Newcastle's Ryan Taylor relishing return of European football to Tyneside


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The Independent Football

Ryan Taylor admits he can scarcely believe European football will return to Newcastle tonight barely three years after relegation.

The former Wigan utility man was part of the squad which suffered the ignominy of slipping out of the Barclays Premier League at the end of the 2008-09 season, and the man whose free-kick in Greece last week ensured they head into their Europa League play-off second leg clash with Atromitos with the scoreline at 1-1.

It will be the first taste of European action on Tyneside since March 2007 and, having experienced much of the fall and subsequent rise since, Taylor knows just what it means to the club.

The 28-year-old said: "If you had said to me in a couple of years' time, Newcastle would be back on its feet, back into Europe and doing well in the Premier League, I would have snapped your hand off for it.

"I have seen it all. I signed four months before we went down, so I have seen everything.

"I have seen quite a few managers in the short space of time since I have been here and it's great as it is now.

"We have got stability, we have got the fans back and we are playing good football and winning football matches, and that's the most important thing."

Newcastle booked their two-legged clash with Atromitos by finishing fifth in the top flight last season, but did not have things all their own way at the Peristeri Stadium in Athens.

Denis Epstein gave the home side a deserved lead and it took yet another beautifully executed free-kick from Taylor on the stroke of half-time to ensure the Magpies returned home with a positive result.

He said: "You practise these things quite regularly and they do tend to come off now and again and when they do come off, they are quite special.

"They are quite special to me and the fans here love them every time they go in."

The fans in particular loved, and still celebrate in song, the Taylor free-kick which secured derby victory at Sunderland in August last year, a strike which went some of the way to making amends for the series of similar efforts which cost his current club dearly during his time at Wigan.

He said with a smile: "I think the derby one cleared the slate for that."

Newcastle lost 2-0 at Chelsea less than 48 hours after their return from Greece at the end of a tough week, but Atromitos arrived in the north-east on the back of a Super League victory by the same score at Kerkyra a day later.

As a result, manager Alan Pardew will take nothing for granted as he attempts to plot a route past Dusan Bajevic's side.

He said: "They have got a couple of very good players, they have got players who can travel with the ball and that's always difficult for teams.

"The manager has got vast experience and that worries me a little bit."