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Tommy Taylor

Tommy Taylor

Tommy TaylorIn November 1959, Valletta FC were sitting pretty at the top of the league table. In those days the Citizens had arguably the best-ever team in their history. What they lacked perhaps was a top-class goalkeeper to boost their already formidable defense. They already had two fine goalkeepers in Zarb-Cousin and Formosa, but many argued that a team filled with such talent needed a more flamboyant goalkeeper. The Lilywhites, therefore, kept their eyes open for a new man to guard their posts.

The opportunity to strengthen their squad presented itself in 1959 when they signed international goalkeeper Tommy Taylor of the Republic of Ireland. Before coming to Malta Tommy played for the Irish First Division club Watford FC as a part-time professional.

During the 1957-58 close season, Taylor was in the Irish international party, which toured Iceland. He also represented his country in October 1958 when he went in as a substitute during the second half of a friendly international against Poland.

His displays for Watford and his inclusion in the Irish National squad brought him to the attention of the English clubs, and West Ham United in particular showed a lot of interest. At one time they even offered Watford a four-figure fee for his signature, but for some unknown reason, the deal fell through.

Disappointed by this setback, Taylor turned his back on professional football and instead sought a steadier career with a local construction firm. As luck would have it his firm won a contract to complete major works in Malta in relation to the Harbour Development Scheme.

Taylor was a very popular goalkeeper in his native Ireland. Apart from his obvious abilities he also had the unique distinction of winning the Irish Shield for his club by scoring the winning goal in a 3-2 victory from the goalkeeper position.

Tommy Taylor made his debut for Valletta on January 10, 1959 against Hamrun Spartans in, of all places, the center-forward position! Valletta lost 0-2.

Taylor proved to be a good centre-forward, but he soon switched to his original goalkeeper position. It was in this position that he made his mark. Safe and reliable, Tommy was soon recognised as one of the best goalkeepers on the island.

Taylor played for the first time in goal for Valletta on February 2, 1959 in the 5-1 victory against Sliema Wanderers. He was an instant success. He boosted the White’s defense no end and in three action-packed seasons with the Citizens he helped the club to win three League Championships, two FA Trophies, the Cassar Cup and the Scicluna Cup twice.

Tommy TaylorDuring his first season with Valletta he made 9 appearances, helping the team to win the league championship after a lapse of many seasons. During that memorable season, Taylor was also part of the City team, which beat Hamrun Spartans in the Cassar cup final.

1959-60 was another golden season for Valletta and Tommy Taylor. He played a major part in Valletta’s league and cup double. He was only beaten 6 times in the league and only once in the FA Trophy.

In 1960-61 Valletta had to surrender their league title to Hibernians, but for Taylor it was another successful season. He played a blinder for Valletta against Hammarby of Sweden and later on he kept goal for Malta against Manchester United.

Taylor capped another successful season with another fine performance in the Scicluna Cup final against Valletta’s arch-rivals Floriana. Valletta won an exciting encounter by 3 goals to 1.

In 1961-62 he missed most of the season and he only took part in the last league game of the season and in the FA Trophy. The 1961-62 FA Trophy final brought together Valletta and Hibernians. The Citizens had to play without their star center half Joe Cilia who could not play in the final because of work commitments.

It was a tough blow for Valletta and Hibs made full use of the advantage. It was a thrilling final, which could have gone either way. The minutes were ticking off merrily when, 7 minutes from the end, Taylor kicked the ball into his own net when trying to clear his lines to give Hibs the winner and the coveted trophy.

Season 1962-63 was another golden season in the history of Valletta FC. The Citizens celebrated their success in their inimitable way. No one could celebrate like Valletta in those days. The Valletta side of the Stadium was a kaleidoscope of colour and sound as the loyal City supporters sang the praise of their heroes and the centre of their attention was their star goal-keeper, Tommy Taylor.

Tommy TaylorIn 1963-64, Taylor won another FA Trophy medal when Valletta beat Sliema Wanderers 1-0 in the final. Taylor was unbeaten in the competition. During that season he also won a Scicluna Cup medal when Valletta beat Floriana 2-o in the final.

During his stay in Malta Taylor was once again picked to represent Malta against visiting English club, Manchester United. All good things, however, eventually come to an end.

The Taylor legend finally ended during the summer of 1964 when after playing against Zaragoza of Spain in the European Cup of Cups winners he returned to his native Ireland.

(Carmel Baldacchino)