SAMMY Taylor, who has died at the age of 80 following a final few months blighted by Alzheimer’s, was that now all but extinct species of footballer – the Scottish “journeyman”. He would have been “Sammy who?” in his native city of Glasgow but he was a huge star in his adopted home in Preston.
He spent just one season in Scottish senior football, signing for Falkirk from Dunipace Juniors in 1954, but, after eight goals in 24 games for the Bairns, he was hot property. Preston North End boss Frank Hill came north, offered the club £8,500 and Sammy the going rate for these days – £12 per week – and he became the latest in a lengthy list of Scots to head south to Deepdale during the close season of 1955.
The Scottish colony at the famous old club was a bit sparse, but did include two Scotland captains in Willie Cunningham and Tommy Docherty, a future Scotland cap in Sammy Baird – who went north to Rangers just as Taylor came south – and Scotland B cap Angus Morrison. However, the mainspring of that Preston team, then holding a consistent place in the upper echelons of the old First Division – the 1950s equivalent of today’s Premiership, was the incomparable Tom Finney, “The Preston Plumber”.
Taylor spent most of his first season understudying the great man. However, England calls meant he got a few games that season, making a winning debut against Newcastle United at Deepdale in August 1955, and scoring his first goal, against the mighty Busby Babes of Manchester United, at Old Trafford.
The following season, he switched to the left wing, displacing Morrison. It would have taken a very rare talent to prise the number 7 shirt off the back of the future Sir Tom.
Sammy did, however, accomplish one feat which defeated Preston’s greatest player, when he scored a hat trick against Portsmouth in 1957, in the process becoming the first North End winger to score three goals in a single game since 1931.
Taylor went on to play 166 games for North End, scoring 48 goals at a rate of one every three and a half games, a terrific strike rate for a winger. However, Finney retired, the team broke up and, following relegation in 1961, Sammy Taylor moved on.
He didn’t quite come “back up the road”, only going as far north as Carlisle, where he spent three good seasons: promotion in the first, relegation in the second, another promotion in his third at Brunton Park. He played just over 100 games for the Cumbrians, where his close dribbling and goal scoring made him as firm a favourite with their fans as he had been at Preston.
His final senior stop was Southport, for a season, before he wound down his career at Morecambe. Sammy decided to stay in Preston, working firstly at Leyland Motors, then at British Aerospace, up until he reached formal retiring age.
He was a founder member of the Preston Former Players Association and continued to follow from the Deepdale terraces the club he had been so proud to play for. He also enjoyed his games of bowls at Longton Bowling Club.
Sammy Taylor is survived by his wife Jean, sons John, Gordon and David and their families. Another son, Sammy Taylor Junior, pre- deceased him.