He clattered me and I knew my pain was over, says returning Taylor
21:53 GMT, 17 August 2012
Steven Taylor is possibly the first player to welcome a nasty, late rake down his calf.
It happened last month in a friendly against Den Haag, the second game on his comeback trail from an achilles injury that could lead to a Barclays Premier League return against Tottenham at home.
‘This lad came round the corner,’ says Taylor. ‘He really caught me, right down the bottom of my leg.’ The Newcastle defender proudly points to the inch-wide pink scar from his operation and a barely visible stud mark at the base of his tanned leg.
Fit again: Steven Taylor's ruptured achilles kept him out for seven months
‘He stamped on me and caught my tendon. I really had no pain, nothing. That was a big moment. If it wasn’t right I was going to find out there and then.’
Taylor is relaxed and happy. Indeed, he says he has never been happier.
‘I have got my love for football back again,’ says the Newcastle defender who, seven months ago, thought his career was over.
‘My dad said it’s probably the happiest he has seen me. When you first get in the first team you are like an excited little fan and that is me again. I have just got a bit bigger and greyer.I have the same feelings I had when Bobby Robson turned to me against Real Mallorca six years ago and said, “You’re going on”. I am excited again.’
Taylor will never forget the moment he thought he had played his last game. It was October, the stadium was still called St James’ Park, Chelsea were the visitors.
Happier days: Taylor scoring against Arsenal
‘I was tracking Fernando Torres, jockeying sideways and I felt a bang,’ he said. ‘It was like someone had just kicked me in the calf but there was no-one near me.
‘My studs got lost in the turf. My foot went floppy. There was no pain at that point in my achilles, which is why I tried to walk off. I couldn’t understand it. I got in the dressing room and there was no response in my leg when the physio squeezed my calf.
‘The physio said, “You’ve ruptured your achilles’’. I’m glad he came out and told me straight to my face. That night I was in agony. The painkillers weren’t strong enough, but I couldn’t have the operation for two days. I haven’t felt any pain since then.’
It took him a week to get over the shock and deal with the prospect of months of misery and inactivity.
Pain game: Taylor watching on from the sidelines during his injury
‘That first week was the hardest, just trying to get my head around it,’ he said. ‘The medical team kept trying to get into my head saying, “You’ll get through it”.
‘I had to live with my mum and dad at first because I was trying to get round on crutches but I moved out after a week or two. I’m the type who doesn’t like things being done for them.
‘I had to inject myself every morning so I didn’t get a blood clot and that gave me the shakes every time I did it. I felt useless and a bit sorry for myself, which is the worst thing.’
It took four-and-a-half months before he lost the limp and felt the hard work was starting to pay off.
He says: ‘I don’t want people to feel sorry for me but it took that long to start feeling half-decent about myself again.
‘I feel sorry for the medical staff because I was always nagging at them, pushing myself. It must have been like having a nagging wife. Most days they got me in at 7.30 in the morning and I didn’t leave until 8pm.
‘They were long days putting my body through pain and testing myself and how hard I could train, with boxercise, rowing machines, anti-gravity treadmills, gym sessions, ice baths, all crammed in together. You have to go through the pain barrier to be ready for games.
‘For four-and-a-half months it was agony and then there was a bit of light coming in. Six months into the injury, I was thinking, “I’ll be back now”.’
Now he can concentrate on helping Newcastle better last season’s fifth-place finish.
He added: ‘I have seen players just get forgotten about, but I was always in among the lads. They are my team mates, I am an old boy and I wanted to be with them.
‘At team meetings we have said we want to win as many games as possible and we won’t look too far ahead. We had a great year but that is what we did, taking it game by game. The fans can be in dreamland but we have to keep our feet on the ground.’
And Taylor is relieved he can again plant his feet firmly in the turf.