(photo by The FA)
by Kieran Thievam
Arsenal Ladies’ deadline day signing Jodie Taylor believes her experiences abroad since leaving Birmingham City Ladies over three years ago will be of huge benefit to her new club.
Taylor, 29, has had the opportunity to play in Sweden, Australia and the United States since departing the FA Women’s Super League in 2013, but made a surprise return last month from her club in America, the Portland Thorns.
While the FA WSL is only now starting to see clubs go full-time and offer more professional environments, Taylor has had the benefit of these facilities during the majority of her time away.
With the exception of Australia, where many players are still part-time and have a second job, the Liverpool-born striker was offered a professional and full-time environment in Gothenburg, where she played for just shy of one season, and in America’s National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), with the Washington Spirit and Portland Thorns.
Now, on her way back from an Achilles injury, Taylor believes those experiences have been key to her progression and the fact she is now a crucial part of the England set-up.
She said: “When I played for Gothenburg and then in the US, the full-time training was massive, while the intensity and pace has helped develop me as a player since I last played here.
“The biggest positives are the drive of the players abroad. The competitiveness of training and games is contagious, and it’s an opportunity for me to bring that here.”
After a 2015 disrupted by injury, rumours were rife during the off-season that Taylor might be set to leave the US and return home after being restricted to just seven appearances for the Thorns – five of which were starts.
With deadline day looming and with her future up in the air, she finally put pen to paper to join Pedro Losa’s side.
“It was quite dramatic with how late it was left, but it was something I was thinking about for a while, especially coming off a difficult year with injury,” she said.
“It’s a good club for me to be at, especially when you think about how successful Arsenal have been historically.”
The north London side struggled with injuries last season and have addressed that issue with the addition of no fewer than six new signings, including forward-thinking players such as Dutch international Danielle van de Donk and former Liverpool striker, Asisat Oshoala.
While the competition will be tough, Taylor is not daunted by the challenge.
“I think that was the attraction of coming here, the competition will push me on and it’s healthy for everyone,” she said.
“If you look at my competition last year, I was up against Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair, so I’m used to battling with quality players.”
Taylor’s experience will be needed with an FA Cup final at Wembley on the horizon against Chelsea, who overcame the Gunners 2-0 on Thursday night to inflict their second league defeat in three games.
While there is no question that Taylor’s game has moved on to another level during her time away, the level of the FA WSL has also moved up a notch, with the likes of Manchester City and champions Chelsea looking to keep Arsenal off the perch they occupied for so long. One of Taylor’s biggest motivations now she has joined Arsenal is to get her team back on top and back in the UEFA Champions League.
“It’s all motivation, which helps you develop as a player and a team,” she said. “It’s a challenge, as Arsenal don’t smash teams every week like they used to.
“I’m excited to pull the shirt on and try and get this team back into the Champions League where it belongs, but I know it won’t be easy because the quality in the league is much higher now.”
When fit, Taylor has been a key figure in Mark Sampson’s England set-up, often leading the line having had to wait what seemed an eternity for her debut after being constantly overlooked by previous head coach, Hope Powell.
So how much was her move influenced by the national team and being more visible to Sampson and his staff, as opposed to being almost 5,000 miles away a year before the European Championships in the Netherlands take place.
“Not so much so I could be visible, but more so I could be on the same schedule as everyone else,” she said.
“It’s sometimes difficult because leagues abroad don’t always follow the FIFA dates. I missed games for Portland last year to attend England camps and that wasn’t ideal.
“Last year was difficult for me with my injuries, and all I want to do this year is get fit, get playing, and do well for club and country. That is my main focus.”
*This article was originally published inside The FLP’s Women’s Football Weekly supplement on 24 April.