NEWCASTLE United’s Steven Taylor’s returned to fitness after a seven-month lay-off – and Alan Pardew’s backing him to return to form.
Taylor missed the second half of last term after rupturing his Achilles in December.
And the defender’s come through a punishing rehabilitation to return to fitness in time for the start of pre-season.
Taylor could make his first comeback on Friday when Newcastle open their pre-season campaign away to German minnows Chemnitzer.
The 26-year-old was outstanding alongside Fabricio Coloccini before succumbing to what Taylor has described as a “freak” injury.
Had he stayed fit, the former England Under-21 captain could would have been a contender to make Roy Hodgson’s squad for Euro 2012.
And United manager Pardew is looking forward to see Taylor again challenging for a place in a defence which laid the foundations for the club’s impressive fifth-placed finish in the Premier League last season.
“I’m looking forward to having Steven running around and playing again,” Pardew told SportMail.
“Having Steven back fit for pre-season is a big boost for us.”
Meanwhile, Lee Clark has been linked with another swoop on Newcastle United – this time for Steve Harper. Birmingham boss Clark yesterday signed former Newcastle United striker Peter Lovenkrands on a two-year deal.
“He’s hoping to have an injury-free season, and hopefully he will.”
In Taylor’s absence, Mike Williamson came to the fore, and the pair face extra competition this season, with Pardew – who tried and failed to sign a centre-half in January – looking to add to his defence.
Meanwhile, the Chemnitzer game, and two more friendlies in Germany and Austria against AS Monaco and Fenerbahce, are expected to be belatedly confirmed by Newcastle later today.
The tour has been hurriedly arranged after the Vodacom Challenge pre-season tournament in South Africa, to which United had been invited, was cancelled last month.