STEVEN TAYLOR has been handed a boost amid his latest injury setback after Stuart Pearce refused to write off his chances of playing for England.
The 25-year-old ruptured an Achilles tendon during Saturday’s 3-0 home defeat by Chelsea and, following surgery on Monday is likely to miss the rest of the season. The blow is particularly devastating for the Tyneside-raised defender as he had been in the best form of his career.
However, citing his “great confidence in a great leader”, Pearce – speaking before Saturday – insists there is no reason why former England under-21 captain Taylor cannot one day make the step up to the senior side.
He said: “I had a great deal of confidence in Steven, he was a great leader for us when he played for the under-21s.
“He has really been on the up again.
“If you turn the clock back two years he had waned a little bit and this season he has gone up again. That happens with young players.
“He has a great deal of experience. He has played the games, he has been playing in a team which is doing well and it has benefited him to play alongside (Fabricio) Coloccini, the same defender, in all of the games. I am pleased for him. He is a really likeable lad.
“Whatever is in front of him, who knows. We are strong at senior level at central defence, but three years ago he was keeping Gary Cahill out of the team at under-21s level.
“Now Cahill is in the senior team and Steven has only just this year won his place back for Newcastle.
“Things can turn around quickly and Steven will know that.”
Next summer’s European Championships will come too soon for Taylor to challenge for a place in Fabio Capello’s squad, given he will have spent the previous six months on the sidelines.
However, with Pearce doubling up his role with the Three Lions’ senior and under-21 teams by leading Great Britain’s side in the Olympics in July, there is a chance Taylor could be selected for London 2012 as an over-age player.
In the meantime, Newcastle seem certain to be on the lookout for a new defender during the January transfer window, with the likes of Montpellier’s Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Erik Pieters of PSV Eindhoven linked in recent days.
As well as Taylor, United are without Coloccini, who is expected to miss a fortnight with a thigh injury, and Mike Williamson, whose ankle problems are likely to keep him out for a further week.
That leaves James Perch as the only recognised senior centre-back and, though the former Nottingham Forest star is disappointed to find himself the recipient of a first-team opportunity in such circumstances, he insists he is ready to take his chance.
Perch said: “That is exactly how football works.
“It is a big disappointment Colo and Tayls have injured because they have played brilliantly.
“I have to come in now and step up to the plate.
“I have been ready and come on in the last two games.
“It is not as if I have been away from the first team for a while, I have been in and around it and I am just ready to step in now.”
Looking ahead to Saturday’s trip to Norwich City, Perch added: “It has been a top start to the season.
“I don’t think anyone expected us to do this, except ourselves in the dressing room and the manager.
“We have only lost two games – to Manchester City and Chelsea.
“It is very hard to take – you do not like going to bed on a Saturday night knowing you have been beaten.
“There is no disgrace losing those games but we still hate losing to anyone. Now we have a tough game coming up at Carrow Road on Saturday.”
l STUART Pearce’s England under-21’s have a European Championship qualifier against Belgium at the Riverside Stadium on Wednesday, February 29. Tickets are available now by calling 0844 499 1234.