Both Neil Taylor and Seamus Coleman will have to show real mental strength in Friday’s Aston Villa v Everton fixture.
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Over two years ago, Neil Taylor was sent off for what was coined as a ‘horror challenge’ in a World Cup qualification match that left now Everton Captain Seamus Coleman with a double leg break and a lengthy period on the sidelines.
This Friday, the two could meet again for the first time since the affair – despite their national sides playing three games against each other since. Coleman has appeared once in those three games that Wales and the Republic of Ireland have played – whereas Taylor has not appeared against the Irish since his dismissal.
There are no hard feelings between the two. Seamus Coleman revealed they had exchanged texts and said that while football is a contact sport, “no player goes out to break another player’s leg on a football pitch.”
Whilst Seamus didn’t bear a grudge, the result of the Republic of Ireland fullback’s injury did have a drastic effect on Neil Taylor for some time following the challenge. It was visible to see, especially to Aston Villa fans. The defender, for some time, didn’t look confident in his football and certainly looked to shy away from a tackle or two.
Club captain James Chester, who is Taylor’s international teammate, expressed that it had definitely affected the full-back. But it wasn’t the swathes of criticism and condemnation that were weighing on Taylor – it was the challenge itself.
“He was obviously very disappointed with what happened and playing with him at club level I know he was deeply affected by what happened.
Neil is the type of character not to be particularly bothered by what anyone says about him.
Professional to professional, he’d never wish that on anyone and he was more worried about the impact on Seamus than what anyone was saying about him.”
Should Dean Smith decide to stick with Neil Taylor – who hasn’t put a foot wrong defensively in Aston Villa’s opening two Premier League games, but lacked in offensive output – then he’s likely to come up against Seamus Coleman on a number of occasions with the two fullbacks playing in mirror positions on the pitch.
It will be a mental test for both players, not just Taylor. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Coleman and Taylor be apprehensive with their attacks or tackles due to their past meeting. Both managers will be fully aware of what awaits the two on Friday, and precautions may be duly taken.
For all we know Smith and Marco Silva may both choose not to field either player. Apprehension leads to mistakes, something that Aston Villa have learned relatively quickly in their return to the Premier League.
If both start, it will be tough – especially on Taylor – but with the defender reviving his career with confidence post-challenge, he should be strong enough to deal with the mental pressure that facing Coleman once more will likely bring.