STEVEN Taylor says he is smiling again – after putting a difficult campaign behind him.
The Newcastle defender, now the club’s longest-serving player, was hit by injury and suspension last season.
Taylor was sent off in the club’s opening game against Manchester City just over a year ago - and things didn’t get much better for the rest of the campaign.
But the defender is hopeful his 12th season as a first-team player will prove more successful - for him and the team.
Taylor - who could face Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s Stadium tonight - was linked with a summer move away from St James’s Park.
However, the former England Under-21 international insists he wasn’t looking to leave his boyhood club.
“I’m happy here,” Taylor said. “This is my home town club, and I’ve got two years left on my contract.
“I love it here. I’m enjoying my football and coming in with a smile on my face every day.”
Taylor was an unused substitute on Sunday when Newcastle beat German club Schalke 04 3-1 in Gelsenkirchen thanks to goals from Emmanuel Riviere, Rolando Aarons and Remy Cabella.
The victory followed a defeat a day earlier to Malaga, who won the Schalke 04 Cup after winning both their games at the Veltins Arena.
Newcastle have won four and lost two of their pre-season games so far.
And Taylor feels he and his team-mates are in good shape as the start of the new Premier League campaign draws ever closer.
“The boys, fitness-wise, are looking good,” said Taylor.
“I’m feeling very good so far. I’ve come back for pre-season in good shape, and I’ve wanted to get minutes on the board.
“I’ve been doing that and playing with a smile on my face, which is the most important thing. I want to get as many minutes as possible.”
The Huddersfield game is followed by a home fixture against Real Sociedad on Sunday.
United manager Alan Pardew - who has been rotating his squad up to now - will soon be drawing conclusions as to what his starting XI will be for the season-opener against Manchester City at St James’s Park on August 17.
“The week before the game, the players normally get an idea of what the manager is thinking,” said Taylor.
“He just wants us to express ourselves.
“Everyone’s got a chance of being in that starting line-up - it’s up to us to take it.”
Taylor is vying with Mike Williamson and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa for a place in the team alongside captain Fabricio Coloccini.
He is now the club’s longest-serving player after the departure of striker Shola Ameobi.