Pardew wants to protect Taylor
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew is keen to find a way to protect defender Steven Taylor following his latest return from injury.
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27. Steven Taylor
In amongst the euphoria of successive Barclays Premier League victories over Aston Villa and Chelsea and following a busy January transfer window, the 27-year-old central defender's presence in the team after a two-month lay-off with a hamstring problem has been somewhat overlooked.
However, his partnership with captain Fabricio Coloccini at the heart of the Magpies' defence has been a key feature of their marked improvement, and Pardew is desperate to ensure he has one of the most reliable members of his rearguard available to him for the remainder of the campaign.
He said: "He's an outstanding player. The only down-side has been the injuries, that's where you have to slightly have a disappointment with him, that he's just not played enough games in his career here.
"I am very, very conscious, with him and with my staff, that we protect him and try to give him a different regime where hopefully we can keep him fit - because when he is fit, there are not many better."
Taylor's injury history makes for depressing reading with a ruptured Achilles tendon robbing him of the last five months of last season, while shoulder problems have interrupted his career on several occasions.
However, when fit, he has proved a key member of the side and Pardew has on more than one occasion proposed the former England Under-21s captain as a potential full international.
But in the current circumstances, the concentration of both manager and player is solely on the continuing quest to drag Newcastle clear of the relegation zone and establish them in the calmer waters of mid-table.
Despite Saturday's morale-boosting fightback to beat Chelsea 3-2, they are still down in 15th place, albeit six points clear of he drop zone as they prepare for this weekend's tough trip to Tottenham, where they were thrashed 5-0 last season.
If the Magpies do manage to complete the task and secure their top-flight status, they may well look back to the 2-1 victory at Villa Park on January 29 as the night when the tide started to turn.
Taylor made his return that evening, and later described his feelings on the final whistle as the best he had ever experienced as a Newcastle player.
As one of the few Geordies in Pardew's squad - the defender was born in Greenwich but raised on Tyneside - he felt the pain of relegation at the same venue in 2009 as acutely as anyone, and his manager knows just how much that connection to the club fuels him.
He said: "It was interesting to hear him say that it was probably the best feeling he has ever had in a black and white shirt.
"He had the last kick of the Premier League three years ago and he smashed it up the pitch in frustration because the whistle had gone.
"We showed that before the game as a little bit of extra motivation."