Tour talk: Neil Taylor
5th July 2013
After overcoming the biggest challenge of his career, Neil Taylor now has two more big obstacles to climb as he looks to complete his remarkable return at Swansea City.
The broken ankle sustained against Sunderland last September appeared to write off any hope Taylor had of playing again in the 2012-13 campaign.
But the 24-year-old was back before the season was over - his appearance off the bench against Chelsea in April capped a phenomenal recovery from his massive setback.
Now, however, he faces a real battle for the starting spot in Michael Laudrup's plans following the incredible emergence of Ben Davies.
That, along with the challenge of finding his feet again after the short break, means Taylor has plenty to tackle in the coming weeks - starting with the current pre-season tour of Holland.
"I think the end of the season came at a good time for me," said Taylor. "If the season had kept going then I think I could have pushed myself too much.
"You sometimes find when you come back from an injury you pick up a different injury in an area linked to the original problem.
"I found I was over-compensating too much when I came back. Coming off after a game my right leg would be more tired than my left leg because you're working harder with your right as your left leg can't take it.
"It will take more time - Tatey told me it was almost a year before his was back to normal.
"But it feels good. I'm happy enough with where I am at the moment.
"I have had a good summer. I took ten days off, but then started working towards getting ready for pre-season. That was mainly working on my ankle and calf strength to ensure I was ready to come into pre-season to push on.
"I did everything Oscar (Garcia) asked me to do. He was very pleased with how I conducted myself over the summer, and now I want to kick on.
"We are doing double training sessions out here in Holland, which means the legs ache a little, but it's all part of the process. Everyone is working so hard because we know it's going to be a big season for the club and all the boys will play their part."
While Taylor has endured a busy summer preparing himself for pre-season, he recently visited India via his role with the Barclays Premier League's Premier Skills Kolkata Goalz Project, which is run in partnership with the British Council.
Taylor spent time in Calcutta - the birthplace of his mother - coaching local schoolchildren and clubs along with carrying out some charity work during his two-day trip.
"I wanted to see how big football was out in India, because all I remember is people playing cricket out there," he said.
"But when I went to India, all I saw in Calcutta was people in the parks playing football.
"I was caught by surprise that they knew everything about the Swans, and they even knew who I was. I didn't think they would be so knowledgeable about the Swansea City left-back.
"The kids were asking me about Ash and Michu too. It shows just how big the Premier League is.
"But it's not just the interest in watching the game, it's now about playing it too.
"The Kolkata Goalz Project has really taken off, and it's gone from 30 kids to over 1,000.
"To be able to coach some of these kids and pass on some advice was an absolute privilege. They said it was an honour for them to meet a Premier League footballer, but they truly inspired me."
It was a trip Taylor will make again in the future, with the Wales international clearly touched by his experience.
He said: "Initially I went out there to see why there aren't footballers of my origin making it in the game. Do they get enough opportunities, or are people aware of the talent out there?
"But I soon got involved in charity work when I was out there, and I was keen to visit a school called Future Hope.
"I wanted to meet the kids who are schooled there. These are kids who have not had a great background, but sport inspires them.
"The coaches at Calcutta Goals are incredible too. They coach two hours a day for four days a week - and that's as a volunteer. But they are more than coaches, they are fatherly-figures to some young footballers.
"I will get out there again - maybe next year or the year after - while I am looking to do more things here that can help people, football clubs and charities out there."
Taylor will also be looking to do everything he can to help Laudrup's squad as they look ahead to a campaign that also includes Europa League commitments along with defending the Capital One Cup and tackling a another Premier League season on top of FA Cup demands.
With the third qualifying round stage awaiting the Swans in the first week of August, champions Manchester United then pose the first fixture of the league in what is set to be a challenging start to the 2013-14 campaign.
But Taylor insists a successful pre-season will be crucial in sending the Swans off to the start they are looking to make.
"With the added commitments in Europe, this pre-season will be vitally important to us," he added.
"We have got to be mentally and physically prepared because it's another big season, and a demanding one too.
"But we're out in Holland at the moment putting in a lot of hard work which will benefit us immensely this season.
"All the new players have gelled in well, and there's a real sense of excitement amongst the squad."