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29 Nov 2018
Steven Taylor, defender for the Wellington Phoenix, is a recent import to the city, having arrived in the capital last July. Originally from Newcastle, he previously played professional football in the UK, but has been lured by the challenge of the Phoenix’s season in the A-League and Wellington’s urban/outdoor lifestyle.
We chatted to him in the lead up to this weekend’s Distance Darby against Perth Glory at Westpac Stadium about settling into his new hometown of Wellington, newly acquired coffee skills, the rite of passage of getting a car stuck in the sand at the Red Rocks and why the Phoenix fans are a unique lot all unto themselves.
Very good! I’ve been very lucky that the players have been showing me around. Taking me to some beautiful places, and I’ve been getting myself out there and having a good look around myself. Finding some fantastic food places, coffee spots, the beaches, the marine life – it’s something I’ve never been used to, especially back in the UK; we don’t really have any of the views that we have out here in Wellington.
I live in Karaka Bay. It’s beautiful. On my days off, I’m on the beach and just relaxing, looking out at the views, with my flat white! I’m honestly so lucky. I wake up an hour-and-a-half early every day to just appreciate the views that I’ve got. I’ve never had that. It’s just view after view after view, and it’s beautiful.
I’ve never had as many barbecues in my life. You just don’t do that back home. I’m really living now. For me, it’s this whole new way of life. A bit of sun on your back, training on the waterfront, training next to a golf course. It’s unbelievable!
Wellington is very, very laid back. Back in the UK, you go to London and places like that, it’s a total rat race. Everyone is rushing around. You come over here, and everyone is just relaxed, chilled out.
Monsoon Poon is one of my favourites. For me it’s one of the top restaurants in the city. You’re spoilt for choice here. Everyone in hospitality is so friendly.
I love my Italian Food, so I’m big into Bella Italia in Petone. Luckily for me, one of my team mates’ dad owns the restaurant, so he’s been magnificent, looking after the boys. The pasta is all homemade and it’s just the best. You know you’re getting good quality food. It’s big inside, the atmosphere is always good. We also have lots of Emporio Coffee. I’m barista trained now – they trained me up there! It was an experience I’d never had before! I can make you a nice flat white. My lattes are a bit average, but I’m working on it!
I like a flat white, so before I go training with the boys, we’ll often have one of them. We do like to go down to the waterfront and spend a lot of time outside, down in Oriental Bay. We often go to a place called Lola Stays to relax there sometimes.
Mt Victoria – it’s great to go up there and relax and appreciate the city from up high. I’m all about the views. But I really love Red Rocks. Going out to the Red Rocks for the first time, that was a breath of fresh air for me. I got my car stuck out in the sand! I wanted to go as far as I could go – I wanted to sample this NZ life myself! So, we got stuck out in the soft sand, and I had to dig out my own wheel, bouncing forward and back to get out! I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I eventually got around the far end and saw the seals. But what an experience! I kept the part about the car pretty quiet, though. Only a couple of the lads know that!
And you can see dolphins and whales in the harbour! Saw the Wellington Whale – got the phone call and ran down to see it.
We’ll celebrate that when we get the Championship! We’ll be pouring that into the cup. But I’ll wait until the end of the season. My parents are big on the wine scene and love their wines, so I’ll be taking them around. But you look after yourself and let your hair down at the end of the season – and you can pour it into your trophies.
In 2014, I came over here with Newcastle United, and played in Wellington on the Football United Tour, so I knew a bit about the city. Last June, Wellington was brought to my attention when I was speaking to [Wellington Phoenix coach] Mark Rudan. It was a challenge that wet my lips. The previous two years had been a struggle for Wellington and this was something I will strive on as a challenge. The club is moving forward now, and you can see the little things are getting better and better. Seeing what it was like to where it is getting like now – it’s a proper football club. To be part of something, which is going in the right direction and with everyone pulling together, it’s healthy.
The first game we had this season was against the Newcastle Jets, and the atmosphere there was phenomenal. It drives the players on. You get some stadiums in the A-League that are very quiet. But we’re really lucky to have passionate fans. Near the end of the game, you see their tops come off, and their waving them around and on the pitch, when we see that – we need to give them something to shout about.
For a professional footballer, you thrive on the atmosphere. As soon as you come out and you feel it, you want to perform for them and don’t want to let them down. So, I get my buzz out of seeing the crowds. Before the end of the season I want to see 34,000 people there. That’s my goal. But as players we need to get the results on the pitch to get those people there.
I think definitely – one hundred per cent! In the 80th minute it’s tradition for many in the crowd to take their shirts off if we’re in the lead.
I’ve seen one or two people do that back home in Newcastle, but nothing like the whole crowd doing it, so I think it‘s a special, unique thing to have and we’re lucky to be part of that!
Get on down to Westpac Stadium and support the Wellington Phoenix as they take on Perth Glory in what's called the 'distance derby'. Tickets are still available.