Steven Taylor reveals his admiration for Rafa Benitez at Newcastle

Former Newcastle United defender Steven Taylor.
Former Newcastle United defender Steven Taylor.

There’ll be one particularly frustrated spectator at Portman Road.

Once synonymous with Newcastle United, the defender is now on the books of Ipswich Town.

Newcastle need to be back in the Premier League and hopefully, one day, Europe.

Steven Taylor

But Taylor – who left St James’s Park last summer in the wake of the club’s relegation from the Premier League – won’t be facing his former club.

The 31-year-old, sidelined with a hamstring injury, will be kicking every ball from his seat.

Boyhood Newcastle fan Taylor will be rooting for his team-mates on what Ipswich have called “Sir Bobby Robson Day”.

But, looking forward, he hopes to be rooting for United in the Premier League next season.

“Newcastle belong in the Premier League,” said Taylor, who played for Sir Bobby Robson at United.

“I was devastated last season, and I’m just glad to see the club on the up under Rafa Benitez.

“Speaking to my team-mates about the game at Newcastle (which United won 3-0), they said from kick-off every player had a touch of the ball. They saw the quality in each player.

“Newcastle need to be back in the Premier League and hopefully, one day, Europe.

“That’s where Newcastle need to be.”

Taylor was in the United team which beat Tottenham Hotspur 5-1 on the final day of last season.

Newcastle’s fans implored Rafa Benitez to stay that afternoon.

He did, and the Spaniard quickly set about rebuilding the team.

Taylor feels the club is safe hands.

“The perfect man to take the club forward is Rafa Benitez,” said Taylor.

“You just look at how much of a figure he is there. He’s loved by the supporters.

“They believe in him. Even when we went down, they had that belief in him. He kept everyone together.

“Fair play to them, they’ve dealt with the games in the Championship.

“It’s a tough league, but they’ve gone about it in the right way.”

Ipswich, meanwhile, are looking to guarantee their place in the Championship next season.

Mick McCarthy’s side – who beat Burton Albion 2-1 on Good Friday – are 15th in the table and nine points above the relegation zone.

“Both teams are going to be going for it,” said Taylor.

“Both teams need the points. We want to guarantee safety, and Newcastle need the points for automatic promotion.

“For us, we’re coming off the back of a good result against Burton. We’ll be confident.

“That’s one thing you need going into a game against a team like Newcastle, who have been outstanding this season and head and shoulders above a lot of the teams.

“They deserve to get promoted, but they’ve got to continue to get results.

“Everyone knows I’m a Newcastle fan, but I just hope my new team gets a result.”

Taylor joined Ipswich in January after leaving Major League Soccer Club Portland Timbers.

And the former England Under-21 international – who made 268 appearances and scored 15 goals during his 13-year first-team career at Newcastle – quickly reacquainted himself with the Championship.

Taylor suffered an injury against Aston Villa and felt his hamstring on his comeback against Wigan Athletic earlier this month.

“I didn’t have a pre-season, which set me back a little bit,” said Taylor.

“I went straight into it after having three months off.

“I had a call from Mick McCarthy to come down. I felt good. I just wanted to be playing.

“I played 90 minutes on my debut and a few days later played Villa. I got an injury there.

“I probably came back too soon, but I wanted to be part of it against Wigan. I felt a little niggle in the first 20 minutes.

“It was a bit frustrating. I thought the best thing was to go off and look towards the last few games of the season.”

The Newcastle game came too soon for Taylor.

“The one game I was disappointed not to be part of was the Newcastle game,” he said. “Obviously, everyone knows what Newcastle means to me.

“I’m just gutted I’m not going to play against them.”

Taylor will instead be involved in the events planned for “Sir Bobby Robson Day”.

“There’s really only one word to describe the man – legend,” said Taylor.

“He was a father figure. It was amazing for me to work with such a legend.”