STEVEN Taylor believes the secret to Newcastle United’s success this season is they are constantly looking forward, rather than dwelling on the past as they did last term.
As part of the team relegated from the Premier League last May, Taylor is well placed to observe the changes since. Being sidelined since January by a knee injury has given him a more detached view of the transformation.
The 24-year-old was given a fillip this week when he was named the city’s Sports Personality of the Year by Sport Newcastle. The award reflects the supporters’ gratitude that the academy product did not abandon ship after relegation, and how the Magpies have regained their affection after demotion.
Centre-back Taylor believes a new approach is behind the transformation from top-flight strugglers to runaway Championship leaders. “After we’ve won a game we forget about that and start thinking about who we’ve got next,” he said.
“We didn’t do it last year. We concentrated too much on the last game, where we went wrong. We were always dwelling on the past. Now we’re looking to the
future and great things are going to happen to this football club. I want to be part of it, part of a winning side. At the start of the season everyone was looking at themselves and they wanted to get back into the Premier League. To stay in the Championship means nothing.
“We are where we are because we’ve got such good team bonding. We never had as many team bonding sessions as we’ve had this year. We’re a much better unit.
“Before we used to have little islands and people didn’t mix as much as we do now. That’s why we’re top of the league. If we can get back into the Premier League we know what the mistakes have been and we’ll put them right.
“In years to come we might look on it (relegation) as a step backwards to go forwards. The squad we’ve got now is full of players who want to play for the club and bring us back to the Premier League.
“I know I speak on behalf of the rest of the lads when I say it is an honour to play for Newcastle United. When I go on the pitch now, I always believe I’m going to win the game.
“Not many teams can do that.”
Some of those demands have spilled into minor on-field altercations but Taylor interprets that as a sign Newcastle are more – not less – united.
“There’s been times when you see little arguments on the pitch but that’s because the players are demanding much more of each other – more than they did last year,” he said.
“If you look at Man United you’ll see their players at each other. But it’s encouragement more than anything. When someone’s made a bad mistake we help each other. There’s never, ever any fall-outs.
“In the changing room you can see the foreign lads enjoying the banter with the English lads. The lads are much happier on the training pitch.
“We’re top of the Championship, the gaffer’s happy, the players are happy – but we demand more.”
Taylor’s mood was lifted by Sport Newcastle’s award – a surprise on the night – and his quicker-than-expected recovery.
“It’s massive for me to win this award,” he commented.
“Just looking at the names on the trophy – Alan Shearer, Jonny Wilkinson, Jonathan Edwards – to be in that category is a very proud thing.
“The icing on the cake would be a Championship winner’s medal and to get back into the Premier League. That would be the perfect season.
“I wrote myself off for the rest of the season when I did my injury. But I’ve had strength coaching from Michael Pellegrino every afternoon and it’s given me the confidence to come back.
“I’ll hopefully be playing by the back end of the season. I feel really good at the moment, the work’s definitely paying off.”