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Boss proud as Darlaston Town win first match since Leon Taylor's passing

Boss Dean Gill has hailed the remarkable efforts of everyone at Darlaston Town after winning their first game since the passing of striker Leon Taylor.

Darlaston won their first game since Leon Taylor's passing (Pic: Stuart Leggett)
Darlaston won their first game since Leon Taylor's passing (Pic: Stuart Leggett)

Darlaston were rocked by the sudden death of Taylor, who was a much-loved, popular figure across the West Midlands football scene, at the age of 36 in November.

Since then, more than £24,000 has been raised for his family and on Saturday, a hugely emotional afternoon saw them return to Midland League Division One action with a 2-1 victory over Shawbury United.

Town had not played a match since November 24 – the night when Taylor was taken ill before passing away.

Leon Taylor died after being taken ill in November

Gill was immensely proud to have won in front of Taylor’s family after the heartache of the past couple of months.

“The picture is that probably eight of our players and committee were with Leon when he got took poorly,” explained Gill.

“A large portion of the squad were with him an hour before he passed.

“That would have been the first time that some people have ever witnessed anything like it.

“The shock of losing Leon, and players having to deal with that, is massive.

“It’s something I’ve never heard of before.

“For several young men to be trying to keep someone alive, it’s beyond anybody’s biggest nightmare.

“When people talk about it, it’s not just missing two months of football. It’s massive.

“You haven’t just lost a footballer and a mate. There’s massive repercussions.

“So, this was a far bigger event, and it’s been a far bigger job to get the club prepared. I’ve had to get myself prepared.

“On Saturday, we had 30 or 40 of Leon’s family at the game.

“It was massive. The weight is heavy, so the win, I’ve never needed to win a football match as much as we needed to win that one.

“In the grand scheme of things, could we and should we been out of sight? Yes.

“But am I over the moon with the three points? More than you’ll ever understand.”

A minute’s applause was held before the game at the Paycare Ground, with more than 250 people in attendance.

A minute's applause was held before Saturday's game (Pic: Stuart Leggett)

Kieran Cook and Daniel Turton got the goals for Darlaston, on a day which meant so much.

“As a manager, my lads mean the world to me,” said Gill.

“That’s obvious as they’ve been with me for so long, and I’ve been with them for so long.

“We have a massive connection and, to me, being the manager is like being their dad.

“So, it is like losing a kid. Now, I understand that’s it not.

“I understand it’s different. But how it feels, it’s terrible.

“So, the fact we’ve managed to get a team out, put a performance on and get a result against a team that’s won four games out of five, it’s massive testament to the unit. They’re phenomenal.

“We had 250 supporters there and we’re averaging over 200 a game now. It’s good and we’re on a great run.

“Even though we’ve had no football in two months, we’ve won five or six on the trot.

“We’re in good form and at the time of Leon’s passing, I really fancied our chances.

“If we can get right, I still fancy our chances.

“But we still have a lot of hurdles to get over psychologically before I can have too much confidence in it.”

Darlaston currently sit fifth in the table. They plan to do their best to push for promotion while keeping Taylor firmly in their hearts.

“We’re going to try the best we can now to try to move on and get over it as best as we can,” said Gill.

“We’ll do something for him in the summer, have a permanent legacy at the club.

“We’ll have something there for him and everything we’ll do this year, he’ll obviously be in our hearts.

“There’s still lots of support there for his family, his partner and his kids. That support goes on every day.”

Gill added: “We have to try to move on.

“I’m comfortable he would have been number one in the queue, not two or three, saying ‘come on, we’ve got a job to do’.

“That’s what Leon was. He was a football man. We want to do it properly, with his blessing, I guess.”

The fundraising page for Taylor’s family is still open and you can donate here.

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