Jon Taylor talks through his Shrewsbury Town academy experience.
Jon Taylor joined the youth ranks at Shrewsbury Town Football Club in 2008 following his release from Wigan Athletic and went on to make over 140 appearances in blue and amber.
The tricky and pacey winger was highly rated as a youngster and played sporadically in the Town first-team whilst still a youth trainee. Since leaving Town, Taylor has enjoyed a Sky Bet League One play-off final win with Rotherham and has also represented Peterborough United.
Like many Town academy graduates, Taylor joined the club and lived at Walford College with his teammates. The winger feels this experience was key for his personal and footballing development.
“My first memories of joining Town would definitely be going down to Walford College and staying there for three years.” Said Taylor.
“Andre Gray said it was the best three years of his life and I would agree with that as well. It was unbelievable being there with all of the lads.
“Living there was just banter every day and everyone would be joking with each other - second-year scholars would be on top of the first-years.
“I think going there was the best thing that happened for me. Getting away from Liverpool for two years gave me time to get my head down and focus on the football.
“We would train like three times a day and we had the gym always open. We could use the sports hall to work on ball work. I remember Andre and me used to go there at night time and I’d just whack balls at him to work on his touch.
“We had everything there to help us develop and turn into a professional footballers.
“At Town the first-team always give the younger lads a chance. All of the players that came through went on to do well elsewhere as well. It’s all because Shrewsbury gave them that chance to develop. The Chairman has so much belief in the youth set up.
“I still speak to the Chairman now and he genuinely wants us all to do well and he loves seeing us do well. He’s done amazing for Shrewsbury as a Town and as the football club.”
Despite being one of the smallest members of the Town academy, the winger didn’t let his size deter him from pushing for a professional deal. Taylor’s journey to his first contract wasn’t easy but is thankful to a plethora of Town staff that aided his bid to join the first-team.
“It was hard work every day with Nigel Vaughan – he had us working very hard. I have to thank him a lot, because he was the first person to give me a real chance,” said Taylor.
“Gary Peters wanted taller players coming through at the time but Nigel really liked me and wanted to give me a contract.
“I remember the season had finished and he said ‘I want to give you a contract, but I need to wait for the first-team manager to leave’.
“I was on holiday when they offered me my scholarship and I couldn’t believe it – I was only 15 or 16 at the time.
“Dave Hughes came in after Nigel and he was excellent in helping us all develop as footballers – he was a great coach.
“My first thoughts of the youth team would be those two really. It was the best two years meeting all the lads and I’m still mates with all of them.
“I got released from Wigan and Tony Kelly, a family friend, said ‘I’ll take you to Shrewsbury’ and I ended up going down and playing a few games.
“The season had already finished and they had already given out all of the scholarships, but luckily for me I did well in the games and they wanted to give me one.
“I was over the moon. It was an opportunity to leave Liverpool and come down here for two years and it was excellent for me.
“I came into the first-team when Paul Simpson was the manager, so I have to thank him. He’s the person who gave me my first professional debut.
“He had me training with the first-team when I was a second-year scholar. All the first-team were amazing and they all helped us.
“I can remember my first ever game, my first start against Burton Albion. I was awful in the first-half and I thought my career could be over here. Luckily I went on to score twice, but it was all down to the lads helping me along the way.
“I played most of my games under Graham Turner. He had so much belief in me and I loved playing under him. My highlight from my time there would have to be my first game. I lost my granddad a week before and scoring two goals on my first start was amazing.
“I think I scored three in my first four starts and that set me on to have a good career.
“I think when I left was the right time for me to leave. I did well that year but I thought it was time for me to move on. I just needed a fresh start.
“My advice for any Shrewsbury youth team player now would be just to keep your head down and work hard – that’s all you need to do.”