Former Town and Pompey star on career with both clubs
With a deadly left-foot helping assist dozens of Town goals on their way to glory in Division 3 in 2001/02, it was no surprise to see the scouts flocking to Kenilworth Road at a time when Matthew Taylor’s contract was expiring.
And that’s when, in the summer of 2002, the teenage left-footer’s move to Portsmouth materialised.
“I was offered a new deal by Luton and Portsmouth offered the same,” explains Taylor. “Like I have done throughout my career my move was down to football reasons and never money.
“At the time I felt Portsmouth was the right move for me and I went on to love my time at Fratton Park.
“I had offers from Premier League clubs but I believed it was best to try and nail down a starting place every week and I thought I stood a greater chance of doing that at Portsmouth.
“Again, I was very lucky. Harry Redknapp built a great team. We had the likes of Paul Merson, Steve Stone and Tim Sherwood in the squad and we ran away with the title in my first season there.
“I think history went on to prove that I made the right decision to leave Luton for Portsmouth at that time. Like anyone, I wanted to test myself at the best possible level.
“Too many times I had seen players make the jump to the Premier League and not play. If I was going to leave Luton for a Premier League club I needed to be playing, but Portsmouth gave me the opportunity to play higher and we were a success too.
“I had to pinch myself. 12 months after playing football in League 2 I was playing in the Premier League and what I liked the most was that I was part of something at Portsmouth, it wasn’t as though I was on the periphery.”
After winning the Division 1 (now Championship) title with Pompey, Taylor was Premier League bound – and that’s where he’s stayed following spells at Bolton Wanderers, West Ham United and now Burnley, who he signed for in the summer on a two-year deal.
But it’s the Town and Portsmouth that Taylor enjoys reminiscing about the most.
“Both are such big clubs,” he says.” Two big clubs that really deserve to be in the higher reaches of English football – and I’m sure that will be the case very soon for both teams.”
With well over a decade’s experience at the top level, Taylor is eyeing a career in coaching (“It would be silly not to try it” – he’s on the same coaching course as the Town’s Stephen McNulty).
During his time with West Ham he helped coach the Hatters’ under-15s and under-16s to get some experience under his belt.
“I was doing it for 18 months,” explains Taylor. “I would have continued it had I stayed at West Ham but the opportunity arose at Burnley.
“However, it was something I really enjoyed and coaching is still something I’m looking at, it’s an avenue I’ll look down.
“The coaching I did at Luton was extremely beneficial to me, not for the experience in coaching terms, but as a player too – it changed my outlook of the game and made me a better player.”
Whether it’s a career in coaching, or following in his father’s footsteps in architecture, there’s still one thing Taylor wants before he hangs up his boots.
“I haven’t been back and played against Luton,” he says, with a touch of melancholy. “It would be something I would love to do but I’d like to wish everyone at the club good luck. It’s great to see them back in the Football League and to see all the fans turning up in their numbers every week.
“The same goes to Portsmouth. All I can say is I’m lucky to have played for both clubs. I feel rather spoiled, really.”
This article first appeared in our official programme Talk of the Town for our home issue against Portsmouth on 28th December.