STEVEN Taylor’s ready to lead from the back as Newcastle United attempt to right the wrongs of last season.
The club kicks off its pre-season campaign at Motherwell tonight (7pm kick-off).
As supporters wait on Alan Pardew’s first summer signing, Taylor and his team-mates have been working hard at Newcastle’s Benton training ground.
With the club having fought a grim season-long battle against relegation last term, the pressure is on Pardew and his squad to hit the ground running early in the campaign.
To do that, Pardew needs more players, and he’s hopeful there will be a transfer breakthrough this week.
In the meantime, there’s work to be done by those already at the club, and the squad trained on Tyneside yesterday under the guidance of Pardew ahead of the club’s visit to Fir Park.
And Taylor says there’s a determination in the dressing room to answers the questions that were asked of them last season.
“We know last season wasn’t good enough,” Taylor told the Gazette.
“The fans want a reaction, and we want to perform and show them we need business.
“For the boys, it was a big kick up the backside. It’s tougher every, and that’s how it should be.
“The only thing we can do is stick together inside that dressing room.”
Taylor was linked with a summer move to Queens Park Rangers earlier this month as a makeweight in a deal for striker Loic Remy, but the long-serving defender is not for sale.
And the 27-year-old – who made his United first-team debut just over a decade ago – sees his long-term future as being at St James’s Park.
“I living everyone’s dream – I’m still wearing the shirt,” he said.
“I’m delighted to be back for pre-season. It’s my 10th one now. I’ve just got to keep kicking on.
“I’ve been here since I was nine. JC (John Carver) was my first manager. Now I’m here with him again.
“Like I’ve said before, I just want to be ready for every challenge that comes my way. Competition’s high, and that’s how it should be.”
The challenge for Taylor is to stay fit, having seen his career interrupted by a series of injuries over the past few years.
Taylor said: “I kept myself strong last season with the help of the fitness department.
“They’re on my tail every morning making me do this, that and the other. It’s tough, but it’s worth it.”
Pardew is likely to field a mix of youth and experience against Motherwell.
And those players who returned late for pre-season training because of their involvement in summer internationals, including midfielder Yohan Cabaye, won’t be involved.
“The main thing is that everyone comes through the Motherwell game with no injuries and a bit of fitness,” added Taylor.
“It’ll keep us ticking over, and get us ready for Portugal.
“It’ll be nice to get the winning mentality back. The gaffer and coaches are trying to drill it into us in everything we do. Every drill is competitive, and that’s how it should be.”