United ace fighting fit and raring to go

Steven Taylor says he’s fit and ready for the coming season after his long absence – and he believes Newcastle United are in equally good shape.

Taylor played more than an hour of Saturday’s goalless draw against Den Haag.

While frustrated that Newcastle didn’t win at the Kyocera Stadium, the defender – who hasn’t played a competitive game since rupturing his Achilles last December – is pleased with how his and the team’s pre-season has gone so far.

Newcastle have just two pre-season games left – at Hartlepool United tomorrow night and Cardiff City on Saturday – and Taylor believes he and his team-mates will be ready for the challenges ahead at home and abroad.

“I’m feeling good. I played 64 minutes, and it probably could’ve been more,” Taylor told the Gazette’s sister paper, the Shields Gazette.

“Hopefully, I’ll play more in the next game. I’m fighting to get more games and more minutes.

“It feels good to be back. I’m excited to be back. It’s been so long since I’ve been on the pitch.

“I can’t wait to play. Hopefully, I’ve proved my fitness. The medical and fitness staff have worked me hard. I feel ready – I’m 100 per cent fit.”

Neither goalkeeper was seriously tested at the Kyocera Stadium, but United had the better chances in a game marred by allegations of racist abuse aimed at the visiting players.

In a statement issued after the match, Newcastle said; “We will be raising the matter with officials at Den Haag, and the issue will be dealt with privately.”

On the game itself, Taylor added: “We’re disappointed we didn’t win – we want to get that winning mentality.

“The main thing is that there weren’t any injuries, and the lads are looking fit.

“The gaffer’s made it clear he’s looking for clean sheets. We’ve got another one under our belts.

“We want to keep the ball better, and we’re getting better at that. We felt we should have won.”

Newcastle’s pre-season has, at least in part, been arranged to give Alan Pardew’s players vital European experience ahead of the club’s return to competition on the continent later this month, when they have a Europa League qualifier.

As well as Holland, United have played fixtures in Germany, Portugal and Austria against teams from a number of countries.

“Compared to the Premier League, games in Europe are going to be different,” said Taylor, who made his debut in the UEFA Cup in 2004.

“Teams are going to going to slow games down, and we’ve got to get used to that.”

Meanwhile, midfielder Yohan Cabaye missed the Den Haag game because of illness, while his France team-mate Hatem Ben Arfa stayed behind on Tyneside to work on his fitness after reporting back for pre-season training later than his colleagues.