Interview with Joseph Taylor (Tampines Rovers/SIN)

Interview with Joseph Taylor (Tampines Rovers/SIN) Featured Image
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James Gow: How do you think you first gained your passion for football?

Joseph Taylor: Oh well, it all started back when I was five years old in Australia, I had just joined the local club Wakehurst Tigers FC, the same club that Lucas Neill came through. Originally it was one of my mates who said ‘do you want to play football?’, and my parents were not so happy with it, they were from England and a bit unsure of the local scene, but once I got involved with it they seemed happy. And then I just went through the ranks, tried to make the State division and then the state team after that.

James: And how did you arrive/end up in Singapore?

Joseph: I moved up here after my father got a job opportunity for his IT Company in Australia. Then my head coach for the Manly United representative side I was playing in, knew one of the coaches in Singapore for Home United (S-League side) and I went over for a trial when I was 15 in 2011, got into the U-16 squad and I progressed from there and now I’m here playing in the prime league for Tampines (S-League side). This is my first season playing at Tampines in the Prime League, for the two years prior to that I was in the youth system over at Home United.

James: Now I understand over your career in football, the game has taken you many places? Could you name some that have stood out?

Joseph: I’ve been to a lot of places over my time, and my travels started when I was 11 when I went with the Coever Oceania squad to Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina and we played against a few clubs including Grêmio and Peñarol. Then when I was 14, the Football NSW team, we went to Spain to play against second division Spain teams and trained at Barcelona along with Atletico Madrid, and that was a fantastic experience. Following that I came to Singapore. And the biggest one was obviously last year when I went to England and I trialed with the Premier league sides.

James: Can you go a little more into depth about your trials over in England last year?

Joseph: Well what happened was the U-18 coach from the Wolverhampton Wanderers saw me playing over here when he was on a camp and then he asked me to come to over to the UK at that time, he told me ‘the boys aren’t back training yet, so you come back and settle in with the squad and hopefully we can sign you within the first couple of weeks’. So I got there and it was a big step up for me. I actually started training with the U-21s when I was only 16, and a lot of the players were ex-Manchester and Liverpool so it was massive.

Then I joined the U-18s squad and it was really intense but there was some issues regarding my age because the system works not on a calendar year, it works from August 1st around to August 1st. And because I’m born July 22nd I was just too old to sign as a first-year scholar and I was in the second year back for the U-18s, and they weren’t so keen on signing me because I didn’t have a previous Premier League club academy experience.

Putting up accommodation for me because I didn’t live there was also another issue, but I have an open-invitation to return. He said he wants me to come back to England and as long as I can continue to develop, then the opportunity’s still there for me.

James: How do you feel about overall your seasons in both the Prime League and S-League this year?

Joseph: I mean I’ve just learnt so much here at Tampines, like it’s been a big jump going from youth football into professional football. The jump cannot be over-stated enough because it’s ridiculous honestly, I’ve had to smarten how I play, I’ve had to learn more about the tactical side of football and I’ve had to learn about my positioning as a central midfielder, what’s my responsibility and what’s my role.

Most importantly, it’s been the winning mentality that I’ve had to adopt as a professional footballer, every time you step onto the field, it’s your job, it’s your responsibility to go on there 100% focused and to win the match, that’s been a big step-up for me where in youth football my previous emphasis was just on improvement and personal development. It now has to be on winning for the club, for the manager and for the owner.

James: So it’s all about bringing those skills you’ve learnt together, right?

Joseph: Yeah exactly.

James: Now with the S-League, what’s the situation there?  I understand you’ve played as a starter, on the bench etc.

Joseph: It’s a difficult situation because of the ‘five foreigner rule’. So essentially Tampines already have five older foreigners signed in the S-League in those spots. But for me to play in the S-League, one of them has to be out. Whether it be due to suspension, injury, or away for whatever reason; sickness, illness. And as soon as that happens that creates a opportunity for me to go into the S-League squad and when I have had my opportunities I’ve been hugely thankful for the coaches who have put me on and have given me a fantastic opportunity playing at that level, so I appreciate that.

James: Justin Pasfield’s one, what’s he like?

Joseph: Yep, he’s another Australian who played with Central Coast Mariners, the other foreigners are from other places around the world.  Justin, I get along quite well with and I’m learning a lot off considering he’s spent some time at CCM, so that’s good and he tells me a lot about what it’s like in the A-League.

James: How many times have you played in the S-League?

Joseph: I’ve been included in the squad 11-12 times, in terms of actual, professional appearances, I believe it’s four times. And then there’s been a lot of friendly appearances where Tampines have played against Malaysian Super League teams like Johor.

James: And did you go to Johor for those games?

Joseph: Yes. I went to Johor (southern point of Malaysia, just over the border) and got to play in those games, we played against Team A and Team B. Playing against them was fantastic as there were also many foreigners there, one Argentinian International Striker. I mean to play against players like this, you learn a lot just being there and watching them play.

James: There are a few Aussies in Malaysia as well…

Joseph: Yeah there is.

James: Lot of money going around those leagues, isn’t there?

Joseph: Yeah there’s a lot of money going around and the facilities over there are fantastic, the money put into them is pretty ridiculous, so it’s been a big learning experience.

James: Who would you say have been your major influences in your football career? Both that you have and haven’t worked with?

Joseph: Well obviously Coach Mick, he’s the head coach at Wolverhampton Wanderers U-18s, he was the one who saw me playing and Singapore and he invited me over there and he was a massive influence on my career at that point, I did need an opportunity at that point to go and take my game to the next level and he definitely provided that to me. So that was, in terms of coach wise, that was a massive thing for me and I appreciate that.

Also Rafi, the head coach of Tampines, he’s taught me so much in terms of being a professional footballer and how to play, he’s helped mature my game a lot because it was very youth-like, in that sense, because I come from playing against kids my age. And he gave my game that professional edge.

In terms of footballing idols, just anyone who has been willing to work hard. Obviously the Australian midfielder Mile Jedinak and also Lucas Neill because he came through the exact same junior club in Sydney and into Manly United, then into the Football NSW team and over to Europe which is what I hope to do eventually.

James: Would you like to name any goals that you have set for your future career? Short-term perhaps?

Joseph: Short term, although it would be very difficult, obviously to make it into the S-League as one of the five-foreigners chosen by the owner of the club would be unbelievable, it’d be a great achievement. That’s going to be very difficult though due to the nature of the rules in Singapore football.

Perhaps overseas, I’d love to return to England and try again at playing over there. I’m now in the U-21 age bracket, so I would be one of the youngest players in the U-21, so there’d be more reason for them to sign me and develop me, supposed to when I went there earlier and I was too old and they just didn’t see any benefits for the club in signing me on that scholarship program. I’ll definitely be working ridiculously hard this off-season for hopefully either a move overseas or potentially a spot in the S-League team which would be unreal.

James: Now obviously, ultimate goals long-term wise?

Joseph: Well my dream from when I started football from five years old was to always play in the top four divisions in England. Whether it be the English Premier League, Championship, League One or Two. The standard is incredibly high and it’s where some of the top players go to play their football and just to play there would be a dream come true, so that’s what all my hard work is, well hopefully will accumulate to.

James: You speak a lot of the English football leagues, but if that didn’t work out, would you be happy to go other places, say continental Europe or back to Australia?

Joseph: I mean to play in the A-League would be fantastic, that’d be a dream come true, just because it’d be so convenient being at my home and that’d just be brilliant playing at a local club like Sydney FC or Western Sydney Wanderers would be awesome. Justin [Pasfield] also gives me some info, so it’d be awesome.

I mean there’s so many opportunities everywhere, like I’ll be able to travel with football and see where it takes me, like anywhere would be fantastic. I mean I’m looking just to get into the S-League here in Singapore, so I estimate that as like a first step. But if the rules don’t allow that, then I do have opportunities elsewhere like in England or Australia, or anywhere in Europe.

James: How would you compare the play in Singaporean leagues to other places around the world?

Joseph: I mean I can only speak from experience, but when I came from Manly United over to Singapore to play in the COE (Singapore Youth League) before entering the Prime League, the speed of the game was much faster. I remember my first trial for Home United I was very slow compared to the other boys, they were a lot faster than me and it was really difficult to get up to speed with them.

In terms of physicality, the Australian game is much more physical and Singapore was definitely a step down in that sense. Although in terms of the technical ability of the players, I found it to be much higher in Singapore than in Australia in the NSW State League. Compared to the U-18 Premier League in England I trialled with, of course that’s probably the highest standard in the world for that age group, so there’s definitely a difference there.

It was mainly in the mindset that I noticed – there was this constant desire for perfection with the English players in the academy, everything from the simple pass to the simple movement, had to be perfect and they wanted to do it right. They were always communicating and talking whereas in Singapore it’s not quite like that, I think that’s one thing if the Singaporean leagues could just tweak their mentality in that sense, it’d be a vast improvement. Those are probably the main differences between the football in England, Australia and Singapore.

James: What are your thoughts on Australian football and the overall situation? I’m not sure if you’re very involved with it but what would you say are your observations on the A-League and the Socceroos?

Joseph: I mean the A-League has gone leaps and bounds which has been fantastic and they’re doing a brilliant job in investing money into it, it’s definitely improved since it first began. When I was in Australia unfortunately there was no National Youth League (NYL), so there was no opportunity for me to go any higher than the NSW State League that I was playing in. That was one of the main reasons why I wasn’t so hesitant to go forward and play in the S-League/Prime League. Because there was no more room to go higher in Australia, although when I moved here, the NYL was created with all the A-League teams having U-20s sides and I always saw that as a fantastic opportunity to have to play in such a high level of Australian football under the age of 20.

I’d love to play somewhere like that if an opportunity ever arises there, I’d snap it up like that. Because it’s developed so much that I’ve got lots of friends playing for Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers, both in the first team and NYL squads. They talk to me about the professionalism that it takes, and it sounds similar to what is happening in Europe with the players and I think Australia should continue to follow what European football is doing and it can go further and further. I also think Singapore football could learn something off that, they could invest some money and improve the professionalism of youth football here and you would see it go ahead in leaps and bounds just like Australian football has.

The quality of training I hear about from my friends at institutes like AIS in Canberra is fantastic and for me at this age that was exactly what I wanted, I wanted that high-quality training wherever it be, whether it be Singapore, Australia, England or even Europe. Europe is probably the highest standard, at this stage. If I want to go into professional football I need to concentrate on winning, but I also need to think about personal development and improvement to become the best player I can be, you know when I reach 21 or 22 and I need to get into football full-time.

James: Definitely. And I know from what I hear about youth football in Germany, they’ve got some of the best setups and structures over there.

Joseph: Well they’ve also got some great sports science set up there, and you see the domination of Germany recently from both club football and international football, and that’s different to the youth setup that they’ve made. They actually, instead of having the national team having all the quality training, they invested in the clubs to have that quality national training in that sense, for younger players. And you can see how fantastic they’ve played and they’ve really benefitted from that.

James: Yep. And promotion/relegation works really well in the leagues there, right down to the lower divisions.

Joseph: promotion/relegation is fantastic over there, it’s more entertaining for the fans as well with the fear of relegation or the fun thought of promotion, I believe that’s something both the A-League and S-League could benefit from. I know Australia have just opened up that FFA Cup, with NSW Premier League teams playing against A-League teams, that’s awesome.

I think if the S-League could do that as well because there’s no secondary division, just like in the A-League, they could benefit from an FFA Cup-like challenge where I think National Football League teams play against S-League teams. It’d be interesting for the fans as well as the other footballers involved. The Starhub League Cup did a similar style to that, but I think if they’d done it more similar to the FFA Cup in Australia, it’d be better.

James: Your team Manly United was also in the FFA Cup!

Joseph: Yep, they were in it but they lost.

James: Now just a question as a Sydney FC fan, those players said you were in talks with in the first team, who are they?

Joseph: Alex Gersbach is the main name.

James: Wow yeah, on the weekend in the Sydney Derby, he was brilliant. He’s also doing his HSC’s at the moment; I know from being on Twitter with a large amount of Sydney FC fans they really do love him.

Joseph: I played with him in the two teams that went to Spain when I was 15, they were the U-14 Australian National team and the U-15 NSW Country team. I went with them and he was obviously a year below me in the national team but we all went together, played together, and I got to know him well there. He’s had fantastic opportunities at the AIS and with these tours, so it just shows how high the quality youth training in Australia is becoming. They also have those rules that they have to sign a certain number of players under the age of 21 and I think the S-League could benefit from rules like that because here at Tampines, a lot of our players are older now and there’s less youth players coming through. I think if they had a rule like those of the A-League teams, it’d be awesome for some of the young Singaporean players.

James: Ok, so to now get some more background information. You’ve finished school?

Joseph: Yep, I’ve just finished school and I did a diploma in Sports and Exercise Science. I had multiple motives to take that course, one being because I wanted to improve my own training. When I went to England I realized how close I was to making it into the top level of football in the world, basically, with all these top players. I could’ve done a two-year IB diploma, but I shortened it to one-year to give me the opportunities to go all over the world, and to have more time to work on making it into the S-League, I’ve got that opportunity now so I’m just going to be working hard in the off-season for any opportunities that arise.

James: Good to hear. And how long ago exactly did you turn 18?

Joseph: I turned 18 on the 22nd of July this year, so I was playing S-League and Prime League football prior to that milestone.

James: Do you know the exact date when you debuted in the Prime League and in the S-League?

Joseph: The Prime League, there was a bit of difficulty establishing my place in the team because I was actually underage for a foreigner to play in that league. So funnily enough, I actually ended up making the squad for the Tampines S-League team before I made the squad for the Prime League. That was pretty ironic but my debut in the Prime League came in March this year. I believe it was five games into the season when I debuted, and then my debut in the S-League where I came off the bench and played part of the match was not long after that, I think it was April 22nd. So it was basically a month later, but I was already in the squad for a game before I even played in the Prime League.

James: Do you have any statistics for this season you’d like to share, have you scored any goals in your respective leagues?

Joseph: I scored a goal in the Prime League, in the S-League I haven’t scored any goals. I mean it’s really been a different role for me this season. Back in the U-16s and U-18s at Home United I scored quite a lot of goals because I was being provided a lot of through balls and passes for me to score.

Although since I came to Tampines, I’ve been more of a provider rather than a goalscorer and I’ve had to mature my game, whereas before I’d drive through players and take shots etc. Rafi, the head of Tampines has taught me to mature my game as it’s quite unrealistic to do that at a professional level. You may be able to do it at a youth level but when you come into the professional level where everyone’s worked really hard and training themselves really hard, I mean you have to play maturely and my game has gone leaps and bounds just learning to play like a professional footballer.

James: And with playing in central midfield what would you say your main role is?

Joseph: I think as a central midfielder, providing opportunities for the guys upfront and playmaking, dictating the game and switching the gameplay. I used to run through the opposition a lot and do a lot more things single-handedly. That was when I was in the COE and the league was a little weaker, but coming into the S-League and Prime League all the players are much older than you and you have to play a little bit more with your head and mentality.

Maturity-wise my game has just gone to another level since joining Tampines. I’ve learnt so much and actually when I went to England that was my main weakness and what let me down. I had the ability with all the coaching I did in Australia to dribble and pass but what let me down was the tactical knowledge, the positioning and awareness on the field. It was more what I did on the ball, which originally made Coach Mick intrigued than what I did off the ball which then let me down. And that’s the area Coach Mick told me I could improve on and Rafi has definitely helped me with that.

James Gow

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