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Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 12:50 GMT
Taylor's time at last
Arsenal goalkeepers David Seaman, Richard Wright and Stuart Taylor
Taylor (right) has emerged from the Highbury shadows
BBC Sport Online's Paul Fletcher profiles young Arsenal goalkeeper Stuart Taylor, who is set to play against Manchester United on Sunday.

Stuart Taylor will face the biggest test of his young career on Sunday.

Richard Wright's knee injury and David Seaman's shoulder problem has opened the way for 21-year-old Taylor to finally prove to manager Arsene Wenger that he has the ability and temperament to succeed at the top level.

And Taylor will not find too many bigger stages to prove his worth than Highbury, where Arsenal will try to put behind them the pain of defeat at Deportivo La Coruna on Wednesday with a win against Premiership champions Manchester United.

Taylor replaced the injured Wright at half-time in Spain and, although Arsenal lost 2-0, the young goalkeeper showed no visible sign of nerves and he kept a clean sheet in the second half.


Taylor is a good young keeper and is a confident boy
Arsene Wenger
Wenger has no reservations about playing him against Ruud van Nistelrooy, Juan Veron and company.

"Taylor is a good young keeper," said Wenger. "It looks like he will play against United and he is a confident boy."

And Arsenal goalkeeping coach Bob Wilson has been impressed with the youngster.

"He has outstanding potential," Wilson told BBC Sport Online. "Anyone who saw him play for the England Under-21 team against Germany will realise that."

Taylor himself is relishing the opportunity after patiently biding his time at Highbury.

Arsenal are a club prepared to spend big money to try and deliver instant results - as the 6m summer signing of Richard Wright demonstrates - and the transition from youth team to first-team is difficult.

"United? What a nice game to play in if I'm picked," said Taylor.

"It's just what you want because first-team football at a big club is what it is all about.

"My ambition has always been to be a top Premiership keeper. Now I've got a big chance to prove I'm getting there and I want to take it."

Loan outings

Taylor can be forgiven for sensing that his chance has come at last because since signing for Arsenal as a trainee in 1998 first-team opportunities have been predictably scarce.

The Romford-born goalkeeper has represented England at Under-16, Under-18 and Under-21 level and won a youth championship with Arsenal but had to wait until last season's Worthington Cup defeat against Ipswich before making his Gunners' debut.

Arsenal lost that game 2-1 but in November 2000 Taylor was given valuable European experience, playing against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League.

Taylor started last season on loan at Crystal Palace
Taylor started last season on loan at Crystal Palace

Most of Taylor's first-team experience, though, has been garnered from loan spells at Nationwide clubs.

Taylor made his league debut while on loan at Bristol Rovers early in the 1999-2000 season, playing a total of four games for the Pirates.

He played the first 10 games of last season for Crystal Palace, earning good reviews for a series of rapidly maturing displays.

After his brief flirtation with first-team football at Highbury last season Taylor was loaned to Peterborough, playing 10 games for Posh towards the end of the season.

Many believe that Taylor could emerge through the dense competition at Highbury to eventually make the keeper's jersey his own.

And with Alex Manninger on a long-term loan deal at struggling Italian team Fiorentina and Seaman and Wright both injured, a window of opportunity has opened for Taylor to show his worth.

If he can keep a clean sheet at Old Trafford on Sunday he will have gone a long way to proving that he is ready to come of age.

Links to more Arsenal stories are at the foot of the page.

 

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