By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Ahead of his first return to Wigan Athletic this weekend, Ryan Taylor is backing his old club to beat the drop once again - but only after Newcastle have strengthened their own league position with a seventh successive win.
The Latics are one place and one point above the Barclays Premier League relegation zone while United are looking to maintain their place in the top four and although the Magpies have been flying of late, Wigan's recent form has been pretty impressive too.
Roberto Martinez's side have won four of their last six games - a statistic made all the more impressive by the fact that three of those victories came against Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.
Traditionally, Athletic finish campaigns strongly and they have made a habit of staving off relegation from seemingly impossible situations - something which Taylor, who spent four years at what was then the JJB Stadium, is at a loss to explain.
"I don't know," he admitted as he spoke exclusively to nufc.co.uk. "When I was there, we had a great team spirit; we lost quite a few games but we always stayed in the division and hopefully they can do the same again this year.
"I think the only year, really, that we didn't have a fight was the first year we came up and we had 40 points just after Christmas.
"But the team spirit they've got there is great. They always seem to hit a little bit of form at the right time and pick up results unexpectedly and that's been the case this season. They've lost to some of the teams around them at home and yet they can go to places like Arsenal and pick up results.
"They're just an inconsistent team at the minute. The manager, obviously he's got a plan but at the minute it's taking time. I'd like to see them stay in the division - but I wouldn't like to see them get any points off us tomorrow."
Taylor arrived in Greater Manchester from Tranmere Rovers in the summer of 2005, just in time for their debut season in the top flight, and helped them stay up that term as well as reaching the Carling Cup final.
He made 63 appearances for the Latics and famously scored four of his six league goals for the club against Newcastle, who he went on to join in February 2009. However he also suffered a broken leg playing against United Reserves in 2006, shortly after returning from a metatarsal injury.
Another long-term lay-off - the ankle injury which interrupted his 2010/11 campaign - denied him the chance to feature in last season's 1-0 win at the DW Stadium, but he hopes to play some part this weekend against a club he still has fond memories of.
"You always look out for the teams you used to play for," he said. "If you had a good relationship with the club and the fans and the players then you're always keen to look out for them.
"But as far as tomorrow goes, Wigan was in the past and now as a Newcastle player I want to win. We've both got two teams playing for different things and it's good with four games to go that we're still fighting for something.
"So I'd like to get the win but on the other hand I'd like to see Wigan stay in the division in those next three games after that. They've got Wolves at home in the last game of the season and they've still got some massive, massive games.
"This will be my first time back and I am looking forward to it. I had a good time there other than my injuries. I spent a lot of time out so Wigan fans didn't really get to see a lot of me. But hopefully if I can play some part tomorrow, I'll show them what they missed."
The 27-year-old was a virtual ever-present in the first part of this term, but has been in and out in recent weeks due to a couple of injuries and the sensational form of his team-mates. But every player in the squad knows that they could have a huge role to play between now and the final game at Everton, and Taylor is no different.
"We've got some big games and I've love to be a part of those next four games for the European push," he said.
"But we just want to take each game as it comes and not get too carried away yet because there are teams above us and just below us who are fantastic teams themselves. But we're going to aim for tomorrow and hopefully get the win again."