Steven Taylor has been challenged to earn himself a new deal at Newcastle United.
The long-serving defender is out of contract at St James’s Park in summer, and there have been no talks, as yet, over a new deal for Taylor, labelled “Mr Newcastle” by Steve McClaren, the relegation-threatened club’s head coach.
Taylor – who will face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this evening (5.30pm kick-off) – made his comeback from a long-term hamstring injury in last weekend’s 1-0 win over West Brom.
The 30-year-old was outstanding alongside captain Fabricio Coloccini in the heart of McClaren’s defence.
Asked if Taylor would get offered a new contract, McClaren said: “It’s too early to say what I’ll be recommending.
“He’s only had one game, and we have to see what happens.
“We want the injured players back so we have competition for places – that will help make sure players keep performing like that week in, week out.
“Everything’s dependent on performance, and that goes for a lot of players here who are out of contract at the end of the season.
“Everybody is playing for their individual futures, and they will only improve those by playing well and helping make sure this team stays in the Premier League.”
McClaren – who has a place on United’s board – will make recommendations to managing director Lee Charnley as to which players should be offered new deals.
“I have a massive amount of input into those discussions – it helps being on the board,” he said.
McClaren hopes Taylor – who has spent all his career at the club – can now stay injury-free and help the club climb the table.
“He has a chance to show what he can do now,” said McClaren. “I joke with him, but he is Mr Newcastle isn’t he?
“He’s been here a lifetime, and this is all he knows. He loves this club and loves the area.
“As you saw last week, when he plays, he gives everything for the team. I think that’s just his attitude, and we need that. We need the kind of leadership that he showed in terms of his performance.
“For his own career, and his own benefit, he just has to keep on playing like that now, and get in the team and stay there. That’s up to him.”
McClaren has likened Taylor to Chelsea’s long-serving captain John Terry, who is set to leave Stamford Bridge in the summer when his contract expires.
“You still need that kind of identity in your team,” said the 54-year-old.
“We’re playing against a team tomorrow in Chelsea who have John Terry who epitomises that as well.”
McClaren believes “old school” Taylor has had to adapt his game.
“The game is changing,” he said. “Ten years ago, we used to be able to tackle, and that was Steven Taylor’s game.
“But some things don’t change. You still need to defend your box, made interceptions and kick the ball away – that’s still invaluable now, it’ll never go away.
“You still need things like on the field, and being vocal and being a leader, driving other players on. Steven is what you might call old school in terms of that. But that will never ever go out of date.”
Taylor’s career at Newcastle has been beset by a series of serious injuries.
“Some players just struggle with injuries – some are unlucky,” said McClaren.
“A lot goes way back to their childhood and how much football they were playing and whether they were playing with injuries when they shouldn’t have.
“We all suffer later on and say ‘that was because I was playing for 10 years with that back injury’, but that’s what you sometimes have to do to continue playing.”