Bobby Joe-Taylor needs little introduction to home fans at the Kuflink Stadium.
His mazy run from the left wing is still seared into our collective memories, receiving the ball out left, the patient run at Tom Bonner and the drop of the shoulder to turn inside the box, ride the tackle by Dean Rance and keep his head as Anthony Acheampong dived in, to drive the ball across Nathan Ashmore and into the Swanscombe End net.
It was, of course, his equaliser wearing the amber shirt of Maidstone United in the 2016 play-off final and Taylor went on to fire home his spot-kick in the shootout as well to help seal promotion for the Stones.
Naturally, that moment cropped up in conversation as he conducted his first interview since signing on as an Ebbsfleet player.
“Promotions are always good,” he recalled. “Obviously that day was a bit extra-special. It was a crazy season and my first in National League South as well.
“I had a little bit of a joke with Steve Lovell when I came here, I said to him I don’t know if the fans will like me here because of that day! But seriously, everyone has given me a warm welcome. Changes happen in football and the Ebbsfleet fans have been great on social media. I’m really excited and looking forward to the season. I want to do here this year what I did at Maidstone, have the same result but in an Ebbsfleet shirt this time around.”Embed from Getty Images
Taylor has been one of the more frequent visitors to this ground wearing an opposition shirt, playing against us seven times at the last count with the likes of Bishop’s Stortford, Maidstone and Dover, so he’s been quick to settle in as a home player already.
“I knew quite a few of the boys so it’s been easy to settle in,” he said. “Through football you meet a lot of people anyway, even if you don’t play with them, so it doesn’t take long to get involved. And I’ve played quite a few times down at the Fleet so the only change now will be putting on the shirt to play for this club.”
His arrival from Dover – announced last Tuesday – happened quickly and once alerted to the Fleet’s interest, Taylor needed little convincing about the destination for his next move.
“I spoke to Andy Hessenthaler and he told me Ebbsfleet had made the call so once I came in to get a feel for the club and listen to what the gaffer and people around the place had to say, about the direction and the ambition, that certainly attracted me,” he said. “Also the fact Ebbsfleet were staying full-time was massive. But more than that, it seems they’ve got all the right people on board to make the club successful. And hopefully Dover pull through as well for the fans’ sake there because they were good to me.”
Ever since his aforementioned goal for Maidstone, Taylor has been associated with that left-wing berth by Fleet fans but the former England C international insists that with age has come a maturity to slot into various versatile roles.
“Nowadays, the modern-day game, with the style of football as a full-back, a wing-back or a winger, it kind of suits me anywhere, you have to put in much the same work,” he revealed. “Whatever club I’ve played at, I’ve had to play as full-back at some point. When I was younger I always wanted to be a flair player… at that age you want to get involved at the front.
“But now I’m a bit older, I’ll play anywhere I’m asked, as long as I’m playing that’s the main thing – at Dover I even had a couple of games at centre-mid. I’m still learning too and the style of football the gaffer wants to play here suits me and I’m happy to operate on either wing.Embed from Getty Images
“My strongest attribute would be my delivery, that’s something I always look to bring into a game. I’ll be trying to help the team out in that area as much as possible this season. The lads that are here at the moment, the side’s looking really good and every one of the boys is a strong asset with a couple more to come.”
With a week of pre-season training behind him and his new teammates, Taylor is looking forward to getting stuck into the National League South after three seasons in the division above.
“It’s been a really tough first week after all that time off,” he said. “People have kept themselves ticking over but it’s still a whole different ball game coming into pre-season. But for all the toughness, I’ve really enjoyed it and just looking forward to pre-season games and to kicking on from there. All the boys have been working hard. We’ve had plenty of running, obviously, but a bit of football as well so it’s nice to get that first week done.
“It’s been hectic and nobody expected this lockdown situation. Everyone’s come back having done their fitness work, you can see that. In a normal season, you just get back into it at the normal time but having five months off I think your body definitely feels it coming back to that level of work. But that’s what the purpose of the first week is for, we had two days off over the weekend and now we go back into it from Monday again.
“If we can work hard in silence – by that I mean, stay humble in the dressing room and know what we want to set out to achieve – then we can be up there this season.”