Lyle Taylor hopes Charlton fans can find it in their hearts not to “hate” him, following his decision not to extend his contract and finish the 2019-20 season with The Addicks.
Lee Bowyer revealed earlier this week that his top scorer has decided to protect his career by deciding against extending his contract by a month when the season resumes.
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But in an exclusive interview, Taylor told Sky Sports News about his fears that the life-changing move he has worked his entire life for would be scuppered if he injured himself in the remaining nine games of the season.
The striker has already missed a large chunk of the season after injuring his knee badly while on international duty with Montserrat in September.
He revealed: “I’ve sat in my living room staring at a blank TV screen for hours on end these last few weeks. I’ve not eaten or slept properly. I’ve been up ’til 5am listening to the birds chirping thinking about it.
“Then I finally came to the decision together with the manager that he has openly spoken about. He said to me ‘Lyle I can see how cut up this has made you’. But this is a time nobody has had to deal with before – lockdown has been difficult for everyone.
“I’m gutted at the way it’s finishing, but I don’t expect people to care. I know that once the damage is done it’s irreparable and I don’t really expect any sympathy.
“We are the first ones able to go back so that’s difficult for footballers and football clubs. My reasons and concerns stem from my knee injury – it plays on the mind.
“It makes me think what would happen if I had an injury now that threatened the rest of my career. I’ll be honest with you, it scared the life out of me.
“That’s my honest reasoning. I know it won’t sit well with people but it’s been a very had decision to make.
“I want to play to keep this team in the league; we have worked so hard to get here. But there is something in the back of my head that says if you get a serious injury the chance you have worked and dreamed of since you were six-years-old is gone. I’m not 26 or 27 – I’m 30 years old. The way I play, it puts me in positions that I could get seriously injured at any time.”
Taylor has been something of a lower-league journeyman in England and Scotland – until he started hammering in the goals for Charlton after signing from AFC Wimbledon in 2018.
This season is his first in the Championship, and his goals have as many as eight clubs vying for his signature. He has made just a modest living from the game.
He added: “I hope people can look at this and not hate me. I’d like to think people will listen to this with more of an open mind and look into my journey and where I’ve came from.
“I’ve played at every level from the Championship to step four of non-league football. There is no doubt I have gone the longest route around to get to where I am today.
“I’ve been released by three clubs, sold by two more who didn’t want me. I’ve been told I’m not good enough to be a professional footballer, not good enough for League One – or to step up the Championship.
“All I’ve done is try to prove them wrong and make the best of my opportunities. At the age I am, should I get seriously injured I’ll never get another opportunity like those I currently have.
“I’m sure not many people will be sympathetic simply because I do the job that I do. I’m not okay with that but I’ll have to live with that.
“But this is a special set of circumstances and I’ll maybe have to think about looking about myself, my body and my livelihood this time.
“I have to be maybe a little more worried about myself and my future than what someone else feels they can say about me on radio, TV or social media.
“I know I won’t be remembered at Charlton like I did at Wimbledon: that was someone who went out there giving everything and had to be dragged off the pitch after giving my all in every game.
“I might be remembered as a money-grabber or a let-down, but I would like to think some people will look beyond that and remember the good times I shared with the manager and my team-mates and Charlton Athletic.
“Hopefully the Charlton fans can look on it more fondly than with hatred or disgust.”
Despite the failure to sign a contract extension to finish the season at The Valley, Taylor says his relationship with manager Bowyer goes further than football.
He said: “I have had good relationships with three managers and sets of fans. Those are Neal Ardley, Steven Pressley and Lee Bowyer.
“The love and respect I have for Bow is probably different to most other players. He’s put his arm round my shoulder these last few years and hopefully I’ve repaid him with goals.
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