Football: Captain Steven Taylor leaving Wellington Phoenix

Captain Steven Taylor has confirmed he's prematurely parting ways with the Wellington Phoenix.

The Englishman still has two years remaining on his contract with the NZ A-League club, but has been granted an early release.

In July 2018, Taylor joined the Phoenix after a stellar career for Newcastle United in the English Premier League, as well as subsequent stops in the US' Major League Soccer and League One.

Taylor made 49 appearances in his two seasons with the Phoenix, scoring two goals and quickly becoming a fan favourite for his staunch and tireless defence.

The 34-year-old says that he will cherish his time spent with the club and leaves "with a heavy heart".

"I want to say a huge thank you to the club owners," Taylor says. "The Board and the many great staff that I have worked with, and I want to especially thank [coach] Ufuk [Talay] for his faith in me and making me captain of this great club.

"To my teammates, I will miss playing together but I know I have made life-long friends.

"Finally, to the supporters, you are truly one of a kind, amazing. I hope that you will be back in Sky Stadium soon backing the team so loud and proud."

On New Year's Day, Taylor inked a two-year extension with the Phoenix, suggesting the reasons for his early departure are related to the financial strains caused by COVID-19. Compatriot Gary Hooper has also decided to leave the club.

Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay has thanked Taylor for his model leadership, both on and off the field.

"Steven was the right choice for us as captain," Talay says. "He's an experienced leader who not only says the right things, but leads by example too.

"He put his imprint on the team this past season and helped to create a positive, winning culture for the players. It'll now be up to our next captain to continue that great work and to build on the third-place finish we achieved last season."