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Hungry for goals, but Falkirk striker Taylor has appetite for much more

L YLE TAYLOR passed up an open goal.

His 18 goals are cherished, but Lyle Taylor has wider aims than simply scoring
His 18 goals are cherished, but Lyle Taylor has wider aims than simply scoring

It seemed uncharacteristic given how predatory he has been this season, although admittedly it was not the same sort of gaping chance that has helped bring the striker such lustre since joining Falkirk.

The first question in interviews is often an uncomplicated query just to get things going, and Taylor was given a tap-in as he was invited simply to appraise the form that has established him as the most potent forward in the Irn-Bru First Division. All that was left was for him to roll out an easy answer. Instead he rolled his eyes. "It's been good," said the striker.

Apathy can be a common trait among players who feel as though they are being held against their will after a day's training, but Taylor was only reflecting a lack of interest in a tedious question. The Englishman can be engaging and inquisitive, and he speaks expansively when allowed the room to do so. He attended to the subject of his goal tally as dutifully as he has on the pitch – "My target is 30 goals" – but he will not allow his search for improvement to become obscured by the 18 he has scored so far or the Irn-Bru First Division Player of the Month award he won in December. "I'm not going to start setting month-to-month targets as then you can lose track of what got you to where you are," said Taylor.

He can be excused such caution as Taylor has had to seek out his success without the aid of the spotlight. The forward has found himself in a league of his own of late but his career was being played out amid the murkier realms of non-league football and in the shadows at more prominent clubs in England before he was picked up for free by Steven Pressley having impressed in pre-season friendlies against Bolton Wanderers and Middlesbrough. A hat trick in the latter game proved to be a portent for the season but it also pointed to a talent that had perhaps been disregarded prematurely.

That Taylor has found a settled place at a club whose fortunes are in the hands of a group of teenagers has afforded him a level of patience and encouragement absent elsewhere. Falkirk have found themselves apart from the promotion race but there has been scope to marvel at the potential of a side that have been competitive despite at times resembling a school team with delusions of grandeur.

Much of Pressley's squad has been harvested from the club's academy and the average age of the starting XI against Partick Thistle last weekend struggled to creep above 20. Taylor is 22 so he has found it easy to settle, even if he cannot relate to the way in which many of his team-mates' forged full-time careers given the way in which doors to academies were closed to him following questions about his attitude.

"People I've spoken to who used to coach me said I probably wasn't ready, I wasn't the most mature of kids, but I was a kid," said Taylor. "If a kid is not allowed to be immature there is no point in being young. Everyone is too quick to grow up now.

"Would I be playing football now if I'd been in an academy from the age of eight? I don't know. But it's not about how you got there, or which academy you played for, or who you played against, because many a player has fallen by the wayside after going to the best academies. I've had a lot people give me opportunities but also a lot of times when I've been kicked in the teeth. But you learn and that helps you grow up."

Taylor might have struggled to catch the eye of coaches but neither did he draw the attention of the authorities. "It wasn't down to being malicious, there was just part of me that wasn't ready for that pressure of playing for an academy and having to be so serious about football," he said. The striker still finds he can get "caught out" acting like an errant youth but the game has transformed into a career since his move to Scotland.

With 18 months still to run on his contract, Taylor would prove relatively expensive should any club wish to try to lure him away this month. The striker is dismissive of such speculation in a manner which will appease fretful fans but there is sincerity in the way he values the progress he has made. "A lot people say 'oh, it's about this, it's about that, it's about money, it's having nice things' but it's not. It's about playing football," he said. "Wherever I go next, I want to play football because that will aid my development. You never stop learning. You've always got something to achieve or improve on."

Assistant manager Stevie Crawford has been a font of expertise for the young striker, having played in Europe and at international level, while Taylor has also been stimulated by the challenge of prospering in the first division. "Craw has always got tips and ways to do things better or more efficiently," he said. "It's no coincidence that my all-round play has got better and I'm scoring more goals. I have to keep working on that.

"That's another part of my development; assessing how I'm playing and how well I think I can do; not settling for something which I think is not good enough."

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