Former Newcastle United defender Steven Taylor, who announced his departure from A-League side Wellington Phoenix after two seasons with the Kiwi outfit, is close to signing for Indian Super League (ISL) outfit Odisha FC, as reports have suggested, The Bridge can confirm. He is set to become the second player from A-League to join Odisha ahead of the new season after Aussie defender Jacob Tratt.
The 34-year old fan favourite, who captained Phoenix in the 2019-20 campaign, announced his departure via a press release on Monday. Taylor still had two years left on his existing contract. Sources suggest that the financial impact of the Covid 19 pandemic might have been a major reason for this, with him being the fourth player that the club have let go after Callum McCowatt, Liberato Cacace and Gary Hooper. Incidentally, centre forward Hooper is close to a switch to the ISL himself with Kerala Blasters seemingly keen on his signature.
Taylor was an important component of the Wellington Phoenix side that finished 3rd in the A-League last season, 12 points behind eventual champions Sydney FC. His assured presence in the centre of defence was the fulcrum for his side — having 5 clean sheets and conceding a meagre 33 goals in 26 matches, the 3rd best return in the league. Under his leadership, the Nix also went on to establish a club-record nine-match unbeaten streak that came to an end with defeat against Brisbane Roar in January 2020.
Although the veteran stopper had previously expressed his desire to finish his playing career in New Zealand, it now seems that newer pastures await the highly-rated talisman in the form of Odisha FC and the ISL. Stuart Baxter’s side would be delighted if they are indeed able to land the Englishman to bolster a defensive unit that has an average age of just over 22.
Taylor’s physicality and leadership qualities are also going to be important for a side that had a negative goal difference last season and managed just 2 away wins. However, the fact that he is at the twilight of his career might be a deterrent towards regular first team game-time, especially in an extremely condensed fixture list and it remains to be seen how well he copes with the weather and playing conditions in India. His partnership with Tratt will also be something that Odisha fans will look forward to.