By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Steven Taylor is targeting a return to first team action on the second leg of United's pre-season tour, in Portugal at the end of July.
The defender hasn't kicked set foot on the pitch since suffering a ruptured Achilles last December, but has battled his way back from surgery and is currently out in Germany with his teammates, preparing for the 2012/13 campaign.
Thursday morning saw Taylor train in amongst the group for the first time this summer, and he knows that Saturday's friendly against Turkish giants Fenerbahce will come too soon for him.
So the 26-year-old has instead set his sights on game time when the Magpies compete in the Guadiana Torneo, in the Algarve, against Olympiacos and SC Braga later this month.
"It's great to be back properly," Taylor told nufc.co.uk in an exclusive interview following his first group training session.
"It's a feeling of excitement and adrenaline, it's great to be back with the lads again and I just can't believe it's been nearly eight months. It feels like forever.
"Today was mad. You've got to remember certain things and it will take me a while to get back into the flow of it - probably a few weeks - but I loved getting on the ball again and having banter with the lads.
"I hope in Portugal I will be fit for selection and get some minutes in one of the two games.
"I want some action over there, I feel fit enough to do it and that's the only thing which is going to get me ready for the start of the season.
"All I want now is to be involved. I need to get in good condition and be in contention for when we kick-off the season against Spurs."
Watching Taylor being put through his paces in training was proof enough to know there are no long-lasting effects from the injury which brought a premature end to his season last year - and one in which he impressed week after week.
Performing both as a right-back and centre-back, the former Wallsend Boys Club youngster looked like he'd never been away, and he explained:
"I feel in good shape. After training I thought I would be feeling pretty stiff but I'm pretty good.
"I have done lots of running work over the summer so am up to speed with that. Match-fitness is the only thing now that will get me properly fit.
"I've had no reaction from my Achilles. That isn't an issue any more.
"I'm striking a ball, kicking a ball long distances, twisting and turning and it feels good. I feel back to normal and that's a great feeling."