ASK any Newcastle United fan to name their most memorable European night and it's a fair bet that most under the age of 40 will plump for September 17, 1997.

For those too young to remember the Fairs Cup triumph of 1969, Faustino Asprilla's hat-trick heroics against Spanish giants Barcelona represent all that is special about continental competition at St James' Park.

Most members of the crowd that night will remember Asprilla's goalscoring exploits, Keith Gillespie's wing wizardry and Barcelona's inspired, but ultimately futile, fightback.

But, for one particular 11-year-old, Newcastle's first Champions League outing provided a taste of what was to come.

Sitting in the Sir John Hall Stand, Steven Taylor was as awestruck as anyone as Asprilla shot down a Barcelona side that included the likes of Luis Enrique, Luis Figo and Brazilian legend Rivaldo.

Seven-and-a-half years on, the Newcastle defender is hoping to write his own chapter in the club's book of European history.

With Andy O'Brien battling to be fit for tonight's UEFA Cup clash with Heerenveen, Taylor is on standby to make his fourth European appearance of the season.

And, after sampling the unique European atmosphere from the stands, the versatile defender is desperate to be in the thick of the action as Newcastle chase their first piece of major silverware in more than 35 years.

"These European games are big occasions for me," said Taylor, who made his European bow as a replacement for Darren Ambrose in Sochaux last November.

"They are big occasions for the fans and to play in front of 52,000 screaming Geordies is a dream come true.

"I had a season ticket with my dad in the Sir John Hall Stand and the first game I remember was at home to Barcelona in the Champions League, when Faustino Asprilla scored a hat-trick.

"I was a ball boy for a lot of the games as I grew up and, back then, my only chance of getting on to the pitch was if I ran on to collect a ball.

"I loved watching Newcastle, but I enjoyed the European nights the most and Barcelona is always the game that sticks in my mind."

Arsene Wenger's recent decision to name a squad comprised entirely of overseas players highlighted just how rare it now is for a leading Premiership club to nurture home-grown talent.

Graeme Souness can call upon his fair share of overseas stars but, in Taylor, Shola Ameobi and skipper Alan Shearer, the United boss has three players able to provide a Geordie heartbeat to his starting line-up.

"I love running out there and hearing 'Local Hero'," said Taylor, who was actually born in Greenwich before moving to the North-East when he was three months old. "It's very special.

"That gets me up for the game straight away and to hear the fans singing, it just makes me want to put the headers in and make the tackles.

"I respect the gaffer for giving me the chance to play. My first game was at St James' Park, and that meant a lot to me."

He might have been raised as a Newcastle fan, but Taylor's all-time footballing hero played in red, rather than black and white.

Tony Adams was always the poster of choice on the defender's bedroom wall and, in December 2003, he was given the chance to work with his one-time idol.

Adams was the manager of Wycombe Wanderers when Taylor spent a month on loan at the Causeway Stadium and, while he might only have made six appearances during that spell, it was long enough for the former Arsenal defender to make a lasting mark on his career.

"He's the one person I look up to and respect a lot," said Taylor. "I have loads of videos of him - motivational videos and all sorts.

"He has an interesting story. He had a hard time in his career but he came through it and look what he won.

"I want to achieve stuff like that with Newcastle.

"He captained England as well - that tells you something. He did it against the best in the world and was a top-quality pro."

The pair still keep in touch and Adams has travelled to Tyneside on more than one occasion this season to watch his former protge in action.

While at Highbury, Adams won league titles and FA Cups, but one of his most cherished memories is when the Gunners beat Parma to lift the European Cup-Winners Cup in 1994.

The competition might be different but, if Taylor helps Newcastle taste UEFA Cup success this season, Newcastle will owe the former Arsenal centre-half a considerable debt of thanks.