By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
James Tavernier admits that a "massive year" lies ahead for him after agreeing a new three-year contract with the club.
The 20-year-old defender, who has made two senior appearances for Newcastle, wasted no time in agreeing terms as the players returned for pre-season training this week and has now set his sights on breaking into the first-team.
With European football adding to the demands of the Barclays Premier League and domestic cup competitions, Tavernier knows that he could be called upon in the months ahead and is determined to make the most of any opportunity presented to him.
After captaining the Reserves as they won the Hong Kong Football Club International Soccer Sevens tournament in May, he put in extra gym sessions during the summer to ensure that he is in the best possible shape ahead of what could be a long and gruelling campaign for Alan Pardew's men.
"It's a massive year and it's just about getting really at it from the start - from now - because my main aim is to really push on and get in this team next year," he told nufc.co.uk.
"There's going to be more chances for all the young lads that are coming through so it is obviously a big step where we maybe can play in those games and make an impact.
"There's plenty of games coming up and obviously the European qualifiers and hopefully I can get a chance in one of those games, have a really good game and show that I can actually be in this team."
Although he did squeeze in a short holiday, Tavernier was regularly pumping iron at United's Benton training centre after returning from the successful trip to the Far East with Willie Donachie's second-string.
He explained: "I was just keeping myself ticking over, and obviously Hong Kong helped me to tick over a little bit longer. I was one of the the more experienced players out there so it was really good to lead the team and be an example - and it was really good that we actually won it.
"As soon as he gave me the armband, I thought 'I've got to take responsibility' and throughout the tournament our team was always well-disciplined. We really kept it tight as a unit and we were close so I thought we did really well out there.
"When we got back I was just doing gym work, strengthening myself up and getting ready to play against strong players.
"It's such a good feeling to come back and really get into things. And knowing this could be the season that I'm in the team - obviously that's the highest aim and I want to achieve that.
"I'll just take it day by day and really work hard and hopefully catch the eye.
"Last year I was on loan so coming back to the team I've progressed a lot in my football and hopefully I can really make an impact straight away and have a really good pre-season."
But although he is keen to add to his appearances in black and white in 2012/13, the Bradford-born youngster is open to another loan move if it will help him to continue his development.
In the last two seasons, he has spent time with Gateshead, Carlisle, Sheffield Wednesday and MK Dons and has no qualms about another temporary switch if Pardew believes it will be beneficial.
"Pre-season is going to determine that and I'm going to speak to the gaffer," he said. "If, football-wise, I can make the next step up and maybe have a season-long loan in the Championship and really set my stall out there or I can fight for a place here, I will.
"It's just about playing games, because I want to play throughout the year so we've just got to talk about it and see what's the right way to do it.
"The loan spells ever since Gateshead have taken me further and further on as a player. I've gained so much experience and it's really helped me come along as a player. Every time I've came back, I've been a more-improved player which is what I wanted when I went away.
"And I think that's what the manager wanted me to get out of it, so the loans have really helped me."