In this episode, Keke, Rich and Mark H are joined by another Huuhkajat star, Robert Taylor, who talks them through his career. It’s an inspirational story! Having been told he wasn’t good enough for the Northern Counties league in England, his determination to succeed eventually drove him to score for the Finland national team and travel to Euro 2020.
Robert gives us his perspective on that surreal night at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, and reflects on the Chrsitian Eriksen situation, and also gives a little insight into the off-field scandal at SK Brann in August 2021.
Download an MP3 of In Conversation with… Robert Taylor
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SHOW NOTES & LINKS
Keke’s Questions (Listen or watch the show to hear Robert’s answers)
- As a teenager you headed over to England for your own spell with Nottingham Forest. Did this come about from contacts of your Dad still at the club and how did it feel to join a club of the statue of Forest?
- I guess with your Dad being English the transition to life in Nottingham was possibly easier than for say a Finn without English heritage but did you go to Nottingham alone or did your parents join you in England?
- After a year at Forest you were back at JJK but in 2011 England came calling again as you joined Lincoln City. At this time was it really important for you to make it in England?
- You had a couple of loans from Lincoln to lower league clubs and I have read that you felt that the kick and rush style of lower league English football really didn’t suit you. Was it hard for you to keep believing in yourself during this period or did you maintain your confidence and belief that you would forge a professional career?
- After Lincoln you had a brief time at Barnet during the clubs’ infamous Edgar Davids spell and I believe you were on the verge of signing as a professional with the Bees but their relegation out of the football league meant that opportunity fell through.
- A return to Finland and the familiar surroundings of JJK was next and you soon worked your way up to a place in the first team. As an attacking midfielder the next 2 to 3 years saw you produce a return of 11 goals in just over 50 first team appearances for the Harju club. It must have just felt so good to be playing regular football in surroundings that you knew so well. Can you explain to us how it felt to be back in Finland after your tour of a few English clubs?
- Your performances for JJK saw you secure a move to Veikkausliiga club RoPS, I remember the Finnish Football Show were previewing the 2016 season and I was asking some friends from Harjun Pojat who they thought the breakthrough player of the year would be and they all replied that it would be you. Can you tell us how the transfer up to the Arctic Circle came about and how you settled into a RoPS team that was a Veikkausliiga stalwart at the time?
- Your time at RoPS saw you continue your good form and you posted a return of 19 goals in just over 50 appearances for the club including 1 in the Europa League.
- A transfer to Sweden came next as you followed in the footsteps of another former JJK star Eero Markkanen joining AIK Stockholm. Were you pleased to get another chance away from Finland and how the standard of football in Allsvenskan compare to what you had been used to in Veikkausliiga?
- Your move to Sweden came at around the same time that you made your debut for the Finland A national team after appearances for Huuhkajat at several youth levels. Was international football with Finland always a dream of yours and how do you consider yourself given your mixed heritage?
- I think it’s fair to say that your chances at AIK were limited with 4 Allsvenskan games and another 2 Svenska Cupen games. Did you become frustrated at all at AIK or did you see this time as part of your development as a footballer?
- A loan to Norwegian club Tromso came in 2018 where there was a mini Finnish revolution happening under fellow Finn Simo Valakari. Did the fact that Simo was the manager at Tromso as well as his son Onni being at the club make it easy for you to join initially on loan and then permanently?
- In your first season in Tromso the club achieved their objective of staying in the top division but a year later the club was unfortunately relegated and you made the move to Brann. Obviously no player likes to be relegated but can you explain how you felt about your own game at this time, you had chipped in with 4 goals from 27 league appearances, and also tell us about how you feel you had settled in Norway.
- Tromso’s relegation saw you join SK Brann in January 2020, your first season in Brann saw you feature in every league game and finish 3rd on the clubs top scorer list with 6 goals.
- Your performances for Brann helped your force your way into the international set up more regularly. Having been part of Huuhkajat squads since way back in 2017 and some appearances in Friendlies and the memorable Nations League campaign of 2018 you were now becoming a more regular selection and earning more and more minutes in the national shirt.
- You must have been happy to cement your place as a regular selection in Rive’s squads after having a taster of international football previously.
- I think I am right in saying that in your first competitive 90 minutes in the Nations League B game away to Ireland you provided the assist for Fredrik Jensen’s goal on 63 minutes that turned out to be the winner. That must have been some feeling. Can you attempt to describe how you felt as you saw Fredrik convert your clever pull back to score after he had only been on the pitch for 25 seconds.
- There was a difficult friendly against Poland but the next competitive game saw you go one better as you scored your first goal for Finland. In what has been one of the strangest of seasons thankfully fans were in the Olympic Stadium to see it as Teemu Pukki miss hit a shot, you were alert in the box and managed to lift the ball over the diving Bulgarian keeper. You seemed to be surrounded by Bulgarian defenders but your awareness caught them out. You celebrated with open arms and screamed to the sky as you wheeled away. For us who can only dream of a moment like that please tell us how that felt to score for your country in the olympic stadium in front of the Finland fans.
- Another 90 minutes for Finland came in the next game as we went on to do the double over Ireland and you have been a regular feature in the team ever since.
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- Taking a step back a bit you were in the Huuhkajat squad already for half of the Euro 2020 Qualification games making a substitute appearance in the Armenia away fixture early in the campaign. By the time we had got to the business end of the campaign you were back in the squad and you were an unused sub in the now famous victory over Liechtenstein that secured our place at our first ever major tournament.
- Can you describe your own personal feelings of being part of that squad that made history that night and what do you remember from the evening itself and the way the events unfolded?
- I along with many friends in Jyvaskyla waited with bated breath as the Huuhkajat squad for Euro 2020 was announced but there was never a doubt in our minds that you would be included. However confident you are it must be some feeling when you actually get the call to say that you are going to the Euro’s.
- Now the dust has settled on what was our first major tournament for the mens national team I think the main emotion looking back is pride. Especially the way in which you guys conducted yourselves in the wake of the Christian Eriksen incident in our opening game. W\e spoke at some length with Joni Kauko about the feelings of the squad during that awful incident but can you try to explain your own emotions, firstly at walking out into the Parken Stadium for the game and then as you realised what was happening to Eriksen?
- Ultimately we came away from that first game with a victory and an amazing penalty save from Luke but as we move on we come to the Russia game which I think everyone now sees as a missed opportunity. As the game went on and we became more and more frustrated did you personally have the feeling that you could enter the field and affect the game positively for Finland? I know that many of us watching were waiting for you to come on and unlock something like we have seen you do before.
- Going into our third game there was still a hope that we could qualify for the next stage but getting a result against a hotly tipped Belgium side was always going to be a tall order, We played some good stuff and kept them at bay for much of the game but a cruel own goal from Luke was our undoing. Despite the fact that we didn’t manage to go to the second phase can you express how it felt for you to be at the tournament and how do you see the future of Finnish football now that the first hurdle has been cleared?
- Getting back to club football your own personal performances for Brann so far this season certainly don’t warrant the clubs current Elitserien position, you have again been contributing with goals and assists and your penalty to win the match against Sandefjord on Sunday was a thing of beauty. You paid tribute to Chelsea star Jorginho for the inspiration but it looked much better seeing a Finn score a goal like that.
- You could see how much that win meant to you and all of your Brann team mates. Do you collectively maintain the belief that you can put in the performances to see you pull clear of the relegation zone?
- You will be back with the Huuhkajat squad soon enough as we have some World Cup Qualifiers coming up and an interesting friendly match with Wales. We have started the World Cup campaign quite Ok with two draws from two games but I am sure you guys will be looking to pick up some more points in the forthcoming game. We are pretty much guaranteed a win against France as we beat them last time out. How confident are you that we can make it to the World Cup from this group?
- Well we certainly hope to see you feature over the course of these games Robert and we really do wish you the best of luck with SK Brann for the rest of the season. It is clear to see how hard you work and that you give 100% everytime you enter the pitch. You are an inspiration to young players making their way in the professional game and I know that everyone in Jyvaskyla is proud to call you one of our own.
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