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Virtual National Game Awards 2019-20: Buildbase Isthmian Premier Player of the Year – Joe Taylor

National Game Awards

TAYLOR-MADE SUCCESS: Joe Taylor netted 26 goals for Cray Wanderers this term Picture: Jon Hilliger

By John Lyons

Scooping the Buildbase Isthmian Premier Player of the Year honour has given Joe Taylor a boost after a frustrating end to the season for all concerned.

His Cray Wanderers team were second in the table and in the thick of the promotion battle before the coronavirus pandemic threw a spanner in the works. And on a personal level, he was top scorer in the division with 26 goals to his name.

Yet a thrilling end to the season was replaced by a shutdown in March and, shortly after, the season from Step 3 to 7 was declared null and void.

“It was frustrating how things finished,” the 29-year-old told The NLP. “We were on a really good run, we had just beaten the leaders (Worthing) and we fancied ourselves.

“All the boys were playing brilliantly. They were making chances for me and I was sticking them away.”

On a personal level, Taylor, who joined from Margate in late 2018, couldn’t have asked for much more.

He said: “I’d scored 32 goals in 38 appearances (in all competitions) and I thought I was going to surpass my best total for a season (36).

“We had nine games left and I was averaging nearly a goal a game, so I fancied 40, but I can’t say whether I would have got that many!

“Previously, I finished second twice in golden boot races. This time, I was five in the clear and it was a personal target.
“As they’re expunging the games, I’m not expecting to get the golden boot – that’s a kick in the teeth.
“But at least my records with Cray will stand. I’ll just have to do it all again next year now!”

But at least NLP readers have given him their vote as the top Isthmian Premier player.

“Any time you’re in The NLP is a proud moment – it’s a national paper – and it means a lot,” said Taylor, who works for a fire and security firm. It’s really good to be recognised. There’s a lot of talent that goes unnoticed in the division.”

The former Folkestone Invicta and Ramsgate forward is clearly loving life under manager Tony Russell at the Wands.

“The way Tony likes to play – everything is on the floor – gives me a platform and I’m really thankful to the boys, Tony and Joe (Vines, assistant manager).

“I can’t speak highly enough of Tony and Joe. They’ve added a lot to my game – defensively, with the ball and getting into the right areas. We won the South East Division the season before and it was the first trophy I’ve lifted. It’s been a really special time for me.

“We have to be looking at promotion next season, though it could be a bit harder. Some clubs probably didn’t know what to expect from us last season and next year they’ll know how we play, but everyone should be confident that we can go and do it.

“It’s a club that’s really going places, with a new stadium being built too.”

Manager Russell has only positive things to say about his star striker. “He’s taken off this season and his goalscoring record is second to none, but it’s not just his goals,” he explained. “It’s also his work-rate – he leads the line and links the play. His attitude is fantastic.”

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Images courtesy of The Non-League Paper

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