RYAN Taylor can’t wait to get back on the field - after kicking every ball from the sidelines last season.
Taylor is close to a playing return for Newcastle after almost two years on the sidelines.
The 29-year-old - who twice ruptured his cruciate ligament in his right knee - is back in full training and closing in on his comeback.
Taylor travelled to New Zealand with Alan Pardew’s squad for last week’s Football United Tour 2014 games against Wellington Phoenix and Sydney FC.
And the former England Under-21 international is keen to make up for lost time on the pitch, having been a helpless and frustrated spectator as the club’s campaign unravelled in the latter months of last season.
A challenge for a European place fell away in the second half of the season, when the club’s squad was found wanting.
The creativity of midfielder Yohan Cabaye - who had been an influential figure in the first half of the campaign - was sorely missed as the team struggled to create openings in the final third of the pitch.
Taylor, however, is confident the club, boosted by six summer signings, can challenge for a top-six finish.
“Those last weeks were quite tough,” Taylor admitted.
“I was in the dressing room day in, day out with the lads.
“It’s quite tough on them. Confidence wasn’t there. Everyone was getting on top of them.
“We’ve just got to try and build on the first six or seven months of (last) season. We’ve got to try and get to a better place.”
Taylor (pictured, left) last kicked a ball in anger for Newcastle in August, 2012, when he turned out against Atromitos in a Europa League qualifier at St James’s Park.
He suffered recurrence of the problem late that season as he neared a comeback.
Taylor, handed a scouting role by Pardew last season, went on to have two operations in the United States in renowned surgeon Richard Steadman’s clinic.
The utility player offers Pardew an option in both full-back positions.
And Taylor, signed from Wigan Athletic in January, 2009, by then-Newcastle manager Joe Kinnear, can also play across the midfield.
Meanwhile, Pardew and his staff were today assessing the fitness of those players who were forced off against Wellington on Saturday aahead of tomorrow night’s game against Sheffield Wednesday.
Siem de Jong, Mehdi Abeid and Rolando Aarons all left the field injured at the Westpac Stadium.
United ended the game with 10 men after Aarons limped off the pitch.