Jon Taylor tribute: A natural sportsman, a modest all-rounder

Jon Taylor played county league cricket for all three Melton clubs - here is in action for Egerton Park EMN-150917-160456002
Jon Taylor played county league cricket for all three Melton clubs - here is in action for Egerton Park EMN-150917-160456002
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While many of us crave a genuine talent for just one sport, Jon Taylor was born with all of the natural gifts of a sporting all-rounder.

Possessing the precise dexterity for high-calibre snooker, a sharp, tactical mind for chess, the physical and mental prowess to be a Thai boxer of note, and the hand-eye co-ordination to excel at football and especially cricket.

Jon Taylor in the Melton Mowbray team line-up early this season. His cap and bat are on display in Melton's All England Sports Ground clubhouse. EMN-150917-172603002

Jon Taylor in the Melton Mowbray team line-up early this season. His cap and bat are on display in Melton's All England Sports Ground clubhouse. EMN-150917-172603002

His sudden, early death at the age of 32 arrived, poignantly, shortly after close of another cricket season, and, typically, after a man-of-the-match performance.

Jon’s knock of 71 helped ensure his Melton Mowbray team-mates would enjoy another season in Division Three in 2016.

Steve Taylor and Caroline Barradell have a more than healthy share of happy memories of their son, many of which were forged in sport.

Jon showed an early talent for football, having joined village junior side Clawson Kings as a nine-year-old where he was coached by Len Hallows.

Jon Taylor (centre) pictured with his brother Ryan (left) and team-mate Shane Irish with an impressive trophy haul for Kings Road Snooker Club EMN-150917-172509002

Jon Taylor (centre) pictured with his brother Ryan (left) and team-mate Shane Irish with an impressive trophy haul for Kings Road Snooker Club EMN-150917-172509002

Steve said: “I didn’t realise how good a player he was until I first saw him for the Kings.

“I was running the line and saw someone volley the ball against the post and then the same player hit the bar. I thought ‘who’s that’. It was Jon.”

Surgery for a deformed kidney the same year did not keep him sidelined for long, his passion for competition ensuring a swift return to the team.

He landed a remarkable 16 individual and team trophies during that double-winning debut season and would remain loyal to the club until he was 16.

Steve added: “He started off as a right winger then he went into midfield, and then centre-forward. He could hit passes, penalties, free-kicks from 30 yards, he was always scoring from midfield.”

Jon also turned out for Whissendine, but never returned seriously to the game after leaving Melton for Bristol University where he studied town planning.

As he was breaking into local football, Jon was also showing a natural aptitude for chess, encouraged by his teacher Fred Parker.

He represented Leicestershire, breaking the county record for number of wins, and helped his Brownlow School team to finish third at the county championships.

Immersing himself in sport, he joined the Muay Thai Assassins in his early teens by which time he had already developed into an accomplished snooker player, allying raw skills with tactical maturity and matchplay knowledge.

Mark Selby was his most notable scalp, beating the future world champion when he was 15 at Willie Thorne’s club in Leicester.

He also enjoyed a notable success in a tournament in Loughborough that year, whitewashing the local hotshot in the final.

Caroline said: “When he was playing snooker it was like watching a professional. No-one could match him.

“He was very competitive, but he was also easy-going.”

Despite his success and drive to win, he did not seek glory, preferring to shy away from the spotlight rather than find it.

“Jon was a brilliant sportsman, but he was very magnanimous and humble. He didn’t like a fuss being made,“ she added.

While football took a back seat after university, Jon did throw himself back into cricket.

Regarded as an elegant batsman and a dangerous bowler who could swing the ball both ways at pace, he played County League cricket for all of the town’s clubs: Egerton Park, Thorpe Arnold and for the last four seasons Melton Mowbray. He spent his summer Sundays skippering Waltham CC.

Steve: “Jon and (his brother) Ryan were good captains because they put their team first, not themselves.

“Jon could be a sinner as well as a saint, but he was a good man.”

But perhaps more importantly than the batting average, the bulging trophy cabinet and headlines, ‘Tilly’ remained popular off the field, earning the respect of both team-mates and opponents.

Caroline added: “He was a nice lad, he was fun and loved his music.

“He gave a lot of people a lot of pleasure and he will always be remembered for that.”