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Taylor-made for Douglas Villa

The ambitious Douglas Villa Football Club have scored a crucial goal with the appointment of the experienced Mark Taylor as coach of the ‘Magpies’ Capital Division Two team for 2023.

Taylor, 60, brings more than 30 years of coaching nous to the role from the National League to youth and juniors. Most notably, Taylor coached Wairarapa United for four seasons from 1998 to 2001, culminating in winning promotion to the Capital Premier Division, which at the time was the top division before the revival of the Central League in 2005. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach with Wellington Diamond United [WDU] and Miramar Rangers in the National League in the 1980s and early 1990s.

After his stint with Wai United, Taylor returned to Wellington in the early 2000s and worked with Miramar and WDU before coaching at Upper Hutt City and, finally, Lower Hutt City, where he spent eight years coaching the club’s under-17, under-19, and reserve sides.

Since he moved back to Wairarapa a few years ago, Taylor had kept a keen eye on the football scene but had resisted requests to return to coaching because of work commitments and other factors until recently when he was approached by Douglas Villa.

“I was going down and watching them play and watching other games, and I thought it was time to get back involved, and I guess it’s the whole coaching thing; I just like coaching,” Taylor said.

The Magpies finished fifth in Capital Division Two with six wins, three draws and nine losses. That outcome seemed improbable midway through the season when they were last and staring at relegation after a 9-0 loss to champions Petone Reserves, and Taylor didn’t hold back on what he had seen.

“They were poor at the start, just down to how things were, but at the end of the season, you were looking at what if.

“Defensively, they needed to tighten up, but they scored a lot of goals, and that was attractive as well because there were good players in there, and I thought I could do something here, and if they did this and they did that, they would be an okay team and could do well and be very competitive, but defensively they needed to tighten up and have a real structure about the way they play.”

Many of the improved performances came after former Wai United player Chris Cox joined from Central League side Havelock North Wanderers midway through the season. Taylor knows Cox well, having coached him at Lower Hutt, and feels that it’s vital players of his ilk remain at the club.

“He did a good job tightening them up and being a leader, and Chris has indicated he will be here again next year, so that’s pretty important,” he said.

“I understand the bulk of the players from last season will be back involved, but obviously, we are looking for other players who are keen to get involved, and the invitation is there for them to come and perform.”

Taylor believes on what he saw from the Magpies in 2022, that winning promotion to Capital One is a realistic goal.

“Looking at last season, if we can keep the players and I can improve them, I know I can, we would be aiming for that, but it’s the old adage, we’ll see who turns up, and we’ll see what the commitment and attitude are like, and we’ll go from there.

“We’ll set little targets along the way; we know we can score goals, we know we can win games; it’s just a matter of making sure we do well on the day.

“The big thing is we’re playing Capital Two, and we’re there for the enjoyment, so we want players to come and enjoy it but also achieve some sort of success for the club along the way.”

Taylor’s appointment is for the 2023 season, but he intends to be with Douglas Villa for the long term to help develop structures from juniors to senior level, which he said are vital for the future success of the ambitious club.

“Certainly, the club has done brilliantly with the juniors for the last 30 years, and when I was involved with Wairarapa United, the big issue was around youth football and having that continuity from juniors into youth, into the seniors. The club has been run by some well-meaning and hardworking people, but there needs to be more of a structure that’s going to benefit the club.

“We want to make sure we give local players a really good chance, and there’s a real pathway in the game now for players to go as far as they can go depending on their attitude and what they want to do, and we want to give them that opportunity to do that.”

Preseason training will begin early in the New Year, with the championship season set to get underway in late March or early April.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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