You Can't Take Carlisle From the Boy

You Can't Take Carlisle From the Boy

Cleveland Steaming!

In the pre-season media coverage of Carlisle United a few articles stuck out for me. One in particular saw Cleveland Taylor stating that he would be a better player and asking the fans to get behind him. What struck me about the article was the way Taylor put his argument together. Many players say things like: 'I'll give it everything for the fans.'

In Cleveland's case there was a simple thread to his message. He'd been signed in mid-season, found himself playing catch up for fitness and understanding and - as a result - failed to give his best in the previous campaign. He knew he was better than that and this season he'd show us. It struck me then that the message was a hostage to fortune unless he delivered. It also struck me that only a player who knew he had much more to give could present such an argument.

For those of us who braved the annihilation at QPR Cleveland was - without doubt - the only thing to cheer as the final minutes ticked down. It's a sobering thought that the away trip to Loftus Road could have been a league match. It's not that we didn't try, the problem that night was the pace, the assured first touch of all 11 opposing players and the skill level that allowed them to find a few gaps and exploit them without mercy.

Up against it in those circumstances any CUFC pass that was less than perfect tended to cost us possession and we managed little real threat. Except where Cleveland Taylor was concerned. QPR's only answer to Cleveland was a series of cynical challenges that gifted us set-pieces. He slipped tackles, found space and managed a series of moves in which he had time to look up and place passes. On that stage he looked confident, elsewhere this season he's looked deadly. The man steams through challenges and shows a confidence that's infectious.

His record of assists on goals doesn't do justice to the fact that it's often Cleveland's crosses that cause panic in opposing defences. He may not supply the final ball every time, but he often supplies the overlapping run, or the jink inside, that opens up the gap that leads - eventually - to a begging chance.

Above all else I've been impressed so far with the way Cleveland uses his speed to find space and tends to roam far enough inside to leave those marking him with the tough decision about whether to follow or hold their position. He should - probably - have broken the deadlock against Orient, his header dropped onto the bar, a fraction less pace on it and we'd have had a goal that we deserved on the balance of attacking play.

Either way, he was right to set out his argument ahead of the season. Like a few in the Blue Army last season I had moments with my head in my hands where Cleveland was concerned. Away at Millwall, with three goals in our net and Danny Livesey red carded it struck me that we'd failed to attack well all afternoon and Cleveland had made little impact.

A few games into this season and Cleveland is - arguably - the best blue shirt out there. More to the point, the impact of his running, ball holding and passing means our forward line has looked confident and been able to score from a rapid break out. That margin of victory over Yeovil looks a lot more comfortable than it should.

Heading into first-half time added you'd have got massive odds against the final score. Once again, our man Cleveland came into his own with some top rate skills that looked all the better once we'd got on terms and obliged Yeovil to break out again.

One player doesn't make a team, let alone a season. But after last season's slow-start we're seeing a different Cleveland Taylor and I - for one - am looking forward to watching him for the rest of the campaign.

The Blue Army bit.

Thanks to those of you who've contributed. One odd thing about work in the forthcoming Blue Army book is the number of times people have e-mailed me or come up to me at games and said: 'I must get round to sending you some stuff.' Don't be shy, I'm aware that a few people are not sending in stories because they think them too ordinary and that is a waste so far as I can see.

It's exactly those tales about useless pies, hitchhiking to games and the time you found yourself in a chip shop queue with Pop Robson that will make this an honest record of the life and times of Carlisle United supporters. Details of how to contribute are - as always - on the books page of my site: