City boss Glenn Roeder will face a fight and a half to prise Martin Taylor out of Birmingham this summer after Blues boss Alex McLeish revealed just how smitten he has become with the 6ft 4in defender.
Norwich launched an all-out assault on the central defender's signature last month after the 29-year-old proved a smash hit on his loan spell in Norfolk – indeed, Taylor walked away with the November Anglian Player of the Month award before returning to St Andrews once his initial loan spell was up.
There he found a lukewarm welcome from new Blues boss Alex McLeish who had his heart set on luring Gary Cahill across the city. Birmingham chief executive Karren Brady also had her heart set on earning a ?1 million transfer fee from the apparently unwanted Taylor as both Ipswich Town and Coventry City jostled for position in the queue behind the Canaries.
In the end, Roeder met Brady's fee – and more – only to discover that Taylor was off the 'For sale!' list as Cahill opted for Bolton ahead of Birmingham.
Back in Norfolk and the Canary boss turned to the loan market by way of a short-term fix hauling into Colney first the luckless Matthew Bates and then Reading teenager Alex Pearce by way of defensive cover. The theory then being that the quest for Taylor's signature would resume in earnest again in the summer as Roeder embarked on a “mammoth” rebuilding project.
Whether Taylor is still a viable target is now the question after McLeish ousted the Brazilian Rafael Schmitz from his starting line-up against West Ham United and reaped the benefit of Tiny's extra presence with a hard-earned point from that 1-1 draw.
“In our last match at West Ham they had five, six six-foot-plus players in the box against us and you've really got to work hard to compete against them,” McLeish told the Birmingham Evening Mail yesterday. “But Tiny brings a bit more presence I felt was badly needed and I have been pleased with his performances.”
The former Scotland boss readily admitted that Taylor was a fair way from his first team thoughts when he first arrived at St Andrew's in the wake of Steve Bruce's exit for Wigan. At that point, a deal was there to be done.
Since then, however, and everyone has moved on.
“Tiny's long in the tooth,” said McLeish, who re-installed Taylor for the 1-1 home draw with Derby County after Schmitz and centre-half partner Liam Ridgewell conceded two goals in a miserable away defeat at relegation rivals Sunderland a week earlier.
“He's a regular Premier League player. He's been in both divisions, he knows what it's like. He's a good professional,” said McLeish.
“He's never complained once when I said, in the opening week, that I would be looking for another centre-half. He kept his head down, he always worked with us in first team training and I said you never know, we might need the big fella.
“That's the way it's turned out and he has brought us some presence to the team that, not only are we a young team, but I don't think we are the biggest team in the world,” added the Blues boss, with a description that could equally apply to the Canaries.
Interestingly Taylor himself spoke of how close he came to packing his bags for pastures new last month; Gary Megson's pursuit of Villa star Cahill could have a lot to answer for as the Taylor boys stuff their little Norwich City shirts right to the back of their bottom drawer.
As the player told the Evening Mail last week, he was all for returning to Carrow Road on an extended loan deal – one that would take him through to January 1 at which point, with the transfer window wide open, all sorts could have happened.
“When the loan ended, I had to have a big think about things,” said Taylor, who cemented his place in the hearts of the Canary faithful from the start with that stooping header against Ipswich Town in Roeder's first game in charge.
“I decided I'd like to extend the loan, taking me to January 1, and then see what would happen,” said Taylor, well aware that in Ms Brady he would face a stubborn foe.
“I didn't expect that Birmingham wouldn't go for that. Barriers got put in the way, and nothing materialised,” he said. “The manager had told me that I wasn't wanted. When a new manager comes in, he wants to change it and has to make decisions.
“If it means some players have to go somewhere else, that happens, fair enough. But I came back and did the best I could. If you just fob it off, then it just makes it more difficult for yourself and your team mates.”
That was a telling line. That if you 'fob it off' you make it more difficult for your team-mates – sure sign of Taylor being made of the 'right stuff'. Hence why Roeder was always a fan and why McLeish now likewise appears a big convert.
“Maybe had he signed someone else, I might not be here now but, again, that fell through and he never said he was not going to use me if he saw fit,” added Taylor.”I've got a chance again and hopefully I can do my bit to keep us in the Premier League and then start afresh here again next season.”
Look back over this week's headlines in Norfolk and you wonder whether or not Roeder might be turning his thoughts elsewhere.
There was David Edgar's agent insisting that Norwich were in the hunt for the 20-year-old Newcastle United centre-half, while Gary Doherty today told the Eastern Daily Press that he had had the first summons to the manager's office to discuss his plans for next year.
“The gaffer got me into his office to offer me a new deal and that's the start of it,” Doherty told the paper. “To be honest we haven't really had any major discussions. There is obviously bits and pieces to sort out now but I'm happy here and enjoying my football.”
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