IT’S been seven long months since Ryan Taylor last kicked a ball in anger.
But Taylor can finally see light at the end of the tunnel – ahead of Newcastle United’s visit to the Estadio da Luz.
The 28-year-old today travelled to Portugal with his team-mates ahead of Thursday night’s Europa League tie against Benfica.
Taylor - who suffered a cruciate ligament injury in early in the season – won’t be involved.
During his long absence, the club has progressed to the Europa League’s quarter-finals.
However, in his one European game this season – the away qualifier against Greek side Atromitos in August – he made an important contribution.
A trademark free-kick – delivered over the wall, of course – saw Newcastle draw 1-1 in Athens in the first leg. It was the club’s first goal in Europe since Obafemi Martins’s second against AZ Alkmaar at St James’s Park in March 2007.
Taylor, a fortnight away from a return to full training, dreams of rejoining the club’s Europa League campaign.
“The gaffer made a joke that I might be fit for the final,” Taylor told SportMail.
“It would be nice! I scored the first goal in Europe, and who knows, I could score the last goal!
“There’s still a lot to play for – it’s exciting being in that cup.
“I’m going to go to Benfica and do a bit of training out there and watch the game.
“I won’t be ready for it, but I’ll be out there with the lads. Hopefully, we’ll go through.
“I might be available for the semis if we get through, who knows?”
With United, you never really know. Benfica are the favourites to reach the last four of the competition.
But so were Anzhi Makhachkala, Newcastle’s Round of 16 opponents.
For his part, Taylor can only focus on his fitness, and the likeable and down to earth Liverpudlian – who wrote his name into Geordie folklore last season with his match-winning free-kick against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light – is steadily working towards a comeback.
“Atromitos was the last full game I played,” said Taylor. “It’s quite astonishing, really. It does seem a long time ago.
“It’s only been seven or eight months. It’s not that long when you think about it, but in footballing terms, it’s a full season.
“I’m just looking to get back before the end of the season.”