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Steven Taylor is coming back to the Wellington Phoenix.
The popular former skipper has arrived in Australia and will quarantine for two weeks before re-joining the team he represented 49 times across the last two A-League seasons.
The news is a massive boost for the Phoenix, who have endured a difficult start to their 2020/21 campaign, winning just two of their first nine games to sit second-last on the table.
Taylor's absence has been keenly felt, in particular his vocal and charismatic leadership and ability to marshal the back four. While Mexican attacker Ulises Davila will continue as captain, Taylor's on-field direction will significantly enhance the side. His arrival also comes with fellow centre-back Luke DeVere out for three months with a knee injury.
The veteran of over 200 top-flight games for Premier League side Newcastle United, Taylor was signed by then Phoenix coach Mark Rudan ahead of the 2018/19 A-League season and was an integral part of the side that returned to the finals series for the first time in four years.
When Ufuk Talay replaced Rudan as coach in May 2019, he appointed Taylor club captain and he was instrumental in Wellington's best ever regular season finish of third, before a disappointing first-round playoff exit.
With Covid-induced uncertainty swirling and a year still left on his contract, Taylor left by mutual consent in September 2020 to join Odisha FC in the Indian Super League. However, his side endured a dismal campaign, winning just two of its 20 matches to finish bottom of the 11-team ladder. With the Indian season now over, Taylor will return to the club many felt he never wanted to leave in the first place.
"I'm looking forward to joining back up with my teammates in Wollongong and working under Uffy again and doing my best for the Phoenix fans back in New Zealand and across Australia," said Taylor.
Talay said Taylor brings a number of qualities to the team which will complement the existing squad.
"Stevie is a class act and he'll bring that leadership that we need in the backline, especially with Luke out with injury," Talay said.
"As a player he brings a defensive presence and as a person he brings leadership and character to the team - he was very influential in the changing room for us last season and that's what we want him to bring to the squad, in addition to his play on the field."
Now 35 years old, but supremely fit, Taylor will exit quarantine on March 19, by which time there will still be 15 regular season rounds remaining.
He will join his teammates ahead of a three-game stretch in eight days with matches against Brisbane Roar on March 21, Melbourne Victory on March 24 and Macarthur FC on March 28.