STEVEN Taylor kicked every ball of Newcastle United’s last two derbies – from the sidelines.
And the defender is relishing a return to the pitch against Sunderland.
Taylor and his team-mates visit the Stadium of Light tomorrow confident they can take the three points, and claim their first win in four attempts on Wearside.
The 25-year-old was an unused substitute in last season’s 5-1 win over Steve Bruce’s side at St James’s Park, and on the injured list for January’s return fixture, a 1-1 draw.
Having played in the season-opening goalless draw against Arsenal in the heart of Newcastle’s defence alongside captain Fabricio Coloccini, Taylor is looking forward to his first derby action in two and a half years.
While born in Greenwich, Taylor has lived on Tyneside for all but a few months of his life, and the fixture means more than any other to the former England Under-21 international.
“I was devastated to miss the game at the Stadium of Light, and I was on the bench for the game at St James’s Park,” Taylor said.
“It’s an amazing feeling to win one of these games. It’s fantastic for us as players, but also everyone in the city.
“I want to see our fans with smiles on their faces at the end of the game, and singing all the way back to Newcastle.
“For me, the pressure’s on Sunderland after the result at St James’s Park last year.
“It’s their first home game, and their fans are going to expect a lot, especially from their new signings.
“All we can do is give it our all, and get a result.
“Playing in a derby is the best feeling, especially if you come off the pitch having taken the three points.
“Hopefully, that’ll happen on Saturday.
“The atmosphere will be very hostile and intense – it’s probably one of the best to play in away from home.”
Taylor’s abiding memory of a Tyne-Wear fixture is the emotions on and off the field after the club overcame Sunderland at St James’s Park six years ago thanks to a stunning set-piece strike from Turkish midfielder Emre.
“My best derby memory is the 3-2 win at St James’s Park when Emre scored that free-kick,” Taylor added.
“It was a special one for me.”
That game – one of the Black Cats’ better attacking performance in Sunderland’s dismal 15-point relegation season – swung back and forth, and Taylor knows the team’s first priority will not be to concede so to give striker Shola Ameobi and others the chance to win the game at the other end of the field.
Reflecting on last week’s hard-fought goalless draw with Arsenal, Taylor said: “It was difficult against Arsenal – they’re a very good passing side, and they moved the ball so well.
“In the second half, we put a bit more pressure on them.
“We had to stop them from going forward first, and then help out Shola.
“He did a fantastic job battling up there by himself.
“We’ve worked very hard this pre-season defensively, and we’ve got to keep that up.
“We’ve got to concentrate on it like we would do for any other game, and you can’t let the occasion get to you.
“It’s all about concentrating on us, and nothing else. We can’t wait for the game.”
The Stadium of Light game will see summer signings Yohan Cabaye, Gabriel Obertan and Demba Ba get their first taste of the age-old North East rivalry.
And for the club’s players, there’s no hiding place in the days leading up to the much-anticipated game.
Taylor added: “There’s no getting away from the build-up to a derby.
“Players might not realise what it’s like when they come to Newcastle, but this is what it’s all about.”