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From Leicester to Lakeside - South Melbourne boss Chris Taylor continually cultivates success

by Tim McGlone

As things stand, Chris Taylor isn't a famous name in the world of football.

In fact, if you travelled outside of Melbourne, the name Chris Taylor might only ring a bell to the most knowledgeable followers of Australian football.

But if the man known as 'CT' continues to win, as he has done so prolifically for the last decade, this could all change.

Taylor is head coach of South Melbourne FC, the reigning champion of the National Premier League Victoria, and four-time champion of the old National Soccer League.

Last season was their first triumph in the state league in nine years, and it came in Taylor's first full season at the club, having been appointed midway through the 2013 campaign.

Before that, Taylor was at Dandenong Thunder. Under his guidance, the Thunder completed an astonishing treble in 2012, where they won the VPL premiership, minor premiership and the state knockout Dockerty Cup all in the same campaign - the first team in 31 years to achieve such a feat in Victorian football.

Prior to his stint at Dandenong, he was Victorian coach of the year at former NSL heavyweight Melbourne Knights, after leading a run to the club's first state league Grand Final in 25 years in 2009. The journeyman coach has also had stints at Sunbury, Altona Magic, Melbourne Raiders, Green Gully, Altona East Phoenix and Sunshine George Cross.

Taylor's South Melbourne side are currently undefeated across all competitions in 2015, sitting top of the league after 12 games and requiring only two more victories to qualify for the FFA Cup finals. South is the club which current Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou made his name at, winning two national titles as a player, and two as a coach.

In fact, one only needs to look at Taylor's record with South, compared to Postecoglou's at the same club, to realise Taylor's potential to coach at a higher level:

Ange Postecoglou (league only) 127 league matches, 68 wins, 27 draws, 32 losses 54% winning record, 25% losing record

Chris Taylor (league only) 49 matches, 34 wins, 8 draws, 7 losses 69% winning record, 14% losing record

Ange Postecoglou (all competitions) 138 matches, 74 wins, 27 draws, 37 losses 54% winning record, 27% losing record

Chris Taylor(all competitions) 57 matches, 40 wins, 8 draws, 9 losses 70% winning record, 16% losing record

Of his future in the game, Taylor admits he is motivated to move higher but for now, is content at the Lakeside Stadium with the famous South Melbourne.

"I suppose we're all ambitious and we all want to go places," Taylor told

"I think the thing that drives me is being at a club like South Melbourne, and seeing the history and the passion of the club, my dream would be to take us to the A-League.

"It would be fantastic to build a culture at the club now, and then be able to take that culture into a higher level, because I think it's great what we've got here (at South Melbourne).

"That's a driving ambition that I've got."

Taylor originally hails from Leicester, a city located in England's East Midlands, and remains an ardent supporter of Leicester City. The Foxes are currently battling relegation in England's top flight but are on an impressive winning run which has them clear of the Premier League drop zone.

He made the move to Australia in his early twenties, and forged a career with Sunshine George Cross in the National Soccer League in the 1980s, before retiring at the age of 30 after a serious hip injury.

In nine competitive years playing at Australia's highest level, Taylor made his name as a tough tackling, no-nonsense defender. This playing style transcends into Taylor's personality; he is a straight-talking and level-headed coach, famous for his minimal changes in facial expressions. If Taylor ever decides to give away coaching, he would surely have a career as a world class poker player.

Since his playing days, the 55-year old has amassed around 20 years of coaching experience in Victoria, and is one of several state coaches who must be under consideration to coach at a higher level. Of the ten clubs currently participating in the A-League, there are five who have looked overseas and appointed a European as their head coach.

Taylor isn't frustrated by this foreign influx, and says that a European perspective is something that will add to the round ball code in Australia.

"The thing you have to look at with A-League clubs is that they are clubs who are essentially selling a product," he added.

"You look at Adelaide who have got a Spanish coach (Josep Gombau), I think there's a Spanish coach that Brisbane are maybe looking at bringing in, and that's good because it sells a different culture and a different style of play.

"That being said you need strength in your networks, so for that reason I can certainly see why the most successful coaches in Australia are going to be local coaches.

"Guys like Ange, Graham Arnold, for me they are the two best coaches we've had in this country."

Taylor said his love of coaching stems from simply being engrained in the togetherness of a club scenario.

"I got into coaching because it's still the closest thing to being in the dressing room," he continued.

"I could coach five year olds, I could coach women. The thing I like about it is being a part of a club, and being a part of a club's culture.

"The difficulty as a coach is you can give instruction, but you can't actually go out there and kick the ball. That feeling can make you as nervous anything."

Outside of football Taylor runs his own business, and has a four year old son to contend with. Football is both a passion and a mode of relaxation for him, but he notes that while he loves the game, "Football can sometimes be more stressful than work or anything else."

In a trait he shares with a number of legendary football managers, Taylor has developed a penchant for showing faith in younger players. Countless names have gone on to forge careers in the A-League and internationally after receiving their state-league debut from Taylor, including the likes of Ivan Franjic, Mate Dugandzic and Manny Muscat.

Only a fortnight ago, South Melbourne striker Andy Brennan was signed to a professional contract by A-League outfit Newcastle Jets after three months of Taylor's guidance.

Taylor recognises that it's not only team success and championships that gives him satisfaction, but the growth of younger players as well.

"I think it's a bit of both," Taylor added further.

"The success over the years has been great, and I take a lot of pride in coming to a club with a goal, and achieving that.

"By the same token, I've got something like 16 or 17 boys that are in the A-League that I gave debuts to as kids, and that makes you quite proud when you see them out there on the pitch, or you bump into them somewhere."

Andy Kecojevic is one talent who might add to Taylor's list of unearthed stars. Kecojevic made his senior debut under Taylor at the tender age of 15 last year, and has made a further nine senior appearances in 2015 for South.

"I think that's what we are as coaches; we want to give the opportunity to younger players, teach them what we can," said Taylor.

"You see Ivan Franjic playing in a World Cup. It gives you a lot of pride, and it's the sort of thing you like to hang your hat on."

During his time at Melbourne Knights, Taylor transformed a young Franjic from a talented but wayward striker into an attacking full-back. Franjic has gone on to win multiple A-League premierships with Brisbane Roar, represented Australia at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and was a member of the triumphant 2015 Asian Cup team.

Franjic's development may represent Taylor's greatest achievement to date, however that in itself is a debate given success seems to follow this man wherever he goes.

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