I guess it’s in the genes of this family that we don’t do things by halves. There’s a bit of being a Taylor that whispers “If you can’t do the very, very best that you can do, then don’t bother turning up.” Or to put it another way, as my mother used to tell us kids constantly when we were little “If you want a job doing properly, then do it yourself.”
Those two sentiments dominate this week’s blog.
Our Ross is 3,000 miles away in New York. That boy’s come a long way since Greenwood Academy…
Let me wind this story back to somewhere around 2006/2007. I’d been to various parents’ nights at Greenwood where, and I don’t think Ross will mind me saying this, the word on the street was “He could do a whole lot better if he applied himself.” The summary version, which I guess we’ve all heard at one time or another, is “could do better”.
Ross was a slow burner. He enjoyed larking about more than he enjoyed working until he got to about S5. He’d got enough Standard Grades to prove that he could do it, but he needed to up his game from there…
Cue a bit of fatherly advice, and it’s as true today as it was back then.
“See that thing that you want. Well see if you don’t want it badly enough, then some other fucker’s gonna get it instead.” I laid it on the line that there are limited chances in life, and if you’re coming from further back down the line, and I’m sorry if that sounds awkward when you’re comparing Greenwood Academy in Irvine with the likes of the posh private schools, but that’s the way it is. You not only have to up your game, you have to be on the very top of the game that you just upped, if you’re gonna make it.
I told him that story again and again for the next twelve months, so much so that he must have thought I was a broken record. But the message got through. Ross isn’t a natural, but by fuck he’s a slogger. He gets there by hard work, and when the rest of the guys have gone home, he’s the one still there putting in extra.
I went with him to his interviews at Stirling and Edinburgh. He was there to study PE. I don’t think he’d ever been to Stirling Uni before and of course the facilities are something else. While he was in selling himself, I got chatting to Yogi Hughes who’d just finished a training session with his Falkirk team. I reminded him of the time the Inverness Caley Thistle Highland Marchers broke his unbeaten home record in the last game ever played at Brockville. The big man remembered it. How ironic therefore, that he and I would team up again, walking round the Caledonian Stadium in Inverness, deep in conversation, on the day of Oscar Knox’s funeral 250 miles away in Belfast.
Ross got a place at Stirling and we duly shipped all his stuff up the road. Jane’s mum and dad, who were so proud that their step grandson had made the transition, offered to pay his annual subscription for the sports facilities and that got him 24×7 access to the gym. When he wasn’t studying, drinking or watching Caley Thistle, Ross was in the gym.
When he graduated in 2011, Alex Ferguson made the keynote speech. Now in a world of hard task masters, there was the hardest taskmaster of them all. He was up for an honorary gown. After the ceremonial bit was over, we, as parents, were ushered off into the grounds for a special award made annually by the heads of the PE department. We’d just sat through a bunch of folk getting Firsts so there was no particular interest for us until the lady who was describing this student started speaking in glowing terms about devotion to the course, about commitment, about slogging his way through the workload.
Ross Taylor was that student, and he was indeed the recipient of the PE graduate of 2011 award.
Little did we know where that journey would take him….
We can skip by the probationary year that Ross did in Ardrossan, ditto the four or so years he did amongst the hard living country kids down in Auchinleck. Ross’s other life was in the gym at the Fitness Factory in Irvine: and for the record, that’s where he met Stacey…
I don’t know what Jane and I were doing around this time four years ago, but we weren’t in Edinburgh when Ross not only won the Caledonian Lightweight Natural (as in drug free) Bodybuilding Championship at his first attempt, but he also won the overall Caledonian title. That got him a shot at the British title down south where he finished third.
Then he took a timeout, got back on the beer, got engaged, got married (to Stacey) and moved his career back up the coast near to where it began.
But all the time, he was living in the gym after school. And probably double sessions at weekends.
At the start of this year, he announced his intention of going back into competition. Now let me say straight away, that I couldn’t do this. This isn’t a physical thing. This isn’t even a mental thing. This is a devotion to a regime that is way beyond anything that I can comprehend. For about five months, Ross has lived on scraps of chicken, rice and broccoli seven times a day. And he’s upped his workload in the gym. And he still goes to school and teaches the kids.
A month ago, our tribe headed down the road straight after Irvine AFC had suffered their first (and only) loss of the season. Ross had already won his qualifier for the British Championships with something to spare, but this was the big one. The was, in his words, to put right the disappointment of 2015.
He won the British title, and in doing so, qualified for the Worlds.
That competition is happening 24 hours from now in New York. He’s there and we’re not. None of us, although I wouldn’t be in the slightest bit surprised if Gary Drummond jumped on a plane and gave it big licks of “Go on, Taffy, yer looking GREAT Taffy” to the stunned amazement of the Yanks.
We have a saying in our family: “Second is nowhere” but y’know what, I’ve changed my tune tonight, just for this. Of course I want our boy to come back as a World Champion, but I’ve only been on my bike ride for six years, even if I have cycled over 50,000 miles. Ross has been on his journey for twelve years, and hopefully, his time has come…
New York, New York.