Quade Taylor knows that he owes a debt of gratitude to Dulwich Hamlet.
The Streatham-based defender had been playing Sunday league football for Raynes Park Vale following his release by Fulham.
It was Dulwich Hamlet who brought him into their academy at the age of 16 and after a fine FA Youth Cup run, which attracted interest from professional clubs, Taylor was on the move to Crystal Palace.
And it was Dulwich, or more accurately manager Gavin Rose and assistant Junior Kadi, who got Taylor’s enthusiasm back for football when he left Braintree in 2016.
The South Londoner had joined the non-league outfit after leaving Bolton Wanderers that summer.
Taylor said: “I’d played one pre-season game there and I just didn’t enjoy it. I wasn’t enjoying my football. I wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to continue with.
“Travelling over to Braintree was not easy and I asked if we could terminate my contract. They were willing to do that and I had a month out, not really doing anything.
“I think it was that I didn’t really believe in myself as much as I used to. I started doubting myself about little things. I thought maybe it was not for me any more.
“If I had packed it in then I’d have been looking for something to do with coaching, still within the football industry. Gavin spoke to me and asked me to come to training.
He messaged me a couple of times saying to do it and just keep fit, ticking over.
“I think he texted me once and said ‘this is the last chance’. I went and trained and was in the squad on the Saturday. I got injured in the warm-up and didn’t actually play.”
But crucially Taylor was back in the thick of it.
He went on to feature 15 times in the 2016-17 campaign before clocking up 45 games last season as Dulwich won promotion to National League South.
“It is probably one of the best environments outside of professional football,” said Taylor. “I feel like Dulwich have given me a second chance when I left Fulham.
“It was a great feeling to get the club over the line and into National League South for the first time.
“There are not many players who win something, no matter what level that is at. Of course my dream and ambition is to play professionally and train full-time. But what I’ve learned is that I’m not as set on it as I was when I was younger. I’m happy at Dulwich.
I wouldn’t want to go into a professional set-up as a fringe player who isn’t really playing. It would have to be the right move for me – guaranteed playing time.”
Taylor is placing no limitations on what Dulwich can achieve in their first campaign in National League South.
“A lot of people have written us off because of everything that has happened with the club [being forced to leave their Champion Hill home].
But we’ve got a very talented squad. There is no saying we can’t get another promotion, or at least make the play-offs, that’s the minimum goal.
“I still 100 per cent think the play-offs is a possibility. We’ve had a slow start but we’re unbeaten in four games now. If you look at the league, we’re not too far off that final play-off spot.”
Taylor had attracted interest from West Ham and Stoke before he penned a deal for Palace. The Eagles’ promotion to the Premier League restricted opportunities for youngsters, although he did feature at right-back in two pre-season friendlies under Ian Holloway.
“I came through as a central midfielder but it was Dougie Freedman and Lennie Lawrence who had plans for me as a centre-back,” said Taylor. “I dropped back and learned my trade.”
He ended up following Freedman to Bolton Wanderers when his Palace contract expired in 2014.
“I knew I was going to be in the U21s at first but with the opportunity for me to get into the first-team,” said Taylor. “That was the plan. But Bolton were going through a tough time and Dougie got sacked.
“Neil Lennon replaced him. I was still in and around it but Rob Holding was coming through at the same time. He had a run of form and never looked back, he’s at Arsenal now.
“I always wondered if Dougie was there whether I would have got a game or two in the cups. But I was only there a month-and-a-half and he was gone.”
IMAGES BY KEITH GILLARD
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