He has experienced it all.

The highs, the lows. The pain and the glory. The ups, the downs.

Released by Liverpool as a schoolboy because of health concerns, scorer of  the winning goal that powered Leicester City into the Premier League, and the indignity of being fat shamed on national television by soccer legend Gary Lineker.

Gary Taylor-Fletcher has played and scored in English football’s top six divisions, and finally, finally, his move to NCE Soccer is within sight, after a long and frustrating wait, caused by the devastating impact of Covid-19.

He was due to join the NCE Soccer team last year but has been forced like the rest of the world, to sit and wait out the global pandemic. Now, with the breakthrough of a vaccine, an end appears to be in sight and he can begin preparations for a move Stateside.

The delays has provided Gary with time to reflect on a career which netted 132 goals in 467 appearances and to confront the extreme highs and lows.

He spoke to The Athletic about his pending move, his career, becoming a friend and mentor to Leicester City goalscoring legend Jamie Vardy, and on the mental torment he had to overcome after being fat-shamed by Lineker and others on Match Of The Day.

Mental Health

He said: “I came on as a substitute at Chelsea and played in centre midfield, and after there were a few comments made about my body shape by Gary Lineker and few others,” Taylor-Fletcher tells The Athletic.

“He said, ‘Taylor-Fletcher looking very double-barrelled and not just his name’. It was all over Twitter. Paddy Power took it on and said I was stuck in the transfer window and stuff like that.

“It wasn’t so much the fact they were ex-pros, it was that it was on a public social media account and seen by millions. The fallout from it went on for a few years. I have never had the chance to speak to Lineker about it and he probably won’t even remember it. At the time I made a joke of it but it didn’t half affect me personally.

“At that time there was none of this stuff we have now about mental health, but it really affected me. If it had been said now there would be uproar because of the awareness of mental health. I know it was meant as a joke but it really affected me.

“My confidence drained. How I thought of myself changed. I had worked really hard that summer to get into shape. I was 33 going on 34 and I knew to stand any chance I had to come back that season flying.

New Challenge

“Over the whole pre-season I was flying, and I was probably in the best shape of my career, but one comment like that absolutely knocked me senseless. I didn’t want to go into training. I would get to training and I would have mini panic attacks.

“My stomach would be in knots but I had to hide it. I would go into training and wanted to do my best, but when you were driving in and you don’t want to do it, you have to try to do it for your family and your career.”

Gary has been able to digest, manage and overcome those issues and is now ready for a new challenge with NCE Soccer.

He added: “It’s an opportunity I’ve been looking at for a while. I would have liked to have finished my career out there but it never really panned out that way. From Blackpool, I came to Leicester and then had two good years. Then I was probably just the wrong side of 30, closer to 35, to get over there (to play in the US), but I was always interested in going over.

“John (Curtis) has done wonders setting everything up. He wants the English players to go over to share their experience. Technically the American players are just as good, but the experience is just what they need. It is just the game intelligence to learn.”

Gary will hopefully join NCE Soccer in time for the Spring program or sooner depending on the latest Coronavirus guidance. We look forward to him joining the team.

* In the meantime, read the interview in full at The Athletic by clicking on this link.

* For media, interview requests or to discuss marketing opportunities please contact James Fletcher at Onside PR via this link.