STEVEN Taylor believes Newcastle United’s dramatic win over Stoke City has set his side up perfectly for Thursday’s European tie with Anzhi Makachkala.
The in-form defender, who is deservedly been linked with an England call-up, revealed Alan Pardew told his players to “really go for it” against the Russians in the wake of Sunday’s vital 2-1 Premier League victory at St James’ Park, secured thanks to Papiss Cisse’s last-minute winner.
Newcastle sit in 13th place, their highest position in months, and on 33 points, the same mark as Fulham who are tenth.
United manager Pardew appeared to view the weekend’s result as a watershed moment as relegation is now highly unlikely.
It means his team can fully concentrate on a top-ten finish as well as securing a Europa League quarter-final place in three days’ time, rather than top-flight survival.
It is a message that has been heard loud and clear by his players. Taylor said: “The manager wanted us to get a positive result on Sunday because he wanted us to move on to Thursday and really go for it. We can do that now.
“We had a chat at the end of the game as a team and we’re now looking upwards. With the players we have, and the performance we showed against Stoke, there is no reason why we can’t do that.
“You could see the relief all around when the winning goal went in.
“The lads were saying it was difficult to break them down, and that they came here and defended very well. But it was one of those games where we didn’t find the cutting edge until the hour mark, and then we started to open them up.”
The past two months have not only been positive for Newcastle United as a whole, despite one or two setbacks, this has also been Taylor’s best period for some time.
First and foremost the centre-half is fit and he has taken over the role of Newcastle’s most important defender, a title once held by the injured Fabricio Coloccini.
It is little wonder that Roy Hodgson is
considering bringing him into the international squad.
“I thought he gave a performance of England standard. They really do need to have a look at him at centre-half, as it is a problem position for England,” so said Pardew on Sunday evening after watching his player snub out the not inconsiderable threat of Peter Crouch.
When asked about a potential first cap, Taylor said: “It would be dream come true. I’ve always said it would be the greatest honour for a professional footballer and for me it would be the icing on the cake; but Mr Hodgson has the final say.
“When we got relegated, a few players went above me in the pecking order.
“So I’ve got myself fit, I’m playing regularly for Newcastle and obviously I’ve got my team-mates to thank because they’re keeping me at it every day in training and out there on the pitch.”
Taylor admitted that Newcastle would have probably lost Sunday’s game three months ago.
He recalled: “We had a lot of players filling in back then and a lot of players out of position. It was difficult and things weren’t going our way. Then January comes, we make a few signings and there’s a bit of belief about the place.
“At the start of the season the fans were restless but there’s belief now, and three points on Sunday was massive. It was a hard game and deserved, it was a never-say-die game from us.
“All the lads have done so well coming in. They had to. With the position we were in January we couldn’t afford the new lads to take time.
“Over the years we might have been able to let them settle, but they had to straight away. They’ve got among it and we’ve still got James Perch to come in.
“We’re enjoying ourselves right now and the atmosphere on Sunday was great.”
Taylor’s outstanding individual performance was arguably capped by his antics in ‘putting off’ Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic in the lead up to Yohan Cabaye’s goalscoring free-kick – Newcastle’s equaliser in the match.
He said: “The keeper wanted a dance-off, so I gave him a dance off. We just had a bit of fun, I was just making sure he had lined his wall up properly, just helping him out.
“He asked my help and I made sure for him.”