BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Lyle Taylor reckons there was more pressure on him at AFC Wimbledon than during his Charlton career – because of the quality of his team-mates in SE7.
The 30-year-old striker signed for Nottingham Forest over the weekend.
And Taylor says Addicks manager Lee Bowyer got the best out of him – just like Neal Ardley at Wimbledon.
“I don’t think people realise how good a person Bow is,” said the South Londoner. “He’s brutally honest – all the time.
“Bow was a good footballer and he’s a good manager. My time at Charlton was just a continuation of the person that was playing football for Wimbledon.
“The reason I say that is that I was allowed what I’ll call creative control of my role in the team. I got told to do my jobs and after that I could do whatever I wanted.
“I was asked to lead from the front and I enjoyed that responsibility. I enjoyed the freedom the manager gave me. You could see that from watching, how I took to the role.
“It was the same role I had at Wimbledon, albeit there was more pressure there – because the players at Charlton were better. It wasn’t just me – it was Joe Aribo, Josh Cullen, Krystian Bielik, Lewis Page, Jason Pearce, Chris Solly, Ben Purrington, Karlan Grant, Naby Sarr and Igor Vetokele. I was just surrounded by good footballers that first year.
“That carried on in the second year with getting someone like Conor Gallagher on loan.
“It wasn’t just me – we had a team of talent. The pressure was more on me at Wimbledon, there would be times that they’d be looking for me to get them out of a hole.
“There were more people at Charlton who could influence a game. If you mark me then Karlan would score. If you double up on me and Karlan then Aribo will score. It was easier playing in that Charlton team in League One than Wimbledon.”
Taylor has signed a three-year contract with Forest, whose poor form in the closing weeks of the 2019-20 season saw them slide out of the play-off positions.
Sabri Lamouchi’s side had looked nailed on for a top-six finish until a late collapse.
Taylor had also been linked with Scottish giants Celtic, Stoke City and Derby County.
“We weren’t short of options,” said the New Cross-born frontman. “I was in a fortunate position where a lot of teams in the Championship would’ve taken me. There was interest from abroad, in Turkey, and a few other places around the world.
“I had to weigh up what was going to be the best move for me going forward, in terms of potentially playing at the highest level I can play at.
“People mistook that meant I was going to go and play in the Premier League – no.
“I said I wanted to play at the highest level possible. If that is the top of the Championship, then that is what it is.
“I want to test myself and be given a fair crack at this league. I’ll do my best to help this club get back to where they want to be.
“The plans they have for the stadium and training ground shows they want to put this club back at the top table. It’s down to the players, staff, manager and fans to make it happen.”
Taylor twice dyed his hair pink while at Charlton to raise thousands for Cancer Research UK.
“People say I do things for show but I don’t do things like that for show,” he said. “My step-mum’s best friend has got cancer and we don’t know when he’s going to have his last day.
“I don’t do the things I did for charity for a little bit of press. It’s much bigger than that.
“I didn’t go and see Betty [Hutchins] in a hospice or go to her funeral just for press. The shirt I had printed up for Betty and Jordan [Dawes] after promotion – none of it was to put my name out there.
“I did it because I care – I genuinely give a f***.
“Don’t tell me there are many players who would have done the things I’ve done or given that time – because there isn’t. And they won’t. Yes it’s tiring. The player appearance signing I did at the club shop for my pink hair was supposed to be an hour-and-a-half and it ended up being three hours.
“It’s not just been made possible by me. People like Tom [Rubashow, head of communications] and Tracey Leaburn [player liaison officer] have been massive in making those things happen.
“It was done because I want people to stop dying and it’s something we can potentially find a cure for.”
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