Blog: Westwood needed a chance like me stresses Taylor
7th May 2013
Ian Taylor falls silent as I ask him about Ashley Westwood's leap from League Two to the Premier League.
There's a short pause before Taylor comes back: "It's some jump. There are not too many who have done that!"
What follows is Taylor's booming laugh.
He's making a point, of course.
Taylor, himself, was playing for Second Division side Port Vale when he was spotted - and signed - by Premier League Sheffield Wednesday before making a further move not long after to his beloved Aston Villa.
He knows, all too well, the intricacies of that step-up in divisions and he tells me that Westwood has done superbly to find his feet so quickly.
Taylor says "all you need is a chance" and offers high praise to manager Paul Lambert for offering Westwood the opportunity of showing his skills in the top division of English football.
Villa have given themselves a great opportunity of winning the basement battle with a host of fantastic results these past few weeks.
Press reports have been dominated with the great feats of Christian Benteke, Gabby Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann as the fab forward trio have scored the goals to push the claret and blues up the table.
But we shouldn't underestimate the impact of Westwood, according to Taylor.
The impact of Taylor often went unnoticed in games, with Dwight Yorke, Dion Dublin and Juan Pablo Angel taking the praise week after week after week.
He knows better than anyone the vital role played in that central zone and he's been impressed with what he's seen from Westwood.
"Westy had done well in his first season in the Premier League. It's a daunting task but he's done well," said Taylor.
"It's some jump, trust me.
"I can only speak for myself. When you come from the lower leagues into the dressing room, it's quite daunting.
"You are walking into the Premier League at a big club in Villa and into a division that is watched by millions worldwide.
"You need confidence in yourself and confidence in your ability. He's clearly got that.
"To be fair, it's helped that the manager has shown great faith in him every week in picking him. That will have given him a boost.
"His story just shows that players can make it, given the right coaching, the right tuition and given a chance!
"It's just having the bottle to give them a chance. Westy has been offered the opportunity and he's done really well.
"People will say he's not spectacular but the hardest thing to do in football is passing the ball to your team-mate. He does that.
"He keeps the ball and keeps it ticking over.
"These sorts of players get overlooked by the pundits and fans don't see the value of players like that because they don't score the goals and do amazing things but they are vital to the team.
"Look at his pass for Gabby at the weekend. People will talk about Gabby finishing it off but they won't appreciate the pass as much.
"It will be interesting to see how many assists he's got this season because it's a fair few."
Westwood has been complemented in midfield by Fabian Delph, another young lion whose impact has all too often been overlooked.
Taylor sees a hungry starlet with his best years ahead of him, after seemingly overcoming injury problems which had previously dogged his career.
"Fabian has come on these last few weeks," continued Taylor.
"All Fabian needed was to stay fit and have a run of games.
"He found it difficult because he was playing, not playing, getting suspended, getting injured.
"Now he's settled down, he is getting better each week. He's growing in stature and improving.
"Fabian will be pleased with the latter half of the season - playing a host of games in our good run.
"He will definitely be a big player for us next season.
"I remember Gary McAllister saying to me: 'Watch out for this boy, he's going to be a really good player.'
"I can see what he means. The thing is, too, he's only young and he's got plenty of time on his hands.
"He's a good lad, he's got a good attitude and the manager will take great pride in bringing players like him through and making him a top Premier League player.
"With the manager being a midfielder himself he appreciates the need for ball retention. It's clearly a big plus in his vision for the future.
"He's looking at Fabian and Westy to be the guys in the middle of the park that keep the ball for him, along with Yacouba Sylla, who's still learning about the top-flight.
"These guys don't fly forward and score loads of goals. But they keep things ticking over in midfield."
Taylor has enjoyed watching Villa's renaissance these past few weeks and believes the formation has played a part in the move up the table.
Taylor believes the central three of Westwood, Delph and Sylla have worked well as a unit.
"When you're talking about diminutive midfielders, you do need to get the team structure right," added Taylor.
"Having the right balance helps each player. If, for example, you had Yacouba as a pairing with just Fabian, it might not be as good a mix. It would possibly be the same with Yacouba and Westy.
"But putting the three in there has been a good mix in the past few games. It's been a good combination."
paul brown, blogs,
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