Taylor takes centre-stage in Jack Mag
2nd May 2015
"We're a long ball team now," jokes Neil Taylor, referring to Swansea City's adaptable approach this season, which has helped them soar to their best-ever Premier League points total.
An ingredient that has perhaps been missing in recent seasons, the Swans have found a resilient edge, an "adaptability" to their game - as manager Garry Monk has often referred to it - enabling them to grind out results and claim vital points in matches they may have either drawn or lost in years gone by.
So far this season, Monk's men have picked up a total of 13 points from losing positions, which includes coming from behind to achieve memorable victories over Arsenal, Manchester United and most recently the record-breaking win over Newcastle United, as well as securing important draws with Everton, QPR, West Ham United and Sunderland.
"I think it's the most street-wise team we've had," considers Taylor, who has been an almost ever-present figure in Swansea's history-making team this campaign.
"We've developed our game and shown we can win in different ways to get results.
"For example, we've shown we can pick up draws from losing positions, we've shown we can come from behind to win games, and when we're ahead, we can keep a lead.
"As a group, this is the strongest and most tight-knit team we've had.
"It's been an unbelievable season so far. It's a great achievement to break the points record, and we're looking forward to reaching new heights."
Due to suspension, Taylor was unable to play a part in Swansea's 3-2 victory at St. James' Park last Saturday that ensured they reached the 50-point mark in the Premier League for the first time.
But having made 31 league appearances this season, the Welsh left-back has certainly played a key role in Monk's men's overall success this campaign.
And with his serious injury - a broken ankle he sustained against Sunderland in September 2012 - now long behind him Taylor feels he is returning to his best form.
"I feel like I'm back in my rhythm now," he says. "When I came back from injury I was desperate to play some games - I knew that I needed a period of matches to get my body back to where it needs to be. I think every player who has suffered an injury like that will tell you the same thing.
"It was a couple of years back now and it was a difficult time, but you have to get through it.
"I do feel like I've become stronger because of it. When you come through an injury like that, it can make you a better player.
"Thankfully, I've come out the other side and am very proud about where I've been able to get to from the injury I had.
"I just want to carry on from here and get back to where I left off pre-injury.
"I've had games this season, and I feel like I am coming back now, but I think there's still a lot more to come from me."
For Taylor - and indeed the rest of Swansea's Welsh contingent - 2014-15 has proved a remarkable season on both the club and country front.
While the Swans have exceeded all expectations in the top flight this campaign, the national team have managed to ensure that every Welshman is dreaming of watching their country compete in their first major finals since 1958.
Taylor and co have shown a steely determination during their qualification campaign for Euro 2016 so far, no better displayed than the emphatic 3-0 victory in Israel in March.
So impressive in fact that Wales have reached the half-way stage unbeaten and level on points with Group B leaders Belgium, who have their noses in front on goal difference.
Taylor and his Dragons team-mates have been rewarded for their magnificent Euro 2016 exploits by recording Wales' highest position in FIFA rankings history - rocketing up a total of 15 places to 22nd in the world.
"It's been an unbelievable season so far on the club and country fronts," Taylor adds.
"There has been a lot of hard work involved and a lot of planning to get us to where we are; a lot of building on young players, which is now baring the fruits of its labour.
"We're at a point now where we want to do even better than just the ranking because we want to qualify for the Euros.
"If we can qualify with Wales, it would be a dream come true for all of us. But we can't afford to get too ahead of ourselves. We can start talking about that in October or November maybe, when we know where we are.
"It's a big game for us in June, and if we can get a positive result against Belgium, then we put ourselves in a great position.
"We've done all we can so far, so hopefully, with a bit of luck, we can get there."
There is still plenty of time between now and Wales' date with destiny when they host Belgium at the Cardiff City Stadium in their crucial qualifier on June 12.
With that in mind, Taylor is fully focused on finishing the season well with the Swans and making sure that even though they have surpassed their record points total, they don't take their foot off the pedal.
"Usually we don't finish a season well," he adds. "We tend to start slow and finish them slow.
"This season though, we started really quick and were top of the league for a little while.
"We are looking to finish the season better than we have done previously and, at the moment, there have been no signs of us letting up.
"When we've had bad spells, we've come through them. You can see we're still pushing for points."
Should the Swans beat Stoke this afternoon, another top-flight record will have been broken, meaning they will have bettered the eight home wins achieved in 2012.
And that, to go along with the six away wins Monk's men have collected this season - their most since returning to the top-flight - makes for impressive reading.
So what next for the record-breaking Swans?
Despite acknowledging the difficulty of the task the Swans now face due to their own success, Taylor insists they will not stand still.
"The expectations will rise, so it will be tough," admits the 26-year-old.
"For a football club this size, it's about consolidating our position in the league. You have to look at teams like Stoke, who have done it over a number of years.
"To push to the next level you need big funding because the top six clubs are massive clubs now, who have large amounts of expenditure.
"But if you want to be a top team, you have to keep pushing.
"I think for us, in the position that we are in, winning a cup again would be great. We did it in 2013, and we have the quality to do it again."
And as displayed by Monk's side this season, with the remarkable history they have made, nothing is outside the realms of possibility.