Gerry Taggart

Former Player Remembers: Gerry Taggart

Gerry Taggart played against some of the biggest names in football. When he spoke to Club Historian John Hutchinson, the conversation covered his career at Manchester City, Barnsley, Bolton Wanderers, Leicester City, Stoke City and Northern Ireland.
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Gerry played nearly 150 games for Leicester City following his debut against Manchester United at Old Trafford in August 1998.

It was while playing boys’ club football in Northern Ireland as a 12-year-old that Gerry, along with team-mate Neil Lennon, was talent spotted by Manchester City.

Gerry recalled: “From an early age we travelled to Manchester in school holidays, stayed in a bed and breakfast and returned home at weekends. We were both picked out to sign for Manchester City on a YTS scheme. We were beaten in the FA Youth Final in 1989 by Watford who had David James in goal. Ashley Ward (who later signed for Leicester) was in our side.

“I was a centre-half but manager Mel Machin gave me my Manchester City debut as an 18-year-old, at left-back, which was a bit alien to me. I made 11 appearances that season which saw us promoted to the old First Division. In one game, against Leicester, Paul Lake swallowed his tongue and I had to come on to replace him.

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Gerry Taggart

The former centre-back spoke in-depth about his time at City with Club Historian John Hutchinson.

“When Mel Machin went to Barnsley, he signed me for about £75,000. There was a big sell-on clause in the contract. I had five-and-a-half good years at Barnsley, playing about 250 games. I learnt my trade there. There were several clubs interested in signing me, like Leeds and Aston Villa, but I became Bolton Wanders’ first £1M player in 1995.

“I had three good years there, two of them in the Premier League, then I was out of contract. Martin O’Neill at Leicester needed an understudy for Walshy (Steve Walsh). I’d never met Martin but I think Lenny (Neil Lennon) had a word in his ear saying that I would be a good fit.”

Gerry’s Leicester City debut was at Old Trafford in August 1998.

“I came on as substitute and gave away the free-kick which led to [David] Beckham’s 97th-minute equaliser. That wasn’t the best start to my Leicester career. In my home debut against Wimbledon, I broke my toe after about 10 minutes. I played the rest of the game and the following games against Leeds and Spurs, having injections before each game. I couldn’t train, lost my match fitness and had to take a break to allow recovery.

I made the decision to move, with our young family, to Leicestershire. It was the best move I ever made. I never put a foot wrong all season.

Gerry Taggart

"It was a stop-start season, but I played in the League Cup Final against Spurs. It was great to play my first game at Wembley. We felt we had a really good chance when [Justin] Edinburgh was sent off but then [Allan] Nielsen scored a late goal and we lost. We were really disappointed but we still had a party. We had given a good account of ourselves."

Gerry established himself in the first team the following season.

“I made the decision to move, with our young family, to Leicestershire," he said. "It was the best move I ever made. I never put a foot wrong all season. The physio at Leicester, Dave Rennie, helped me massively with my ankle problem. He brought in some new techniques to strengthen it. I never had any injury worries that year. We had a great mentality in the dressing room. That all came from the manager. He gave us that extra five per cent which gave us the belief that we could win games of football."

Gerry was in the League Cup-winning side against Tranmere Rovers at Wembley that season.

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Gerry Taggart

Former Fox Gerry Taggart, pictured here scoring against Red Star Belgrade in the UEFA Cup at Filbert Street, will be on LCFC Radio duty on Wednesday.

“Matty [Elliott] scored two that day," Gerry said. "He was magnificent. He played several games up front that season and scored some important goals. The semi-final tie against Aston Villa was a massive game.  Matty was up front and scored with a header. Maybe he should have got that season’s Player of the Year Award, and I would have agreed, but I got the nod instead and won the award."

The League Cup win qualified Leicester City for the UEFA Cup the following season. They were drawn against Red Star Belgrade.

Gerry recalled: “In the Filbert Street leg, all the smoke bombs were going off. They scored after about 15 seconds. Their guy hit a shot and Tim Flowers couldn’t see it. He was covered in a cloud of smoke. It was a strange evening but I managed to score the goal that kept us in the tie.

“We couldn’t go to Belgrade for the return leg because the fall out from the war there meant that our safety couldn’t be guaranteed. We had to go to Vienna. We were in the game at half-time after Muzzy [Izzet] had scored but we just didn’t have enough in the second half and they won 3-1."

That first season under Peter Taylor was probably my most consistent but my knee wasn’t right. I had a tablet and an injection before every game. I only trained on Fridays.

Gerry Taggart

O’Neill had left the Club three months earlier.

Gerry said: “You could see this coming, especially after the Leeds approach. The call from Celtic was just a bit too much and Martin took the plunge. The first two players he wanted to sign were Lenny (Neil Lennon) and myself. I was in the last year of my contract and came close to going, but a few of the lads got in my ear, the new manager didn’t want me to go and I had a young family settled down here, so I chose not to go.

“That first season under Peter Taylor was probably my most consistent but my knee wasn’t right. I had a tablet and an injection before every game. I only trained on Fridays. A specialist said he could scrub out my knee but that this would mean three months out. I didn’t want that. I was playing the best football of my life so I kept playing."

Leicester City were still fourth in the Premier League as late as March 2001, but then lost the FA Cup Quarter-Final against Wycombe Wanderers and then lost eight consecutive games. Gerry though was badly injured.

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Gerry Taggart

Gerry Taggart made 51 appearances for Northern Ireland across the space of 13 years.

“I jarred my knee badly against Manchester City," he said. "I now needed two operations, one for the bone, one for the tendon. These kept me out for over a year during which time Leicester were relegated.

“I played over 30 games in the promotion season which followed. It was a great season despite the difficulties of administration which saw us take pay cuts and Billy McKinlay and Nicky Summerbee playing for no pay for a while. Paul Dickov was phenomenal. He had a great partnership with Brian Deane. Me and Matty had a good understanding at the back and Muzzy was still there."

Gerry went on to play over 50 games for Stoke City, but returned to Leicester to do some scouting for Rob Kelly, before Leicester City’s new manager Gary Megson, who had been with Gerry at Manchester City, appointed him as first team coach in 2007. However, Megson left after six weeks. Gerry became caretaker manager for four weeks with Frank Burrows, before the arrival of Ian Holloway.

Looking back on some of the great players he competed against, such as Thierry Henry, Andy Cole, Eric Cantona and Alan Shearer, Gerry picks out Dennis Bergkamp as the best.

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Gerry Taggart

The former Fox believes Dennis Bergkamp was the most talented attacker he's ever face.

“The way he played was so different," added Gerry. "He wasn’t a centre-forward as such. He played in a little pocket of space and would mess with your head. Did you go? Did you not go? He was a very intelligent and talented footballer who changed the way the game was played."

Gerry also had a distinguished international career winning 51 caps for Northern Ireland. Opponents at international level included Hugo Sanchez, Jurgen Klinsmann, and Stefan Effenburg, to name just a few.

Gerry’s links with the Club continue. He is currently one of the Club’s Ambassadors and is regular contributor on LCFC Radio. He also works nationally with Sky Sports.

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