Manchester United youngster Max Taylor earned his first senior call-up, 12 months after undergoing chemotherapy for testicular cancer.
19-year-old Taylor returned to training in September but is now set for a debut under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
His journey over the past one year is one of the feel-good stories in football right now as he is set for an emotional return to the beautiful game.
Born in Manchester on January 10, 2000, as Max Dunne, he joined United after a successful trial in 2014. It was then that he changed his surname to Taylor.
He made his reserve-team debut after coming on as a substitute against Manchester City in 2016-17.
He later went on to win the under-18 Premier League North trophy and was described as a tough, aggressive defender, good in the air by then-academy coach Kieran McKenna.
Taylor signed his first professional United contract in January 2018.
ILLNESS AND RETURN TO UNDER-23S
Before the 2018-19 season, Taylor found a place in the under-23s side managed by Ricky Sbragia.
A few games into the campaign he complained of pain while running. A few tests were conducted after which he was diagnosed with testicular cancer ( which had unfortunately spread to his lymph nodes).
“My mum broke down straight away,” he told BBC Sport. “I was so taken aback I didn’t cry. I got out of the clinic and thought: ‘Oh my God.’”
Let’s take a peek inside #MUFC‘s dressing room 👀#UEL pic.twitter.com/1rntZsoPSK
A nine-week spell of chemotherapy took its toll on Taylor, mentally and physically, but in February it was confirmed that the treatment had been successful.
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However, he still had to undergo an operation because of swollen lymph nodes.
“After the operation, I spent five nights in the hospital, with an epidural pump in my back and all these wires that were slowly taken out,” he explained. “I still felt ill. I was still bald.
“I would look in the mirror and think: ‘I do not look good’. It was a good three months before I started to feel right.”
On September 18, he finally returned for training.
“I feel immensely proud and happy to be back on the training pitch with my team-mates and friends. Without the invaluable support of my family, team-mates and, of course, the nurses and doctors, my return to training at this stage would not have been possible,” he told Manchester United website upon his return.
He was finally back on the playing field at Old Trafford in a 3-0 win for the youngsters over Sunderland last Friday, with Solskjaer watching from the stands.
Speaking to MUTV this week, Taylor said of his illness: “I don’t want it to define me. I’d rather it be a part of me and then whether it’s my football or how I am as a person, all combine to define me. I don’t want it to be a case of its cancer that defines me.
“Next is I’m planning to get regular football, whether it be in the under-23s or on loan or whatever. My ultimate goal is to play for the first team here.”