As a player, former Wellington Phoenix defender Steven Taylor developed a reputation as a dressing room prankster.
At English club Newcastle United, where he played more than 200 games, Taylor performed magic tricks and had driven to training in a yellow three-wheeled Reliant Robin, similar to Del Boy’s motor in Only Fools & Horses.
He shaved a sleeping teammate’s head, leaving him with a Mohican haircut, and chased another around a training pitch with a fake tarantula.
But these days, Taylor (37) takes his role in football very seriously.
He’s the head coach at Dubai-based Gulf United where he’s won back-to-back promotions, after moving there from Wellington.
“At Newcastle, I was always the loud guy in the dressing room, the loud guy on the pitch, but you come away from it as you get older
“You’ve got to become serious and be an example to the young lads. You start to realise, ‘I have to change the way I am.’
“Spending time with the All Blacks (in New Zealand) was a big culture shock to me. I never understood all that stuff but the army camps with them in pre-season — wow, your values change. I’ve definitely changed in the last three, four years.”
In a full feature story on the NUFC site, Taylor says he started to seriously consider a coaching career after leaving England for Major League Soccer club Portland Timbers (“the best thing I did”), and then to the Phoenix.
“I knew part of it, if I wanted to go into management, was dealing with characters. I’m big on emotion and building the confidence of the players. When I’m watching, I’m always visualising myself on the pitch with them. What would I want as a centre-back? What do I enjoy (when) playing against teams?”
He said he draws on his experiences with top managers he’s played for, including Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson.
Of his ambitions at Gulf United, he says the key is having good staff around him and players who are hungry for success.
“Every day, we have 7.30am sessions until 9.30am. They’re in the heat, training, but (the players) are all hungry and want to go to the next level, not just here, to Europe.
“Last year I moved six players, and I’m looking for more this year. We’re a very well-talked-about club now and we want to go to that next level.”
He’s not joking.