Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.
We’re struggling to keep clean sheets, but sometimes the stats lie. The man between the posts has been one of Gary Mills’ best pieces of transfer business this season.
So often signing a player from the Football League leads to disappointment. You assume you’re getting someone from a higher standard of football who will bring greater quality to the squad. Technically that might be the case, but so often they also bring baggage with them.
Despite the clear rise in standard in the National League since the good old days when even Brian Little could take a team straight back up at the first attempt, there’s still a stigma attached in the minds of many players when they contemplate the drop down into what is still called non-league football, despite that phrase surely having lost its original meaning.
Players sometimes arrive thinking they’ve hit an unplanned low point in their career and fail to live up to their billing. Sure, there are players like Mark Carrington who, having held off from signing for Andy Morrell in order to see if another Football League team would come knocking, certainly committed to us in every sense of the word, offering not only a desire to succeed but also the ability to perform well no matter which position he was asked to fulfil. However, for each Carrington there are plenty of Lamine Sakhos!
So it’s a gamble bringing in a player from a higher league, but Mills was clearly on safe ground with the acquisition of Rhys Taylor. Perhaps it helped that he’d made his recent reputation excelling for local rivals Macclesfield Town. He also arrived armed not with a frustration that his move to the Football League with Newport County had gone sour, but with a burning desire to show them that he remained the fine keeper he was at Moss Rose. We’ve seen quite clearly that he certainly is!
Taylor is the genuine article when it comes to shot-stopping. He pulled off the ultimate moment of pointless genius an hour into last Saturday’s game when he made an unbelievably good save, only to find the ref had already blown for a foul. Actually it wasn’t unbelievable for anyone who saw him at Tranmere when he pulled off a point blank save that would have made Manuel Neuer blush.
His speed off his line is terrific. Admittedly, it contributed to the goal we conceded against Lincoln as he tore out to meet The Imps’ winger Jack Muldoon but arrived a fraction too late, upending him, but even in a situation like that exploiting his strengths is still playing the percentages. The number of times he has made excellent one-on-one saves because he hurries strikers into shooting far outweighs the rare times when he doesn’t make it.
He seems to love being here too. He eagerly interact with fans on Twitter, returning the favour when they express gratitude for his performances. Hopefully Mills will also show his gratitude by offering him a permanent contract.