ANDY Taylor is heading back to the classroom as he starts planning for life after football.

If the defender is picked against his former club Middlesbrough tomorrow it would mark his 400th appearance in the professional game.

The 31-year-old has no urge to wind down just yet and remains committed to the cause of securing Championship football for Wanderers this season.

But he will shortly launch a potential new career path, following in the footstep of another ex-Bolton player, Kevin Davies, by taking a Master of Sport Directorship at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Taylor has packed plenty into a 13-year playing career, which began on the books at Teesside lifting an FA Youth Cup alongside future Macron team-mate David Wheater.

He is excited by the prospect of a return to education, however, to give him options when he does decide to hang up his boots.

“I know full well that 30 is the dreaded number in football and whether it’s right or wrong people start thinking you’re too old,” he told The Bolton News.

“I did by B Licence but I don’t know if that’s the road I want to go down when I eventually do stop playing.

“Too many players come out of the game and just think ‘well what now?’ I want to know what path I’m taking, enjoy this part of my career and then move on to a different phase in my life.

“You tend to get a lot of free time in this job and rather than sit on a computer playing games I think I can use it wisely. It might be tougher on the family but it’s for two years and I think it can really be of benefit.

“It’s not my comfort zone. It’s OK being comfortable talking on a phone or interviews with you lot but I’m going into a course with people from lots of different business backgrounds as a 31-year-old footballer. It’s quite daunting but it’s an adventure.”

Taylor can still remember every detail of his debut in 2005, another milestone which has personal significance.

“I do remember it because I was out on loan at Bradford City and it was at my hometown club, Hartlepool,” he said. “When you’re a kid you have aspirations of making it in the big time but all I ever wanted was to play in a proper professional game.

“Some people go through at academies to the age of 21 and don’t get to experience that feeling, which is a massive shame, but to do it at my hometown club was just surreal.”

Taylor learned his trade at the Riverside under tough-tackling full-back Franck Queudrue – and may want to exchange stories with his new class-mate Davies, who had a few run-ins with the Frenchman in his time.

Gareth Southgate had the most profound effect on Taylor’s young career, however, and he cites the future England boss as one of his biggest influences in the game.

“He was first class,” he said. “To watch him be the first in for training, the last to leave and to be such a good professional despite what he’d done in the game, 50-odd caps for England, you couldn’t help but admire it.

“When I got in the team he was the left-sided centre-back he made the job easy. Young lads make mistakes but he’d be there, talking you through every minute of the game.”

Asked to pick the best of his 399 games so far, Taylor struggled for an answer.

“It’s hard to pick one moment – I’ve played in the Premier League, had a UEFA Cup semi-final, England Under-21s, a Carling Cup final but I think the one that stands out is getting promotion with Cardiff City.

“It was history-making because they hadn’t been to the Premier League before and it’s that feeling I’ll miss when I stop playing.

“Going up with Bolton against Peterborough was such a high. You can’t replicate that feeling of knowing you’ve won what you set out to do. It’s so intense.

“I was lucky because when we won the FA Youth Cup at Boro as a kid it was like the World Cup. It meant everything to us. And that set me off with that desire to win from an early age.”