Kris Taylor spent several years on the books of both Wolves and Manchester United at the start of his football career.

That he didn’t end up playing a senior game for either does nothing to take away the experiences and memories or indeed how they shaped his development for the career which has followed.

Taylor has just come through his 24th pre-season – and he will turn 40 in January – but the passion for football means he is still as determined as ever to give his best – and also enjoy – the new campaign with Chasetown.

There is also the mentality there to combine continuing to operate at a decent level of non-league football with a full-time job, whilst also ensuring he can enjoy and savour family life as well.

It’s a mentality that helped Taylor when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, a decade ago next January, when, supported both by family, friends and the football world in general, and aided by a positive prognosis, he faced the disease head-on to make a remarkably quick recovery.

So, he may not have played for Wolves or Manchester United – he does still turn out for Wolves Allstars – but they paved the way for a successful life in football which also included some happy times with Walsall.

And it’s a footballing life which is very much still going strong.

“I’ve just come through yet another pre-season, and I can’t say I ever enjoy them,” Taylor admits.

“It is part and parcel of football and part and parcel of preparing but I’ve never been what you might call a natural athlete and I have to work hard to be ready for ‘go time’!

“But I’m still going, still enjoying it, and I want to play on for as long as I can.”

Taylor is a boyhood Manchester United season ticket holder and still a fan who went to last season’s win against Wolves at Old Trafford, but has been unable to snaffle a ticket for Monday night’s Premier League curtain-raiser.

Living in the Midlands, he can also sometimes be found at Molineux, as he was for the Luton friendly last week, or taking children Lydia and Louie to United games – including last season’s Carabao Cup final thanks to Chasetown chairman Steve Jones.   

Had Taylor’s footballing path taken a slightly different turn, had United not come calling as they did when he was 14, he could instead have been turning out at Molineux or Villa Park on a regular basis.

His switch from Wolves to United, just like that of striker Daniel Nardiello who he went on to share accommodation with in Manchester, was somewhat controversial.

Taylor had been spotted playing for his local team, Forest Star, and was training within Wolves’ youth ranks and colleagues such as Jimmi Lee Jones and Mark Danks at the Jennie Lee Centre in Wednesfield, from the age of eight.

“I was really enjoying the training and the games, played at the Grammar School, and I remember the coaches, Sean Kimberley and Rob Kelly, who were brilliant,” he recalls.

“I saw Rob a bit when he moved on to Blackburn, and Sean went to Villa, and I often wonder what would have happened if I had gone there because I got on really well with him as a coach and a bloke.

“But when United came in for me, they were always going to be the only choice, given the size of the club and with being a fan.

“After a few chats they asked me to go up there and have a look and then I got a chance to play at Old Trafford.

“Playing on the pitch, looking over at the seat where I had a season ticket, that was something else, and I think it’s always a kid’s dream to play for the club they support.”

The controversy came with both Taylor and Nardiello having been on Wolves books, and so, led by then Academy manager Chris Evans, the club demanded compensation and eventually took their case to a tribunal.

Ultimately, and to the displeasure of Sir Alex Ferguson, each player cost £200,000.

“Did all that affect me? Not really,” says Taylor.

“We both had to go and speak at the hearings to talk about what had happened but by that stage I knew I was at United.

“Wolves felt that they had put a lot of work into me and helped me progress and improve over a five year period to get to the point that United wanted me, and I think that is fair enough.

“They did alright out of the deal and got a few quid, and for me, I got my dream move.

“Looking back with hindsight, would my career have been different if I hadn’t gone there? Who knows.

“But when a club like United come calling, it was always going to be very difficult to turn it down.”

Taylor, who has operated across various positions in defence and midfield during his career, made a few reserve appearances after progressing to the professional ranks at Old Trafford, but never the first team.

Given the depths of quality players at the club at the time – these were the years following their treble-winning success of 1999 – that statistic is understandable, even though he had been playing at youth level for England at the time.

But ultimately, Taylor’s learning during his spell in Manchester went way beyond what transpired on the pitch.

“It was brilliant for a young player, just from being around the place at that time,” he recalls.

“We’d be training with the reserves, and often, after a Champions League game for example, the first teamers who hadn’t played would come and join in with us and that was such a good experience.

“And then, just seeing how the first team trained made you realise why they had made it to being pretty much the best team in the world.

“They had the talent but they wanted perfection, the sessions were so intense and they would be coming off with cuts and bruises and arguing with each other – it was proper!

“They trained like they played, standards were so high, so that when Saturday came and they went out on the pitch they were already at that level and had the same expectations.”

Probably none more so than Roy Keane, whom Taylor admits certainly lived up to the persona that is in people’s minds, which made the task of obtaining his autograph somewhat tricky!

“When you were looking up to players like Roy Keane, I remember being in awe,” he explains.

“Day to day he was everything you would expect, particularly with the expectation he had of everyone else whether it was matches, training or playing water polo when you were injured – he just wanted to win.

“Sometimes you’d ask the first team lads for autographs for people, but it was a bit of an unwritten rule not to ask Roy.

“I remember one of the youth team coaches asking me to get it and Roy told me I wasn’t being paid to do that and should be on the training pitch – and if the coach wanted his autograph, he should ask him himself.

“My Dad was a huge Roy Keane fan, and so the one day I plucked up the courage to ask him for a signature on his book to give to my Dad for his birthday.

“He told me I was tight just for buying my Dad just a book, but to be fair he did sign it – a lot of it was just getting you to justify why you were asking.

“But the whole United experience, I’m not sure it necessarily improved me as a player but it was more the attitude, moulding me as a character and not just a footballer.

“Not many people came through there who you would say were bad eggs – that’s how you were brought up, and ‘the Boss’ (Sir Alex Ferguson) wouldn’t allow it to be anything other than that.”

Taylor departed United for what would prove his first team breakthrough, back in the Midlands with Walsall, in early 2003.

And that mentality which he had built up during his formative years, was to prove crucial just over a decade later, when facing a battle which went way beyond football, when he was diagnosed with cancer.

Having discovered a lump, which then grew, a visit to the doctor’s and then oncologist confirmed Taylor’s worst fears and yet, having been given the diagnosis on a Friday evening, he still wanted to play football the following day.

By this point Taylor was combining non-league football with daytime employment and duly turned out for Hednesford against Altrincham, scoring with a superb left-foot volley in a 1-1 draw.

He walked off the pitch in tears, albeit his spirits had been boosted by the ruthless banter of the dressing room, and was then strengthened by so many well-wishes from across the world of football as the news broke.

The worst part for Taylor was the agonising wait until the following Tuesday for the follow-up scan to see if the cancer had spread.

Fortunately, it hadn’t, and so he underwent surgery the next day, then three courses of chemotherapy.

Eight days after treatment he was back in the gym, four weeks after he was back at work, and a week later he was back in training.

From receiving that terrible news in early February, he vowed to be back playing before the end of the season.  And he was.

Taylor knows he was fortunate – not everyone has such a positive prognosis – but, from day one, his positive mentality and mindset clicked into gear.

“I had always had that mindset, from United, that you tackle whatever is thrown at you, and in a situation like that, you have two choices,” he explains.

“You can just keep crying about it and give up, or you can crack on and try and beat it.

“My approach was to try and get on with it, and that’s why I wanted to play on that Saturday – football was what I did, part of my life, and I didn’t want to stop.

“Of course, it did hit me, especially from that Friday night to the Tuesday when I was told it had been contained.

“That was when it was only natural to beat myself up a little bit, to wonder what I was going into and to have doubts – had it spread all around my body?  Was I going to die?

“All that was going through my mind but my family and the people around me got me through, and once the doctor told me it hadn’t spread, and what the plan was, in my mind I was going to be fine.

“The treatment might not have gone well, and I still had to cope with it and go through surgery and chemotherapy which made me feel like crap, but once I knew my chances, it was a case of getting on with it and trying to get back to normality as quickly as possible.

“And I know not everyone is so lucky to have that chance.

“I was back playing two-and-a-half months after the treatment and I think the doctor thought I was stupid.

“I had to keep having blood tests to make sure my platelet levels were high enough as if I they weren’t, and I got injured, I would have bled out.

“But football had helped me through it, and given me a focus and a goal to aim for.”

Football had also provided support, with all those well wishes which proved such a boost for Taylor, especially from the fans at Walsall where he had spent four largely happy years as a player, chalking up 93 appearances and scoring six goals.

After his diagnosis had been made public, Saddlers fans took part in a minute’s applause on the 15th minute of their following fixtures, in reference to Taylor’s squad number.

It meant a great deal.

“The support I received from so many people in football really helped, and made a real difference,” he recalls.

“To hear about that applause was incredible, and is one of the reasons why I still have such fond feelings towards that football club.

“It is easy show support and love when things are going well, but when it all hits the fan and the chips are down, that is when you find out about people.

“I still speak to a lot of people from Walsall now, and see Dan Mole (director and club secretary) quite regularly as his daughter trains at the same place that I do.

“Walsall is a club that has always been very supportive to me and I always like to see them doing well and heading in the right direction.”

Taylor’s final season with the Saddlers was probably his best, making 40 appearances in all competitions as the club won the League Two title in 2006/07.

And yet, after departing on an end-of-season holiday with several fellow out of contract tea-mates, and expecting the chance to return to the potential of a new deal and a tilt at League One, there was a rude awakening for Taylor and company as they returned to be told they were being released.

“That’s football – it’s happened before, it will happen again, and it’s all about how you respond,” says Taylor.

He responded perfectly, achieving a second successive League Two promotion when moving to Hereford, and then later headed to Port Vale to continue his Football League journey.

Eventually though, a move to Darlington after which the Chairman pulled the plug on the club’s finances led to a change in direction, Taylor returning to the Midlands to combine part-time football with full-time employment.

His Dad worked for leading UK food wholesaler Bidfood UK, so Taylor completed his Class 2 HGV licence and started driving, which, with the early starts, worked perfectly for evening training and matches.

Since then, Taylor, backed by the PFA, also spent six years studying for a degree in Sport and Exercise Science from Manchester Metropolitan University, which in turn helped him progress at Bidfood, to his current role as Business Development Manager.

With that, and a lively but enjoyable family life, Taylor’s schedule is very rarely quiet, but football remains a key influence.

He had been on loan at Conference level with Burton Albion whilst at Walsall, and recent years have taken him to many well-known semi-professional outposts on the local scene including not just Hednesford but also AFC Telford, Rushall Olympic and Stafford Rangers.

Taylor also had a stint as manager with Walsall Wood, and his current title at Chasetown is Player Coach, but, given he is still so heavily involved on the playing side, he is more than happy to follow orders from boss Mark Swann and coach – and another who was on the books at Wolves – Chris Slater.

“Non-league is a very different game and, until you get into it, I don’t think you fully realise,” he insists.

“It is physically demanding, often having to work in the day and then train or play in the evening, and is also a decent standard and better than people sometimes give credit for.

“I have seen young players who have dropped out of the pro game think they are going to go into non-league and tear it up and then have a rude awakening.

“That probably happened to me, it took me about six months to adjust from full time to part time and, when I first went to Telford, I couldn’t get my head around it and was really poor.

“But eventually I adapted, and now I love it, and am really looking forward to the new season.”

For all he has been through, appreciating every minute of the remainder of his playing career is clearly a major priority for Taylor.

However, he doesn’t feel his cancer diagnosis provided any sort of major change to his character or personality, more so an increased sense of perspective.

“I would say it makes me laugh sometimes when you see people in certain situations moaning about certain things and it’s like, ‘come on – it’s not the end of the world’,” he explains.

“I have to realise that too, when things happen, so I think it has given me a slightly different outlook and perspective but not massively.

“The way I see it, I have been really lucky with my family and in football and I wouldn’t say it has changed me, just made me make sure I enjoy life and make the most of it.”

It’s away to Runcorn Linnets for Chasetown to kick off season 24 in the Northern Premier League on Saturday, and then, Taylor will be tuning in to watch Manchester United against Wolves on Monday night.

Now there’s a footballing weekend to make the most of.