IRISH LEAGUE: One club but a million memories for Carrick’s Glenn Taggart

Glenn Taggart. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Glenn Taggart. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

For 7,437 days Glenn Taggart was defined as a Carrick Rangers player - and he defined Carrick Rangers.

What officially started with a first-team substitute appearance against Omagh Town on February 8, 1997 officially ended on Monday, June 19, 2017 with the push of a button on his mobile phone.

In the nanoseconds required to turn a private conversation about retirement into public confirmation over social media, everything changed as Taggart walked away from the club - and game - he loves.

Markers have served as stark reminders ever since of the weight of that decision - the club’s return to pre-season training and the release of Irish League fixtures two of the most obvious and most significant. Others will, inevitably, follow - the first friendly, the first kick-off of the season, the first goal scored, the first result.

Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays have now become days of the week, no longer opportunities to put his heart and soul into making better his beloved Carrick Rangers.

Now when he rises early in the morning it will simply and solely be as father to nine-month-old baby Anna, not for the twice-weekly run and exercise routine around the streets of his town introduced by Taggart in recent seasons to stay sharp.

His decision to retire ultimately proved complex and emotional but one motivated by pragmatic concerns.

“When I posted up my message on Facebook telling everyone about the decision to retire I then sat for about two hours after just crying at the kitchen table with my wife Nikki,” said Taggart. “I turned down the chance at professional football across the water to commit to Carrick and it is my hometown club, the only one I ever wanted to play for and I will always maintain it has given me far more than winning bigger trophies at other clubs.

“It has probably been on my mind most of the day and night since the season ended but, now I’ve made the decision, it feels right.

“I have been giving five days a week to the club in terms of working on my own plus training and games and the rewards no longer seem to match the sacrifices.

“I am 36 years old now and have a baby daughter so want to devote that amount of time to life outside football.

“You can never say never in football but I am certainly taking around two months off from the game completely to be with my family and adjust.

“I’ve had offers of different kinds and who knows what can happen down the line but time with my family is now the priority so I cannot imagine what would persuade me to change that viewpoint.

“It was important as well that I made the decision to retire on my own terms.”

Having walked over the white line on more than 500 occasions in Carrick colours, Taggart steps down as the club’s record appearance holder and most decorated player.

“I look on it as the perfect career as I have the medals and the memories so will never regret not going somewhere else, even if top-flight clubs who went on to win things did show an interest at different times,” said Taggart. “I can look back on my career with a collection of medals so that also helps me justify the decision not to move to another club or even, back as a teenager, stay with it across the water in England.

“Even in my mid-20s I was thinking about the 20-year mark with Carrick and how proud I would feel, plus what it would mean to my family and friends.

“I’ve made lifelong friends thanks to my time with Carrick Rangers and it was always amazing looking into the crowd and spotting those faces or family members.

“I am proud to have been around across different eras, from the old massive baths we used to share after games and having to prove almost every week it seemed you could stand up against some tough characters to now when physical conditioning and nutrition are massive and tactics more important than the old blood-and-thunder approach.

“One is not better or worse and the game must obviously move forward with the times but I am glad I have experienced both and I always tried to make adjustments to keep myself competitive, from how I approached training to mental preparation.”

Although redundant to reduce over two decades of devotion to hard numbers, the black-and-white statistics mean Taggart can point to silverware as double Championship title delight, a two-time Intermediate Cup holder and winner across the Daily Mirror Trophy and Steel and Sons Cup.

Spells as caretaker boss - alongside an accepted maturity developed due to experience plus lessons from a list of 23 former managers - mark Taggart as a potential addition to a dug-out down the line but he maintains his motivation has always centred more on a desire to help Carrick over any personal drive to move into management.

“The connections with the people have made everything extra special and I could not imagine playing against Carrick for another club or enjoying winning trophies with someone else, even if the money offers were better,” he said. “It comes down to the small moments and I have always taken great pride in representing my club, not only as a player but by tiny ways like attending one of the youth team awards nights or visiting a fan in hospital.

“I remember following Carrick as a boy, celebrating with players when they climbed up on the old fences after a goal.

“I’ve gone from fan to youth player to firsts to captain and will always remain part of the Amber Army.

“I always tried to be professional in how I represented myself and my club and look back knowing I achieved my goals with Carrick.

“The camaraderie with team mates and people around the club means so much and being a Carrick player has given me so much.

“It is more than just being a fan on the pitch, I can look back knowing I gave my all to help Carrick and it allowed me to achieve my dreams.”