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Scouting report: West Brom's Caleb Taylor looking smart at Cheltenham

Caleb Taylor is winning big praise while enjoying his first taste of regular senior football.

Caleb Taylor of West Bromwich Albion at Kassam Stadium on July 19, 2022 in Oxford, England. (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).
Caleb Taylor of West Bromwich Albion at Kassam Stadium on July 19, 2022 in Oxford, England. (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).

The talented Albion academy prospect, 19, is spending the season with League One outfit Cheltenham Town and, despite the Robins' slow start to the campaign, the central defender has flourished.

Cheltenham boss Wade Elliott has highlighted a mature temperament and mentality which goes hand-in-hand with Taylor's natural ability to help him stand out.

We caught up with Jon Palmer, Robins reporter for Gloucestershire Live, to get a thorough insight into Taylor's loan so far after a highly-impressive first seven appearances.

"He's been excellent. Over all the games they have played he has been Cheltenham's most consistent player so far this season," Palmer told the Express & Star.

"They have not had a brilliant start but he has stood out.

"He came from the bench on the opening day of the season and did quite well against Peterborough.

"He is now in the team ahead of Charlie Raglan which is quite a big deal, who has been a regular under (former boss) Michael Duff for a few years, so that's a first feather in his cap."

Taylor has the potential to become the latest defender to earn their stripes, either on loan or permanently, at Cheltenham. Watford's Mattie Pollock and Jacob Greaves, of Hull, have recently impressed in Gloucestershire. Will Boyle earned a summer move to Huddersfield this year.

The youngster's role at Whaddon Road is at the heart of a back three, where his composure on the ball and defensive qualities have been on display and stood out, despite the loan side finding themselves down in 22nd.

Taylor tops of the figures for clearances statistics in the third tier. No player has made more than his 106.

"He's playing in the middle of a back three. Last season there was Mattie Pollock there who has gone back to Watford to make his first-team debut," Palmer said.

"They've had Jacob Greaves in the back three recently and he's gone back to Hull to establish himself there.

"So they've got a good track record with loan defenders. From what Caleb Taylor has shown in the league games – he didn't play in the 7-0 League Cup defeat – has been excellent.

"He just looks like he's cruising through games. He's so good in the air and he never looks rushed.

"He sees everything a split second before anybody else so you never see him panicking or out of position or sprinting to recover. He always seems in control.

"The table might show a poor start for Cheltenham, but he's looked the part."

The Robins reporter added: "He's got a good temperament. It's quite clear he's got football in the family with his dad.

"From memory his dad was a proper 'head it, kick it', keep it simple, physical, good defender.

"But I think Caleb's got that little touch of quality about him. The composure you need in the modern game, to play in the middle of a back three. He's been the pick of the bunch for Cheltenham."

Taylor, son of former Blues centre-back Martin, has been at the Baggies academy since under-10s. He has made three substitute appearances for the senior side, one each in the League Cup, FA Cup and Championship last season.

Baggies boss Steve Bruce has switched to a back four this season and numbers are light, particularly after the injury setback for Semi Ajayi, thus a deadline day move for free agent Martin Kelly as cover.

It is thought Taylor does not have an instant recall clause but loans can be re-assessed in January.

"He gets his head on everything," Palmer explained. "The one thing he could possibly improve on is he hasn't scored yet, he gets his head on a lot of stuff into the box, free-kicks and long throws.

"He reaches them so I think his goal threat will come. But defensively he wins everything in the air. His clearances and blocks all come from a reading of the game.

"Previous good loan defenders here were exposed a couple of times in League One, but so far there's not been anyone give Taylor the run-around."

The Cheltenham correspondent also acts as a lecturer for sports journalism at University of Gloucestershire and can add a unique insight into Taylor's professionalism off the pitch.

He said: "We took a group of students to The Hawthorns last season for a West Brom under-23s game.

"Caleb was picked to come up and speak to them afterwards. He was chatting to a group of about 40 first-year students having played really well.

"He gave a very polished media performance. But it wasn't just clichéd stuff, it was interesting, insightful stuff, he said all the right things, which demonstrated a level of maturity.

"I haven't interviewed him here yet but everyone says he's a great lad with a great attitude. His attitude has probably impressed Wade Elliott the most, the way he's conducted himself."

There have been mixed reviews for Albion's other loan exports so far this term.

One loan has already returned to The Hawthorns after an underwhelming spell. Midfielder Quevin Castro, 21, started just once for League One strugglers Burton Albion, on the opening day, but lasted under an hour.

He made a handful more substitute cameos before a dismissal for two yellow cards, as a sub, in the EFL Trophy. His loan was cut short a couple of days later.

Goalkeeper Josh Griffiths, 20, is in his third EFL loan, this time with third-tier Portsmouth after Cheltenham and Lincoln spells.

He has managed four clean sheets in nine appearances so far for Pompey.

Centre-half Cedric Kipre is spending the campaign at Championship rivals Cardiff City and has so far earned positive reviews in what has been a poor start for the third-bottom Bluebirds.

The 25-year-old Ivorian has so far played in all of Cardiff's league games aside from against his parent club.

Forward Rayhaan Tulloch, 21, has played seven times and is yet to score for winless League Two strugglers Rochdale. Winger Tom Fellows, made his Crawley debut in League Two after a deadline day move south.

Midfielder Alex Mowatt was granted a controversial temporary switch to Championship rivals Middlesbrough in order to free up funds for further replacements. Mowatt, 27, is now a regular starter for The Riverside outfit.

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