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Courteous Taylor glad to see Eduardo back in full swing; COCA-COLACHAMPIONSHIP In association with www.flybe.com.

Martin Taylor has expressed his relief that Eduardo has made a successful return to football.

Birmingham City's Taylor said he was delighted for the Arsenal striker, who scored twice on his first competitive club appearance on Monday.

Taylor described the incident in which Eduardo suffered a sickening fracture of leg and dislocation of ankle almost a year ago as a 'horrible accident'.

And the centre-half said he did not feel any pangs of guilt about what happened in the 2-2 draw at St Andrew's.

That's not to say Taylor has shown no compassion towards Eduardo; on the contrary, during the months since he has kept in touch with the Croatian's progress.

That long journey back to health culminated happily in two goals for Eduardo in the 4-0 FA Cup victory over Cardiff City.

"It's definitely a relief that he is back playing," said Taylor, "I know in my heart of hearts that it was an accident. A horrible accident.

"So I wanted to see him playing again.

You can never be sure. I was hopeful because of the updates I received from Arsenal. I kept my fingers crossed when he was playing in the reserves. But there is nothing like that first proper game.

"To recover both mentally and physically - to get through that training and to get back to that standard - he has done really, really well.

"You have to be anexceptional talent to reach that level in the first place. It is one thing to come back and play at all. It is another to play for Arsenal."

Taylor didn't watch the televised match, but monitored the events at the Emirates Stadium on his laptop as he completed course work for an Open University political science degree.

Nobody would suggest that what Brazilian-born Eduardo has gone through has been easy.

But Taylor has also suffered in a different way. He was cast as the villain immediately after the Premier League game - which Blues drew courtesy of penalty in the fifth minute of stoppage-time - by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

He said Taylor should be banned from football for life, an absurd over-reaction and a slight on a decent man who has been a model professional.

Taylor received death threats, was dubbed 'the Butcher of Birmingham' in Croatia and was thrust into the harshest of spotlights.

"I had death threats," confirmed Taylor.

"No one would say that was enjoyable.

When I received them, I wasn't too sure with some of them. A couple were written in crayon, some were more sinister.

But generally, I didn't take them too seriously.

"Nine typer cent of the correspondence I had, though, was encouraging. The other ten per cent wasn't. I had an incredible amount of support from Arsenal's fans. I'd like to thank them publicly for that. Birmingham's fans mounted a 'Taylor is innocent' campaign.

"People wanted to tell me their own stories. A lot of the time people who had similar experiences wanted to share them with me. I tried to reply to them all.

"In particular, I had one from a lad who had been in a scrum, playing opposite a lad who had died after being paralysed.

It was heart-breaking reading that.

"And people did try to rally around. But I didn't want any sympathy. My concerns were with Eduardo.

"I wouldn't say I felt guilty. If I had lost my head, or decided to hurt him, then I would feel differently. I know in myself I went to get the ball that was there.

"That was the only thing on my mind.

Eduardo's speed made sure he got there before I did. I can't say I felt guilty like perhaps you would do if your intentions weren't honest ones. I empathised with him because of what had happened."

Taylor, who was sent-off for the tackle, primarily because of the severity of what happened to Eduardo's leg and ankle, not because there was malice aforethought - that's what Mike Dean told him several weeks later when he officiated Taylor and Blues again.

And Taylor went to see him immediately in hospital, then maintained a dialogue with Arsenal officials.

"I was able to liaise with him. I had updates. I'd ask what was going on and they say things like: 'He's back in Brazil, receiving treatment.' It was always positive news, which helped."

Should their paths cross again on the pitch, it would be interesting to see what Eduardo's reaction would be towards Taylor.

"Would he shake my hand? I wouldn't expect him to," said Taylor, "maybe . . . I don't know. . . I don't know I'd blame him if he didn't.

"It's up to him. I'll understand either way."

"I had an incredible amount of support from Arsenal fans

Martin Taylor

CAPTION(S):

COLINTATTUM Staff writer; Eduardo's goalscoring return to competitive club football has come as a great relief to Martin Taylor
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 18, 2009
Words:808
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