BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Lyle Taylor has opened up on his Charlton Athletic exit – and doesn’t believe he deserves any blame for the club losing their Championship status.
The 30-year-old was a big fans’ favourite in SE7 and was hugely influential in the Addicks winning promotion from League One at Wembley in May 2019.
But Taylor suffered vitriolic abuse when he became the first high-profile footballer in the UK to decide not to play the closing weeks of the campaign – which did not resume until July due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The former AFC Wimbledon and Millwall striker, born in New Cross, was worried about a serious injury jeopardising his future.
Taylor signed a three-year contract with Nottingham Forest over the weekend.
“I’m not blaming myself for Charlton getting relegated,” said the South Londoner. “I’m not happy that they got relegated, don’t get me wrong. It hurts because we worked so hard to get promoted.
“But no-one inside the football club is blaming me for that. None of the management, staff or players. I’ve had messages from everyone saying thank you for everything you’ve done for the football club, that it had been a pleasure to work alongside you for two years.
“What has happened at Charlton goes way beyond anyone who has stepped on the pitch or anyone in the dugout. This isn’t a football issue – it’s not a footballer’s fault or a manager’s fault.
“I have still got a very good relationship with the manager. I spoke to him yesterday [Sunday]. He understands my position and doesn’t blame me at all. He spoke to a few managers in the summer who were interested in me and he gave me a glowing reference. He said ‘take him – he’s going to prove to you that he is good enough to play at this level’. Does that sound like a manager who is p***** with me? No.
“I felt I did the right thing by myself and also the right thing by everyone at the club by being honest about it.
“I still had a lot of people at the club wishing me well. Some of them were like ‘we don’t like it – but we understand’.”
Amongst those to criticise Taylor over his stance were former Crystal Palace owner Simon Jordan and former hockey player Sam Quek, who wrote a column in a national newspaper.
“There was an initial barrage of abuse – and that was nationwide for about four days,” said the forward. “I got told I was trending on Twitter and I was abused for the decision I’ve made, which is the best for myself and my family.
“That was tough to take.
“Then I got to the point where I thought ‘you know what – it doesn’t matter what anyone says’ . I’ve been abused by so many football fans during my career and so many nay-sayers. I’ve finally got to a position where I can call the shots and make a decision that is best for me – rather than being told ‘we’re releasing you’ or ‘we’re going to offer you a contract’ and then a week later getting a phone call saying now they won’t.
“The position I was in this summer is testament to me and how hard I’ve worked.
“I loved my time at Charlton and 99.9 per cent of the fans there are unbelievable. I was still getting abuse as a Charlton player in January when [Matt] Southall [then Charlton chairman] decided to turn around and say incorrect stuff in the press and to fans.
“It was ‘Lyle is greedy, he only wants this and he’ll never play for the club again’. Where were all the apologies and backtracking after that? That abuse has continued from the start of the year until now.
“I’m still getting abuse daily. But I don’t care – because I’ve earned this. Nobody has given me this on a plate. Some Charlton fans say ‘we gave you this platform’. No, no, no, no – I was signed because I am good at my job. I then took my game to another level. It made me a very good player in a Charlton team that were successful. I earned it – no-one gave me anything.”
Taylor has come through adversity in his career. He dropped into non-league football with Concord Rangers after his release by Millwall in 2009 – with 34 goals in 42 games for the Isthmian Division One North club earning a move to Bournemouth, then in League One.
Then followed spells with Falkirk, Sheffield United, Partick Thistle and Scunthorpe United before hitting the goal trail for the Dons.
Taylor cites his struggles as the reason he did not make himself available for Charlton’s run-in. He missed 13 matches last season after damaging knee ligaments while away on international duty with Montserrat.
He says if football hadn’t been suspended due to the pandemic he would have played until the finish.
Taylor said: “The original thought process was that we were going to sit on our arses for 10 weeks, then have two or three weeks to get back fit and then play Saturday-Tuesday or Saturday-Wednesday for a month. Mmmmm….that sounds a lot like an injury to me.
“If you get a muscular injury it is not a problem – if you tweak your calf or groin then what is there will still be there.
“But the way I play football – its hammer and tongs. We go to war and got booted up in the air. So I’m one bad tackle away from an injury which could keep me out for a sustained period of time.
“You know how hard I’ve worked to get to this part of the journey – I can’t risk that.
“I spoke to Bow, my agent and some of the senior lads. A lot of the conversations I’ve had haven’t come out and won’t come out. But this is what I mean when I say no-one at the football club is blaming me – because if they were in the same position they’d do exactly the same thing. Exactly the same.
“But people can’t come out and say it in the press because then Charlton fans turn on them.
“Now it’s gone, I’m more than happy to speak on this. At the time it was better for me to take a battering because the most important thing was the boys trying to stay in the league. That’s why I didn’t talk about it, other than the one interview I did. It’s why I didn’t make reference of it on social media or do a lot on there. I didn’t want to take any positivity away from the boys’ situation.
“I don’t want the limelight and I don’t need it. All I wanted is for my team-mates to stay in the league. It’s unfortunate it didn’t happen, but it’s not one player’s fault.
“There were plenty of chances and circumstances that arose in those games that I had nothing to do with. How can that be blamed on someone who isn’t even there if someone scores a lucky goal against us? It’s difficult but I’ve had to let negativity and negative comments roll off my back.
“I’d like to think I’ve dealt with it quite well, because there has been an absolute barrage of them.”
Taylor had been keen on lining up a new deal at Charlton before they won promotion. But he ended up staying on his existing terms, which doubled his salary but ran out at the end of June.
“We were talking about an extension before the play-off final and it would have been weighted on us going up because I wanted to play at the highest level I can possibly get to,” said Taylor. “But the play-off final came and went and we were asking for a new deal through pre-season.
“Nothing was forthcoming. It wasn’t until Brentford put £4million on the table that Roland thought maybe I should be earning a little more money.
“It’s a lot of money in the normal world but I had a 50 per cent pay rise from League One to the Championship. It still wasn’t in football terms a very big contract – I still would’ve earned more at Sunderland in League One than Charlton in the Championship. That says it all – I bought into the manager and his idea.
“It was like ‘you’ve already got a promotion clause’ – but that isn’t a reward for being promoted. It should have been about building the club and trying to sustain it in the Championship. I genuinely believe Roland would have preferred to have kept the club in League One because it would keep costs down. I don’t believe the budget changed. It said it all about his vision for the club, or rather that he didn’t have a vision.
“Then the idiots turned up. The best thing we can do is not speak about them.
“They offered me a lesser deal – substantially less – than Roland eventually offered me. It was just a bit of a farce.
“We were in training and these things were being sent to us which we would tag into our group chat – it was like OMG, have you seen this? You’d go out to train and then something else would happen.
“I do feel sorry for the fans because the football club is the most important thing. I feel sorry for the manager because he has had to work under some ridiculous circumstances and he deserves better than that.
“I hope to God it gets sorted out – because there is no way a club like Charlton should be floundering. They should be sustainable and successful.
“The majority of fans will take a regular Championship level club that sometimes has a go at being towards the top. I hope it’s what they become over the next few years.”
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