STEVEN Taylor swapped shirts with Samuel Eto’o on his Newcastle United debut – and he’s convinced the striker used his jersey as a duster!
Taylor’s first appearance for the club came on continental soil more than eight years ago.
And the memory of his bow is a vivid one – for many reasons.
Taylor – in the squad for tomorrow night’s Europa League group game against Club Brugge – framed Eto’o’s top after facing him as an 18-year-old.
The defender came off the bench late in a UEFA Cup tie against Real Mallorca in March 2004.
Taylor will never forget that damp night on the Balearic island, but he doubts Eto’o – the most decorated African footballer of all time – will remember their meeting, though he left the Estadio Son Moix pitch with a souvenir of the fourth-round tie, won 3-0 by Sir Bobby Robson’s United side.
“I made my debut against Real Mallorca – and Samuel Eto’o – in the UEFA Cup,” Taylor told the Gazette.
“I gave him my top after the game – I think he uses it to dust around his house!
“I don’t even know what I was doing giving him my top, that was a schoolboy error from me!
“I remember there was a minute to go, and I just followed him wherever he went around the pitch! I think I started off at centre-half, and I went to right-back to mark him!
“I asked him for his top after the game. I got his shirt, but I don’t know why I took my top off and gave him it. His top is framed.
“He or his missus probably cleans the house, dishes or toilet with it!
“He’s played against Lucio, Cannavaro – and Taylor! There you go mate, have some of that! I think he said ‘Steven who?’. But he didn’t score, thank God.”
Eto’o, now playing for Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala, is reportedly the highest-earning footballer in the world.
And Taylor could yet have a reunion with the Cameroon international later in the Europa League, with Anzhi facing Liverpool tonight in Moscow and looking to go top of Group A.
Newcastle, meanwhile, top Group D, and a win at the Jan Breydel Stadium could secure their place in the Round of 32 with two games left to play.
Taylor isn’t expected to start against Brugge, with the 26-year-old instead pencilled in to play against West Ham United in the Premier League on Sunday.
United manager Alan Pardew – who has lost Taylor’s defensive partner Fabricio Coloccini to a three-game suspension at Anfield on Sunday – is likely to again make a number of changes.
And Taylor – who had a brief loan spell at lowly Wycombe Wanderers before he faced Eto’o – believes playing in Europe will benefit the club’s younger players, just as it did him almost a decade ago.
The likes of Sammy Ameobi, Shane Ferguson, James Tavernier and Adam Campbell – the club’s youngest-ever European player – have all featured for Newcastle in the Europa League this season.
“It’s a good competition for everybody,” said Taylor.
“There are a lot of games coming up, and there’s going to be a lot of squad rotation.
“There’ll be players rested for certain games, and the lads will give the gaffer a headache.
“If we win there, it could give our younger players – the likes of Adam Campbell – a chance to play in Europe and show what he’s all about.
“The fans will be excited to see the likes of him come through.”