NEWCASTLE United’s Steven Taylor says he is “honoured” to be called up by England – but the defender first thought he was on the end of a wind-up!
Taylor yesterday replaced the injured Gary Cahill in Roy Hodgson’s squad for the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro.
“It’s an honour to get here with the players around me,” Taylor said.
Uncapped Taylor – who captained England’s Under-21 side earlier in his career – was in bed when the Football Association tried to contact him late on Monday night.
The 27-year-old was expecting to be training at United’s Benton HQ the next morning.
As it was, Taylor travelled through the night to St George’s Park, Burton-upon-Trent, to link up with his new team-mates ahead of yesterday’s training session.
Taylor – whose career has been interrupted in recent years by a run of injuries – has thanked Magpies manager Alan Pardew and his No 2 John Carver, the club’s medical staff and physios and his team-mates for their help in getting him his chance on the international stage.
“The last few years have been tough with injuries,” said Taylor.
“There’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s paid off. I’ve got to thank the physios, the gaffer and my team-mates for helping me get there. I’ve got to say a big thank you.
“The support I’ve had from the gaffer has been fantastic – I have to thank him for his faith in me.
“I’ve known JC (Carver) since I was just nine, and he’s guided me through the club. Both have been major influences for me in that time.”
Taylor – who was once called up by Steve McClaren in 2007, but didn’t make it on to the pitch – is determined to seize his England chance with both hands.
“The lads have been brilliant with me,” he added. “The tempo’s been great, and it’s great to be around the lads. I’m feeling great, and I’m ready if I get the chance.”
However, Taylor has revealed he thought he was on the prank when he got a message asking him to report to St George’s Park.
“I was lying in bed watching TV, and my phone rang,” he said. “I didn’t recognise the number, so I didn’t answer.
“I then got a text from (club secretary) Lee Charnley congratulating me – but I didn’t know what he was congratulating me for!
“My phone went again and I answered it. I thought it was someone taking the mick – I thought one of the lads had got their missus to ring me!”
England, second in their World Cup qualifying group, are targeting back-to-back wins against San Marino on Friday night and Montenegro on Tuesday in the away double-header.
“It’s a massive two games,” said Taylor, who is one of a dozen Newcastle players on international duty.
“We’ve got San Marino, which everybody thinks is going to be easy, but we can’t take anything for granted, and then Montenegro. Hopefully, we’ll get two wins.”