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Taylor hoping England debut will provide a career high
STEVEN Taylor claims it will be "the proudest moment of his career" if he is selected to make his England debut in Friday's World Cup qualifier with San Marino.
Taylor was called up to replace the injured Gary Cahill yesterday morning and immediately linked up with the rest of the England squad at St George's Park.
The 27-year-old's only previous involvement with the senior international set-up came as an unused substitute for a friendly with Germany in 2007, but a defensive crisis means he could be involved on Friday as England look to brush aside the joint-lowest ranked team in international football.
Cahill will be reassessed ahead of Tuesday's more testing trip to Montenegro, but Taylor joins Joleon Lescott, Chris Smalling and Steven Caulker as the only centre-halves in the squad to face San Marino.
"I would run through brick walls to play for my country," said Taylor, who has been in superb form with Newcastle since returning from injury at the end of January. "It would be the proudest moment in my career and if it comes I would be absolutely delighted, over the moon, call it what you want.
"You cannot get any higher than playing for your country. I was in an England squad once before and it was an amazing experience. It is the pinnacle for any footballer - you dream of representing your country."
Taylor's call-up to the senior squad six years ago came under Steve McClaren, but the centre-half's international ambitions were dented by Newcastle's relegation to the Championship shortly after.
He was an integral part of the club's promotion campaign, and while a succession of injuries have prevented him from realising the full extent of his potential, at his best he can claim to be one of the most effective defenders in the country.
"It seems like a long time ago but I was called up in 2007 for a game against Germany, and although I didn't get on the pitch it was incredible just being around the England squad," he said. "I would love to get to that level again regularly, but it is all about being consistent on the pitch and proving yourself every week.
"I heard from Fabio Capello that he wasn't going to pick any players from outside the Premier League, so when we got relegated it was clear I wasn't going to get back in.
"That was fair enough. It is the manager's decision and he made that. I was disappointed at the time, of course I was, but the priority then was getting Newcastle back into the top-flight, which we did after a season."
Taylor is the first Newcastle player to be involved in an England squad since Andy Carroll, and Magpies manager Alan Pardew feels his call-up is a just reward for his impressive recent performances, which peaked with a superb display in last week's Europa League win over Anzhi Makhachkala.
"This is a fully-deserved call-up for Steven," said Pardew. "He missed part of the season, but since his return has been outstanding.
"He has a great chance, on this form, of going to the World Cup. On behalf of all the squad, staff and supporters, we wish him all the best and hope he is given the chance to win his first senior international cap."
It remains to be seen whether Taylor is selected in San Marino, although Lescott and Smalling would appear to be Roy Hodgson's first-choice pairing, even though neither player is a regular starter for his club.
Lescott started England's most recent World Cup qualifier - last October's 1-1 draw with Poland - while Smalling impressed alongside Cahill in last month's friendly win over Brazil.
Cahill's withdrawal, which followed hot on the heels of Rio Ferdinand's return to Manchester United, means England have lost two key centre-halves in the space of two days.
Michael Dawson, Phil Jagielka and Phil Jones are also unavailable, while John Terry has retired from the international stage, but Frank Lampard is happy to place in his trust in the central defenders England have rather than worry about the ones they have lost.
"I believe in this squad," said the veteran midfielder. "We have been in these situations before in different positions but we have got depth in terms of the younger players coming into the squad.
"We have to believe in them. We have to make sure we are not upset in any one position."
Ferdinand's departure led to accusations of a breakdown in communication within the England coaching department, and while Lampard was reluctant to become embroiled in the ongoing row, he conceded that his former West Ham team-mate would be missed.
"Rio is a top-drawer player," he said. "He is certainly not finished. You see his performances, particularly against (Real) Madrid away. He was absolutely outstanding.
"He is producing performances like that every week. I don't know the ins and outs of his future, but the way he is playing at the minute, he is one of the top performers in the Premier League."