RYAN TAYLOR could be back in a Newcastle first team shirt before the end of September after showing tremendous character to bounce back from a two-year injury nightmare.
The 29-year-old has been back on the club’s Benton training ground building up his fitness this summer after enduring the worst period of his professional career.
But Taylor can see some light at the end of a very dark tunnel and, while precautions still have to be taken, there is a chance he could be back on the Premier League stage within the opening couple of months of the new Premier League season.
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew said: "Ryan’s a great player for us and a great person. We think he is a few weeks away from full contact training, so maybe four or five weeks.”
The likeable former Wigan Athletic player, a St James’ Park hero for the way he curled a winning goal over the wall from a free-kick against Sunderland three years ago, has not played since suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury in 2012.
When he was close to a return in April last year he suffered a heartbreaking recurrence of the same problem and there were even fears, privately, that he might not play again.
But after surgery from renowned knee surgeon Dr Richard Steadman – the man who once saved the career of Alan Shearer – he has slowly worked his way back.
After embarking on the occasional scouting mission for Pardew and the Newcastle recruitment team, Taylor is almost ready to play again, which would provide further options down either flank.
The Magpies’ summer of restructuring means there will be far greater competition for places this season and the manager still hopes to add a further striker to the squad. Lyon’s £16m-rated Alexandre Lacazette remains the preferred option.
Nine new arrivals will make it difficult for the likes of Sammy Ameobi to force his way in to the Premier League starting line-up – and the academy graduate is desperate to shine after pledging to drive to play for Nigeria on the international stage.
Ameobi has previously represented England Under-21s, but he has switched to the Super Eagles after heading over to Brazil to watch his brother, Shola, play at the World Cup in Brazil.
He said: "It wasn't a difficult decision because I decided to follow my heart and I think it's the right thing to do. I saw Shola at the World Cup and for him to play at a major tournament like that is a big motivation.
"I need to work extremely hard at club level to get the attention of the Nigerian coaches. The country has a lot of talent. I just want to do well and hopefully get a chance. When you give everything and do well then you'll fancy your chance to get a call up to the Nigeria squad.”
Newcastle’s injured Italian Davide Santon, meanwhile, has been linked with a different club back in Serie A, this time Roma.