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Flashback Friday - Paul Tait

Posted: Fri 10 Jan 2014
Author: Peter Lewis

Paul Tait was a born and bred Bluenose who was lucky enough to be taken on by the club that he supported as an apprentice in the late 1980s.

He went on to clock up over 200 first team appearances, scoring 18 goals, in more than a decade of service. 

The striker-turned-midfielder spent almost his whole career at St. Andrew’. In an A-Z feature for the Blues matchday programme (reproduced below) Paul told us about his time at the club with refreshing honesty!

Paul now runs his own soccer school, as well as acting as an occasional expert pundit for Blues TV match commentaries. He will be co-commentating at tomorrow's away game against Brighton. Click here for more details.  

Do you have good memories of your early years at Blues? 
Yes, I really enjoyed it. Although in those days we spent a lot of time doing work around the ground and non-football stuff. But there was a great spirit amongst the players and we were all local lads. 

Which manager did you enjoy working with most during your career?
I learned a lot working under Terry Cooper when we won promotion from the Third Division but the most enjoyable time was the Barry Fry era. He really got the club going again and he made every day different. 

Did you have a trademark celebration after scoring a goal?
Not really, no. It was shock more than anything because I didn’t get that many. I used to score loads of goals for the youth team and reserves as a striker but then they moved me back into midfield and I didn’t seem to score many from there. Luckily I scored important goals, like the one at Wembley in 1995 and another, a couple of weeks later, at Huddersfield that sealed promotion.

Did you play in many Blues-Villa games and, if so, what are your overriding memories?
I was involved in the two-legged League Cup tie in 1993/94 but it doesn’t hold the greatest of memories! I was an unused sub in the first game at St. Andrew’s and then I was sent off in the second leg at Villa Park (after pushing Kevin Richardson over the advertising hoardings). I didn’t realise that I had that much strength! It was ridiculous really. Unfortunately if it wasn’t for me getting sent off, I think we’d have won that game because it was 0-0 at the time and we had been playing well. It’s a probably a good job I didn’t play in any other Second City derbies because I would have probably only been sent off again! 

In what season do you think you played your best football for Blues?
My best form was just before I got a serious knee in 1989/90 season. I was really doing well and some big clubs were looking at me but the injury that I got scuppered everything. I tried to work my way back but I was never the same again, even though I carried on playing for more than ten years. 

Did you concentrate on eating a healthy diet as much as they do in the current game?
What do you think?! Absolutely not, no. I remember once when the club got a guy in to advise on healthy eating and they told me that I had to start eating things like rice. I told him that the only time I ever eat rice is with curry! 

What is the most memorable goal you scored during your career?
There are two really. My first ever goal in senior football (an 89th minute winner against Walsall in September 1989) was great and, of course, the one at Wembley in front of 76,000 fans. To score the winner at Wembley and send 50,000 Bluenoses home happy was an amazing feeling. I’ll never forget that.

What was the highlight of your Blues career?
My debut against Leeds United on the final day of the 1987/88 season when I was only 16 and weighing about nine stone! We were struggling towards the bottom of the Second Division (now the Championship) and I came on for the final 28 minutes and got man-of-the-match! I should have scored - I hit the post with one shot. It was a big occasion and that game will always stick with me. 

If the internet had been around during your playing days, do you think you’d have been logging on to find out what the fans had been saying about you on the message boards?
Probably, yes. I go on the message boards now just to wind up Villa fans! 

What is the happiest memory you have of your time at Blues?
The Barry Fry days were my happiest times. He was perfect for my mentality because we were both a bit crackers to be truthful with you! So we worked quite well together and it was always enjoyable but a lot of other pros couldn’t take to it because they couldn’t get to grips with Bazza’s funny ways.

How did you used to feel when you ran out of the tunnel ahead of a game?
To be honest I used to feel a bit sick, particularly in my younger days. When I first started playing it was a tough time for the club with only a few thousand fans and it was difficult for the kids coming through.

What was the dressing room spirit like during your time at Blues?
It was absolutely brilliant! I have always been a bit of a practical joker myself and if I’m honest I was quite bad really with some of the things that I used to get up to! Unfortunately I don’t think I could share any of those stories. 

Did you keep any memorabilia from your playing days and, if so, what is your most treasured item?
My most treasured item is the t-shirt that I wore at Wembley. I have still got it and I’ve had it framed, although with all the press cuttings. Most of my shirts, including my Wembley top, I have given away to friends. I gave a whole strip to a local Sunday side that were all Birmingham fans, although they lost their first three games in it and never wore it again!

What are you up to nowadays?
I’ve got my own football coaching business called Midlands Soccer Coaching ( I coach kids aged from four to 13 all over the Midlands. In my spare time I still follow Blues, I’ve got a season ticket along with my three sons, Cameron, Adam and Luke. I want to make sure that they all grow up supporting Blues and not Manchester United, Liverpool or, heaven forbid, Aston Villa!

What do you think you would have ended up doing if you hadn’t become a professional footballer?
I’d have probably ended up in jail! Seriously my dad was a roofer so I may have done something along those lines. I certainly wouldn’t have been hitting the dizzy heights of anything, put it that way.  

Which Blues team mate did you most enjoy playing alongside?
Probably Mark Ward. He was one of the only players that I could actually learn off because he’d played for some top clubs. He was brilliant for me and he’d tell me where I was going wrong. He was a fantastic footballer and I don’t think we’ve ever replaced in the Blues midfield.

Who was the toughest opponent that you really didn’t look forward to coming up against during your career?
I have always said the hardest player that I have ever played against is Kevin Ball, who used to be at Sunderland. He was a really tough, tough player and absolutely solid. I played against the likes of Vinnie Jones but they were more mouth than anything.

Looking back on your career do you have any regrets at all?
I suppose I do a little bit. It’s only now when you’re out of the game that you realise what you had. I was always out with the lads after the game and there were a few things that I shouldn’t have done and realised my responsibility as a professional footballer a bit more.

Which away ground did you always look forward to playing at?
I used to like playing at Millwall! Every time we went down there we were always under police guard and when Baz was the manager it was hilarious watching him lying on the floor dodging the bricks!

What was training like in your day and did you look forward to going into work every day?
I was an excellent trainer. I was always one of the fittest players at the club and a brilliant runner. Although during my time at the Blues we had some terrible training grounds. We were training at one stage on the council playing fields at the bottom of Garrison Lane by the ground (known to everyone then as dog ‘muck’ park, or words to that effect!). We would train anywhere and everywhere we can, at the back of the Kop, Garrison Park, West Midlands Travel. The players today don’t realise how lucky they are with the facilities that they have now.

What was the lowest moment of your Blues career?
When I got injured because I was doing so well and there was talk of me going to a Premiership team. To be told by two specialists that you’ll never play again at the age of 19 was really, really hard. Also there was the time towards the end of my career with Blues when I fell out of favour with Trevor (Francis). I was playing some of the best football of my career in the reserves but I knew for a fact that I wasn’t going to get a look-in at first team level, no matter how well I did. Those were unhappy times too and I had to forfeit my testimonial just to get away.

How much do you think you’d be worth in the current football market?
Not a lot!

Did you win many honours/trophies during your career and which one gave you the greatest satisfaction?
Probably winning the Second Division championship in 1995. To win anything football is nice, it doesn’t matter what standard you play at, even Sunday football. As I mentioned earlier, I scored the goal that clinched the title and also got a few other goals that season.

Did you play any games against Blues after leaving the club?
I went to Oxford after leaving St. Andrew’s and I only played against Blues once, in a pre-season friendly at the Manor Ground. We lost 3-0 and all the Oxford fans booed me but the Blues fans were brilliant! I would have loved to have come back and played at St. Andrew’s – I’d have probably scored a few own goals to make sure Blues won! 

How do you think the Blues team of your day compared to the current side and who would win if they played each other in game?
Obviously we wouldn’t win but in the team that promotion in 1995 we had a lot of tough lads and I think we would have given it a good go. Times have changed and players are better now but I think we’d have done alright.

What was the best moment of your whole football career?
Making my debut at such a young age. Only a few months earlier I had been playing football on the streets with my mates and then I went straight into the first team, it was mad!
20140106 Blues v Yeovil Town