By Josh Parish
Australian centre back Taylor Regan paid his own release clause to get out of Adelaide and head to Malaysia – and the former Newcastle Jets captain has no regrets.
“Me and my family absolutely love it here,” Regan told FNR’s Aussies Abroad.
“Selangor is a big club. It’s a well-supported club. We play in a stadium that holds 90,000 people. Now we haven’t got anywhere near that just yet, but we’ll get 50,000 there for the [Malaysian Cup] semi-final.
“It’s recently been taken over by new management, which has been very refreshing. They’re very professional.
“I’d love to lift a trophy for them to make it that little bit extra special.”
While many would dismiss the standard of Malaysian football as inferior to the A-League, Regan explains this is often down to the extreme weather conditions, as opposed to the quality of the players themselves.
“The thing with Malaysia is that the fields are not amazing. It’s not easy to play this crisp football we often see with some A-League teams, or in Europe.
“Sometimes it’ll rain for 4 hours before kick-off, on cow-grass, and then there’s an inch of water on the pitch. So all of a sudden it turns from a football match into just a battle. But the local players are very talented.”
In fact, Regan insists that the league’s unique strengths make his role more testing than back home.
“When first I went from Newcastle, to Malaysia and back to Adelaide, lots of people were surprised that I’d improved as a footballer.
“Every game, I’m marking a foreign striker that’s getting paid a lot more that what players are getting in the A-League.
“The striker from [semi-final opponents] Johor is on well over US $1.4 million net. This guy’s played top level in Europe, played top level in Brazil.
“People will still look down on the Malaysian league, but for me personally, he’s going to be more of a challenge than most strikers in the A-League.”
The striker in question is Diogo Luís Santo, who garnered interest from Chelsea and Liverpool during his 5-year spell at Olympiacos. Instead, the Sao Paolo-born forward found himself at Thai League outfit Buriram United, where he netted an astonishing 101 goals in 105 appearances before his move to Malaysia in January.
Regan’s controversial exit from Adelaide United raised eyebrows in Australia, with the defender dipping into his own pocket to pay his release clause.
As Regan tells it, however, this was all down to a simple piece of forward planning on his part.
“When I went back to Adelaide, I played a few games, we were playing [AFC] Champions League, I did quite well, and I was offered a new 2-year contract.
“The clause for me to leave was at the club’s discretion – so I could’ve potentially had $200-300,000 on my head.
“And realistically, I’m 30 years old, I’m not Trent Sainsbury or Matt Spiranovic – no club’s going to pay $300,000 for Taylor Regan.
“I did my own negotiations and I said: ‘Look, I want to stay in Adelaide, but I want my transfer fee to be very low, because my market isn’t China, or Japan, or the Middle East, my market is South-East Asia – and they don’t pay transfer fees.’
“I got the release clause down to AUD $50,000. Basically, I took a bit of a pay cut off the salary to allow me to leave if a good opportunity arose.”
However, a brain snap against Brisbane Roar almost scuppered Regan’s big chance.
“Selangor came knocking. We played against Wellington, we won 3-1. Selangor rang me and said: ‘Very good, we really want you. Play well next match, we’ll make sure all the bosses are watching, and we’ll do the contract as soon as possible.’
“Next match, I guess I had a bit of a brain explosion and decided to stick my fingers in the eyes of Stefan Mauk, and I got myself a red card.
“Selangor told I’m crazy and there’s no way they’re going to sign me!
“They had a few triallists come: a Korean defender, a Japanese defender, because they needed to fill the Asian spot in their squad – but no one really stood out.
“So they rang me again and said: ‘Look, one more chance. Please, play well.’
“We played Newcastle, won 2-1: done deal.
“I tried to get out of Adelaide on good terms, where they would maybe let me go for free, as I was just a backup to Jordan Elsey and Michael Jakobsen at the time.
“But as per my contract, I was required to pay $50,000. I paid that out of my own pocket to come and get an opportunity to play football.”
Regan has quickly become a fan favourite at Selangor, and a leader in the first team.
“I probably stand out a little bit over here. I’m 6’1’’, with a bald head, tattoos, and scars all over my face.
“I walk through the shopping centre and more people run away than come up for a photo!” Regan laughed.
“But the fans have been really good to me. They’re vocal fans here, and social media plays a big role. If you don’t play well you’re probably better off not to log in on that day…
“I’ve been lucky enough to wear the captain’s armband this season, which has obviously been a great honour – and that helps me get on with the fans.”
“My contract runs out at the end of November, but I’ll be hanging around longer than that. It hasn’t all been announced and finalised yet, but I’ll be in Malaysia for 2020.”
Despite his and the club’s recent good form, Regan is under no illusions as to the challenge presented by Johor Darul Ta’zim in the upcoming semi-final.
“They’re phenomenal. They’ve got a Prince that owns the club – he really puts his hand in his pocket.
“They receive big, big bonuses. This year they were really competitive in the Asian Champions League, even though they had a tough group.
“We’ve played them twice this year, they’ve beaten us both times. Last time we went down 3-2. It’s difficult.
“Their whole team is [Malaysian] National Team players, and all their foreigners are quality.
“The central defender has come straight from Lazio; the striker I mentioned has played for Flamengo and Santos; they’ve got Argentinians…
“But it’s football, it’s a semi-final, and anything’s possible.”
Regan’s Selangor face Johor Darul Ta’zim in the first leg of their Malaysian Cup semi-final on Sunday the 20th of October, with kickoff at 1am AEDT.
Aussies Abroad airs every Monday at 7pm AEDT, hosted by Josh Parish, Damian Davies, and Nick Rupolo. Tune in live on http://www.footballnationradio.com, on Facebook Live, Periscope, or via the FNR App.
Listen to the full interview with Selangor defender Taylor Regan below: