Defender Neil Taylor has called time on his professional playing career at the age of 33, and as Cymru prepare to head to the World Cup in Qatar, Taylor's retirement offers a timely opportunity to reflect on his contribution to the national team making history in the summer of 2016.
Taylor played every minute of all six games for Cymru at EURO 2016 as Chris Coleman's side reached the semi-finals, and scored his one and only international goal in the memorable 3-0 win over Russia in Toulouse that ensured that his side would finish top of Group B and qualify for the R16. One of Coleman's most-trusted defenders, Taylor will forever hold a place in the hearts of the Cymru fans who witnessed that incredible tournament as the side defied the odds.
“My professional career is over,” said Taylor in a social media post on Monday. “I feel like I've rinsed out every ounce of ability (or lack of) that I had through hard work, determination and sacrifice. My mum said to me when I was seven-years-old, if you ever want to stop you can, but if you're in, you're all in, and I was. But I no longer am. I've enjoyed my career immensely, playing from the National League all the way up to the Premier League and to the dizzy heights with my beloved Wales.”
My professional career is over. Loved it.Onwards and upwards!! pic.twitter.com/NIomBBIApJ— Neil Taylor (@Neiltaylor311) November 7, 2022
During his professional career, Taylor progressed through the ranks at Wrexham after his release from Manchester City and earned a move to the Championship with Swansea City before later playing for Aston Villa and Middlesbrough. Having represented his country at U17, U19, U21 and Semi-Professional level, he made his senior Cymru debut in May 2010 against Croatia and would continue to play for his country until 2019, making 43 appearances in the process. Establishing himself in Coleman's team, Taylor played a key role in EURO 2016 qualification and at the finals in France.
Former Cymru defender Joey Jones was Taylor's Youth Team coach at Wrexham and spoke about him an interview with the Daily Post in 2016. “He never changed from the first day he came to the Racecourse to the day he left,” said Jones. “His attitude was always spot on in regards to training, he never got above his station and kept his feet firmly on the ground the whole time. He was a joy to be with and if you've got players like that with such enthusiasm you're not going to go too wrong. You need that to begin with because that passion is not something you can give to someone.”