The key man in Charlton’s great start to the season, Lyle Taylor’s knee injury came at a bad time for the team, but a good time for something bigger than football…
Lyle Taylor has had a bit more time on his hands than anticipated recently.
The Charlton centre-forward started this season like a train, scoring five goals in their opening six games as Lee Bowyer’s side surprised everyone by entering the first international break in the automatic promotion places.
But during that international break, while on duty with his adopted nation Monserrat, Taylor felt a pop in his knee and has been on the sidelines ever since. It’s probably not a coincidence that Charlton’s results have been so inconsistent (a defeat to Wigan was followed by a win over Leeds last month) in the intervening six weeks.
Shortly after the injury, Taylor died his hair pink. Neon pink. The sort of pink that made his hairdresser look askance. Not a cry for help, or trying to stave off the boredom of not playing games, but a way to highlight Pink October, his month-long charity drive in which he is raising money and awareness for Cancer Research. A drive which, because of the injury, he has been able to concentrate more on given that he is out of the first-team picture.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be given a platform whereby I can actually try and do something good,” Taylor tells the Totally Football Show. “A lot of footballers use this platform to sell hats and sell clothes and do stuff for their own personal gain.
“But if the rates stay as they are, it will affect one in two of us. It could be me. It could be you. It could be both. It could be neither of us if we’re both lucky. It’s going to affect people in our family, people who are in our lives. Cancer does not give a flying toss about anyone’s colour, creed, religion, anything. So I decided that I wanted to make a visual statement out of it and see we could do.”
A lot of footballers use this platform to sell hats and clothes.
The timing is a coincidence, but having this charity work to focus on has helped Taylor get through the often tedious and lonely business of being injured.
“There’s not a lot I can do to get away from the fact that I am stuck basically not being able to do the job,” he says. “I do want to get back out there as soon as possible. But this does allow me to spend a little bit more time trying to do something which is bigger than football. Because make no bones about it, this is bigger than football.”
This is a perfect example of a footballer recognising that they can use the game to do good beyond simply playing 46 times a year.. Perhaps it’s this attitude that has helped him deal with a pretty turbulent spell at the club, though with Charlton, turbulence has been the default state for a number of years.
After they were promoted last May, winning the playoff final against Sunderland in dramatic circumstances, things were looking up for a club that has not had much to be enthused about in recent years. But, this being Charlton, there was no such thing as uncomplicated joy.
The spectre of Roland Duchatelet still hangs over the club, like the Death Star over Endor, which sometimes just means a vague shadow and malevolent presence, but occasionally has a tangible impact on the team and club. Such as the day or so in the summer when it looked like Lee Bowyer, the man who got the Addicks back in the Championship and has injected a little life and hope into the club, would be leaving over a contract dispute.
Bowyer, who since taking over from Karl Robinson in 2018 has never had longer than a year’s contract (and for the first six months or so wasn’t even given the dignity of a proper job title, merely the caretaker) looked set to walk away and Duchatelet released a typically Duchatelet statement which, among other things, decried Bowyer’s outrageous desire to be paid roughly in line with other Championship managers and for an agent to handle the negotiations.
A U-turn ensued the following day, but the uncertainty over Bowyer’s position (he still only has a contract until the end of the season and has been linked with other jobs) must have an impact on the squad, surely? Not so, according to Taylor.
“We’re sheltered from it,” he says. “What goes on at boardroom level is nothing to do with the players. We don’t live our lives in the boardroom. We have no real contact with anybody who’s in the boardroom other than Steve Gallen [the club’s head of recruitment who became a director in September].
We are simply the manager's team and we are moulded in the manager's image.
“So it doesn’t really make any difference to us what goes on upstairs as long as we are supported – and we are, mainly by the manager. That’s the only thing that really matters to me.
“I mean, I could say it did have an effect, but we were on holiday. The only one whose contract was up in the air at the point of that happening was Jonny Williams.”
Nevertheless, it’s pretty remarkable that the team are doing as well as they are given…well…everything. That, according to Taylor, is down to Bowyer and how he – along with assistant Johnnie Jackson – has inspired them.
“We’ve got a very, very good group of players,” says Taylor. “They run themselves into the ground every single game, every single training session. And that’s a mentality set by the manager. So we are simply the manager’s team and we are we moulded in the manager’s image. What he asks us to do, we do it because it’s our job to do it, and he trusts us to do that job.
“There is enough quality in the building for us to do what we’re asked and more, which is, in my opinion, how things are going so well at the moment. Long may that continue and the results flow along with it.”
Taylor isn’t putting a date on when he’ll rejoin his teammates in following every direction from their manager – he is still wearing a brace on that knee when we speak – but when he does return, the hope is he’ll be able to pick up where he left off.
For the moment though, the big decision is whether to keep the pink hair.
You can listen to the latest edition of the Totally Football League Show here, and even better, you can subscribe here. If you wish to reproduce any of the material in this article or from the podcast you are very welcome to, but please credit The Totally Football Show and include this link.
If you’d like to support Lyle Taylor’s Pink October campaign to raise funds and awareness for Cancer Research, you can do here.