FFA Cup coach spotlight: Chris Taylor

Ahead of the huge Victorian Westfield FFA Cup derby this Friday night between South and the Knights, we analyse the career upswing of South Melbourne's Chris Taylor.

From the humble surroundings of Chaplin Reserve in Sunshine, to the state-of-the-art facilities at South Melbourne, Chris Taylor is now the toast of Victorian football.

But it has not always been smooth sailing for the Leicester-born coach.

Long before guiding South to the state's inaugural PS4 National Premier Leagues title last year, winning an unprecedented treble with Dandenong Thunder in 2012 and leading Melbourne Knights to within a penalty kick of a Victorian Premier League crown four years earlier, Taylor was making his name at Sunshine George Cross - a club that gave us Kevin Muscat, Manny Muscat and John Markovski.

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Not to mention Ernie Merrick, Paul Trimboli, Damian Mori, Craig Foster and Ernie Tapai all called Chaplin Reserve home at some stage throughout their careers.

And it is there where the 55-year-old enjoyed the highest of highs and lowest of lows.

"I think you take knowledge from all of your experiences. George Cross was certainly an experience for me," Taylor told www.theffacup.com.au.

With George Cross on its knees and facing an uncertain future, having been one of eight Victorian teams to participate in the now defunct National Soccer League (NSL), Taylor returned to Sunshine - where he enjoyed nine years as a player after Sunshine City merged with George Cross in the 1980s - and helped the club climb from the depths of the state's third-tier competition to the VPL in consecutive seasons.

While George Cross' return to the pinnacle of Victorian football gave Taylor iconic status, it was not long before plans were afoot to call time on his tenure as the relationship between coach, committee and fans turned sour.

Despite avoiding relegation on the final day of the season in 2005, with limited resources and a teenage Manny Muscat leading the charge, Taylor was sacked the following campaign after just six games.

"Going back to the club, it is like one of the heroes returns and the first year was fantastic. The first year is like the honeymoon. The second year people become a little bit more familiar with you but we got promoted," Taylor said.

"Probably the biggest achievement for me was the third year, staying in the Premier League with a very, very young and inexperienced side.

"The difficulty is, though, the longer you are at the club the more people become familiar with you and George Cross typified that. 

"The first year no one dare speak to you, the second year people get a bit more familiar with you and the third year the bloke in the canteen is trying to tell you how to pick the team.

"That kind of summed up what the club was like. But football over here in general, two years is a good lifespan for you at most clubs because people want change for the sake of change."

Fast-forward nine years and the Englishman has gone from a maligned coach in the western suburbs to one of, if not, the best in Victoria.

During that time he has unearthed Socceroo full-back Ivan Franjic, who was handed his debut at the tender age of 17, while Mate Dugandzic (Knights) and Steve Pantelidis (Altona East) were both provided with a platform to eventual Hyundai A-League careers.

Taylor himself is ambitious and confident of progressing beyond the boundaries of the PS4 NPL, though he would much prefer to embark on that journey with South, who are not giving up hope of competing in the Hyundai A-League in the future.

"My immediate focus is on South Melbourne and my dream would be to get them in the A-League," he added.