A DECADE ago, Ryan Taylor was watching Newcastle United in Europe on TV.
Little did the Liverpudlian know that he’d one day represent the club on the continent.
Taylor scored Newcastle’s equaliser in last week’s 1-1 draw against Greek side Atromitos in the Europa League’s final qualifying round.
And the 28-year-old is hoping to face the Athens-based club in the return at St James’s Park tomorrow night, when a place in the competition’s group stage is at stake.
Taylor’s stunning free-kick, struck in trademark fashion over the wall, was the club’s first strike in a European competition since Obafemi Martins netted United’s fourth, and his second, in a 4-2 win over AZ Alkmaar at St James’s Park in March 2007.
A week later, in the second leg, the club went out of the UEFA Cup on away goals.
After a five-year absence from Europe, Newcastle returned to the continent thanks to a fifth place in last season’s Premier League.
And Taylor is enjoying every minute of the experience, having avidly watched the club’s exploits on the European stage under Sir Bobby Robson as a teenager.
“When I was 16 or 17, if you’d said to me at the time I’d be playing in the Europa League with Newcastle, I probably would have laughed it off, to be honest,” Taylor told SportMail.
“I’ve worked hard. It just shows if you work hard, you get rewards.
“Steven Taylor knows a few of those nights, as does Steve Harper. I’m sure they’ll let the lads know what we’re in for.
“I always used to watch Newcastle in Europe anyway. When you’re a kid, you watch any football.
“I’m looking forward to it - it can’t come quick enough.”
Alan Pardew’s over-riding priority is the club’s Premier League form, something he made clear before the team set off for Greece.
However, he’s doesn’t think that should come at the expense of a long run in the Europa League.
And Taylor - who came off the bench in Saturday’s league defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge - believes United can make an impression in the competition.
“The main aim, obviously, is the Premier League, but I think, on Thursday, we’ve got to make sure we stay in this competition,” added Taylor.
“A lot of us haven’t played in it - it’s a new experience - and if we can make the group stages, let’s just see how far we can go.
“It would be great playing in different countries.
“It was magnificent for the young players - what an experience for them. It is for everyone.
“It’s not easy to come to a place like (Atromitos), and that showed in the first half.”
- MILES STARFORTH