’d be the player I am now, to be honest. I don’t want to disrespect Blyth, because I’ve played there and they’re a good club, but I think we’re better invested into the quality of players that we’ve got. I know I’ve done well but I can’t say it’s all down to me, with the quality of players that we’ve had over the last few years and how they’ve helped me get there. So I don’t think I’d be in the position I am now, to be honest; I could even be back playing Northern League really. I wasn’t really that close to joining Blyth. I was at Ashington at the time and Jason rang us, I’d obviously played for Spennymoor for about three months when I was younger and never really played. It was either stay at Ashington or go to Spenny, and I thought ‘I’m gonna show that I’m good enough and prove people wrong.’ I’m really pleased I backed myself.
— Spennymoor Town FC (@SpennymoorTown) March 17, 2020
The Blyth spell that you did have, how was that for you?
Strangely enough, we finished bottom of the league, and I was the only one who came out with any credit really. I only started 20 games and I scored nine or ten goals in the league, and I was only 21, so I didn’t do too bad, and it was massive for my learning. We had Graeme Armstrong, who I played with at Spennymoor, and I learned a lot from him, but he kind of got a hard time from fans, because he came in as captain and maybe didn’t do as well as he should have. He’s a great player, by the way, but maybe he just had a bad year. When I played and did well, everyone was pleased with what I did, and the Blyth fans are quite a brutal bunch, to be fair, so I was well respected there. I think that gave me a massive development, playing in the Conference North, because I saw what it was about. To be honest, that league suited me better than the Northern League; I don’t know what it was, it just felt a bit more respectful, whereas Northern League’s a bit more gruelling, if you like.
We’re speaking where it’s extreme times, but is there anything about non-league that you, or you as players collectively, feel can be changed for the better?
I don’t know about the league we’re in, but lower down the leagues, where there’s less travelling, I think they should make a Friday night league. You could even still play on a Tuesday night as well, but a Friday night would be good. People finishing work for the weekend, and I think you would get more crowds, because people would be buzzing for a Friday night game and then having the rest of the weekend. I think it’s pretty well run, to be fair, so I don’t think there’s a lot you could change…apart from this ‘elite’ status, maybe change that!
Of the many characters you’ll have been around in the game, who are some examples who come to mind?
I think James Curtis, Rob Ramshaw, Mark Anderson, Jamie Chandler, they’re the lads that I’ve obviously formed a big bond with at Spennymoor. A few from previous years, like Matt Gould, the keeper, Stephen Brogan, just lads like that who are on your level and you just have great craic with, batter each other. It just makes for a great dressing room. Some of the livewires I’ve played with, I played with Marc Walton at Ashington. He went through Newcastle United’s youth system, he was a tough lad from the centre of Newcastle; I got on well with him but you wouldn’t want a scrap with him! Nathan Fisher, who I played with a few years ago at Spennymoor, just constantly on a buzz in the changing room, cutting people’s socks up and stuff like that. I should give Chris Mason a mention actually; he’s the best captain I’ve ever played under and a great lad to be around.
Have you ever had to sing when you’ve joined a new team?
Yeah, just the once; I think that’s why I’ve stayed at Spennymoor! I sang at the front of the bus after an away game. It was the first game of the season, I’d scored and we’d won, so I was obviously having myself a bit! I sang ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’ (The Foundations); it went down quite well but I don’t fancy doing that again. I think I’ll just see my career out at Spennymoor now!
Is there a team DJ at Spennymoor currently?
We’ve had a few. Ben McKenna likes to get on it sometimes, but it’s not great! We went through a good spell where he was picking decent songs and we were getting decent results, and then Tommy Miller, the assistant manager, had a go, but he doesn’t pay for the Premium so it keeps playing adverts between songs! The lads absolutely hammer him for that and he must have more money than anyone, with the career he’s had! We’ve got Mark Anderson who’s pretty consistent on it; he brings a good vibe…and he pays for the Premium!
Away from football, away from work, what else do you enjoy, besides family time? Whether it’s TV series you’re into or more serious ventures.
With a few of the lads at work, we’ve started investing in some property, so that’s something I’m looking into; Rob Ramshaw’s big on it because that’s what he does day to day. Me and James Curtis have also just bought a hairdresser’s; his wife was working there and it was up for sale. I’ve got quite a keen interest in business really, to try and subsidise my football career. Then honestly, I just like coming home from work, have my tea, play with my daughter and then me and my wife enjoy just any TV really. We’re quite enjoying the (Great British) Bake Off at the moment! All over Netflix; Power, quite enjoy that, Sons of Anarchy, Line of Duty. I sit and watch The Mummy Diaries as well; don’t know if I should really tell you that!
Finally, there’s 2020 Glen Taylor, and mid-2000s Glen Taylor, let’s say. What is the 2020 version saying to him, in terms of advice for the future, knowing what you now know?
I think I would just tell him to believe in himself really. When I left Spennymoor after my first time there, I left the club with a lot of doubt over how good I was. I think sometimes things aren’t meant to be at the time. I don’t really believe in fate but I just don’t think I was quite good enough at the time. Sometimes people are late developers, so I would just say ‘you’ve just got to keep doing what you’re doing, and watch the best and try and learn from them.’ I like to make sure I’m watching what the best players in my position do and just trying to learn from them. I feel like I’d give myself advice but I wouldn’t really change much. I generally just think I’ve worked really hard, and when I signed my new contract at Spenny, I had a lot of people say ‘oh, you really deserve it’, and I think that’s because I sacrificed a lot. Football is my priority and I’ll miss things like weddings; one of my best mates’ weddings I missed. I’ve been on two stag dos and one of them was my own. I’ll miss parties that my daughter’s going to, Halloween parties, Christmas parties. I miss all of that because I’m fully committed to football, and that’s probably why I’ve went into teaching as well, because I know it fits really well around that. So I wouldn’t really change much, I’d just tell him to keep working hard and the results will come, and I think that’s been proved.
Interview by @chris_brookes