Thursday 23 November 2017

Geordie Taylor stokes derby day fire

Luke Edwards

Steven Taylor has delivered an insulting assessment of Sunderland's squad ahead of another volatile Wear-Tyne derby by insisting none of their players are good enough to get into Newcastle's team.

Taylor, a Geordie who came through Newcastle's academy system, has never been shy in goading his neighbours and also insisted he would rather retire from the game and "collect stamps" than play for Sunderland.

The centre-back, who has recovered from injury in time to make tomorrow's trip to the Stadium of Light, is always assured of an unpleasant welcome from Sunderland fans because of his strong Newcastle ties, yet he revels in the animosity.

Although the 26 year-old meant much of what he said as a joke to wind up Sunderland's supporters, it is likely to have a similar effect on Sunderland's Irish manager Martin O'Neill.

"We have said it all the time, we wouldn't take any of their players," said Taylor. "Even last year the gaffer said it, he has our team above Sunderland. Not one player, not even one player on their bench, would get into our starting XI. That is the quality we possess."

When asked whether England international Adam Johnson might be an exception following his £10m move from Manchester City in the summer, Taylor added with a grin: "Adam Johnson is a very good player. I played with him for England U-21s and he is very attack minded. He knows all about this game being from Middlesbrough. He can come and play in our reserves if he wants to."

Taylor did concede Newcastle would have to watch striker Steven Fletcher "closely" as he is a "good player," but he was far more interested in knocking Sunderland than being diplomatic. "I would rather go and collect stamps than stick on that shirt," he added. "I haven't got any friends who are Sunderland fans. As for the players, I'm friendly with one or two of them from the U-21s, but that was before they signed for Sunderland."

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew is unlikely to be happy with Taylor's comments on the eve of a potentially pivotal game, even if they were meant in jest, yet the player appears to relish the extra abuse he will receive.

"Is it the most passionate derby in the country? Put it this way, when I am warming up, their fans have their veins popping out of their necks. It is like I have done something to their family or something. Even when I was just starting out, I have always enjoyed that hostility. Getting abuse off their fans doesn't bother me. I like that sort of thing. It won't upset me one bit.

"I am nervous and I will be until I get into the tunnel, then I can't wait to get on the pitch."

As a local lad raised on the ferocity of the rivalry between the two cities, Taylor will always see it as the most important game of the season and he is delighted Newcastle's foreign players agree with him.

"Last season we did need to explain what it was all about," he said. "This year it doesn't need introducing to anyone...The foreign lads have bought into everything."

Sunderland v Newcastle,

Live, tomorrow, Sky Sports 1, 1.30

Irish Independent

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