Looking Back At: Billy Taylor

Welcome to another piece from our in-house historian Malcolm Johnson, this time looking back at former Manchester City man Billy Taylor.

Date of birth: 31.7.39, Born: Edinburgh, Height: 5ft 9in, Position: Midfield

City appearances: League: 74(5), goals: 7
FA & League Cups: 10, goals: 1
Total: 84(5), goals: 8

William Taylor, usually known as Billy or Bill, played for Tynecastle Boys Club in his native Edinburgh before joining local non-league side Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic. At the age of 20 he moved south to start his professional footballing career with Division Two (Championship) side Leyton Orient in August 1959. He made just 23 league appearances in four seasons with the O’s as they were promoted to Division One and relegated straight back again in 1963. He was soon back with a First Division club though as Nottingham Forest signed him in October that year for £4,000. However, he was little more than a reserve in his six seasons with them, playing a total of 23 games (11 as substitute) and scoring one goal.

Manager Ron Gray signed Taylor for the Imps on a free transfer in the 1969 close season, the 30-year-old coming with the reputation of being something of a utility player but being almost always employed in midfield by City. At the time he came to Lincoln he was in the process of securing a full FA coaching badge which was a sign of where his future career lay.

Bill Taylor made his Imps debut in a 3-3 home draw with Colchester that got the season off to a disappointing start although Maurice Burton in his Football Echo match report considered Taylor to have had the most satisfactory debut of the three new signings on view. Injured in a League Cup defeat at Watford he missed the next game but returned for a second successive 3-3 draw at home, this time with Southend United, scoring his first goal for the club to put City 3-1 up and seemingly heading for win before the visitors came back with two late goals. He was on the scoresheet again six weeks later with a brace, including one from the penalty spot as York were beaten 4-0 at Sincil Bank.

City’s form had been largely indifferent to start with, but with the powerful Trevor Meath alongside him the cultured Taylor showed an ability to produce a defence-splitting pass often to the benefit of the speedy Rod Fletcher up front. With Fletcher amongst the goals City had reached ninth place with thoughts of a promotion challenge before a serious injury put Meath out of the side.

After a goal-less draw at home to Wrexham towards the end of March which was seen as putting an end to any promotion hopes Taylor was made something of a scapegoat by supporters and seemingly Gray agreed, as the Scotsman found himself dropped for the first time. However, he was back after one game, replacing Phil Hubbard in midfield as the youngster was required to move to full back following an injury to Graham Taylor.

The season ended with City in eighth place, with Billy Taylor playing in a total of 44 league and cup games, including one substitute appearance, and scoring 5 goals.

Not long after the end of the season the failure to mount a promotion challenge had brought about the dismissal of Ron Gray as manager, with trainer Bert Loxley promoted in his place. He started the 1970/71 season with Taylor partnered now in midfield by Phil Hubbard. With the latter in good goalscoring form a promising start included a League Cup win against a Sunderland side newly relegated from the First Division, although Taylor failed to add to the 2-1 scoreline when he had a late penalty saved by keeper Jim Montgomery. He was a regular in the side until left out for a match which produced a 4-1 win over Scunthorpe, but in the next game replaced the injured Tom Brooks off the bench to play as sweeper in a hard-fought 0-0 at leaders Notts County.

Taylor then regained his starting place, although missing a total of four games through injury as some poor results partly due to a series of injuries to several players saw City down to 18th place in mid-February. Manager Bert Loxley then took steps to strengthen the side, including the signing of one-time Manchester United player Nobby Lawton from Brighton. The new man took Taylor’s place in the side, but injuries to other players meant he was back in the starting lineup after two games, scoring what was to be his last goal for the club in a remarkable 4-5 defeat at home to York City. But new manager David Herd, appointed to replace Loxley at the beginning of March, left him out for the last three games of the season as a win and two draws were not enough to prevent City finishing in the re-election zone. During the season Taylor had appeared in a total of 45 league and cup games, including 4 as substitute, scoring 3 goals.

In the close season Herd surprised many by releasing Taylor on a free transfer, giving the reason that players had to go in order to make room for required new defenders. That was the end of Billy Taylor’s playing career at the age of 31 as he joined Second Division Fulham as reserve team coach. A year later, on the arrival of new manager Alec Stock he was named as first team coach. This was to involve him working with such players as Bobby Moore and Alan Mullery, coaching the team that took part in the 1975 FA Cup Final. Prior to that (and despite being a Scotsman) he had begun working as a coach to the England team under Don Revie and later Ron Greenwood. At club level, he moved from Fulham to Manchester City in May 1976, and then to Second Division side Oldham Athletic three years after that. Bill Taylor also continued in the England set-up until his tragically early death from a brain tumour on 30th November 1981 at the age of 42. The following February, Ron Greenwood took a full-strength England side to Maine Road to play an equally strong Manchester City side in a memorial match in his honour.

Billy Taylor’s Football League record totalled 122 appearances with 7 goals scored.