STEVEN Taylor believes Newcastle United are on the verge of an exciting new era now they have completed their Premier League survival mission.
With safety all but assured, the issue of summer recruitment has suddenly shot to the top of the black and white agenda.
Newcastle want at least four new players to add to a squad which will be boosted by the return of Hatem Ben Arfa, Dan Gosling and Taylor himself, who has struggled with a series of injuries over the past two seasons.
The homegrown defender backs calls for more “quality and class” to be added to the United squad but says supporters should not forget about the existing stars on the books at St James’ Park.
Speaking at the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation charity golf day, he said: “It’s exciting times for us.
“I’ve just signed a new contract and I’m looking forward to being here for the next five and a half years and seeing what we can do in that time. This squad has made a habit of proving people wrong. I think at the start of the season many people thought we’d be in the relegation fight but we’ve proved people wrong again. We’ve really kicked on this season and I think the best thing that’s happened to Newcastle was getting relegated.
“The spirit we’ve got here now is great, you want to be at training everyday and everyone is hungry to do well for the club. I think we feel lucky to be here, especially the local lads. It’s the best feeling ever.
“We know the fans would love to replace us with new players – we realise that – but for me I think we can really kick on with this squad next season.
“As a group we’ve done well this season and we want to do even better next season.”
For Taylor that means a season free of injuries, playing regular first team football. Although officially back in contention the defender confesses he is short of sharpness and can probably manage no more than an hour of a Premier League game at the moment.
Match practice is required to bring him back up to scratch but with Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson playing so well, Taylor knows that is unlikely to come before the end of this season.
“I’m over my injuries now and I’m just staying fit and keep myself ticking over,” he said.
“I’m probably lasting about 60 minutes on the pitch, it’s just lack of practice which makes it difficult when you’re coming back from time out through injury.
“To be honest I’m already looking forward to pre-season now and hopefully I can kick on next season and that’s the way it should be.
“I want to get back in their but its up to the gaffer and its up to him what he does. Mike and Fabricio have done a great job this season so theres a lot of centre-half opposition but I’m looking forward to getting fit pre-season and hopefully I can try and get myself back in the team.”
Before the summer break there is the small matter of a trip to Anfield to play a certain former number nine.
Having gone up against him in training every day for four years, Taylor knows Andy Carroll can be a handful.
“Andy was here since he was a young lad and it’ll be a big day for him,” he said.
“He’s done fantastic for Newcastle, he’s scored some great goals for us this season and of course against Liverpool but it’ll be a good moment for him to play against us and for the lads too because we used to train and play with him.
“They’re in good form but we’ve got to perform like we know we can.”