Ryan Taylor and John Carver

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Ryan Taylor has waited a long time to finally get the opportunity to play in Europe, but the former Tranmere and Wigan man hopes to start Thursday night's Europa League fourth qualifying round first leg tie in Atromitos.

And as he reflected on his rise from the lower reaches of the English game at Prenton Park to continental competition at the Peristeri Stadium, he insisted that nobody will be looking forward to the game more than him.

It certainly seemed a distant dream when he made his professional debut just under ten years ago against Hartlepool United and played in the old Division Two against the likes of Crewe, Stockport, Cheltenham and Macclesfield.

And the Liverpool born ace told nufc.co.uk: "It's my first taste of European football and it's been a while.

"I was 28 on Sunday so it's nice to get the feeling of playing in Europe and I'm looking forward to it.

"There's a few of the boys as well. Me and Perchy were talking about it; he didn't know if he was going to play but he was desperate to play because it's the same for him and I'm sure it'll be the same for a few of the other boys.

"My aim when I was younger was to try and get to the top. To play for a club like this is a great honour for me and to be part of what we did last season, to play a role in what we did, was massive for me.

"So I'm absolutely made up. I'm looking forward to this more than anyone. You can say I'm 28 - but come Thursday, when it comes to playing European football, I'll be like a schoolkid again." 

Taylor and his team-mates trained at Astromitos' 10,200 capacity stadium in western Athens on Wednesday evening, ahead of Thursday's game which will kick off at 8pm local time.

The temperature in Greek's capital city has been as high as 39 degrees this week but the Magpies man does not believe that will have a big influcence on the match.

"It took a little bit of time to get used to," he admitted. "The pitch is quite different to a home pitch - it's quite weedy - but you've got to expect these things when you come to a country like this and the weather we're going to get on Thursday.

"It's going to be a dry, sticky pitch but I'm sure all the lads will do a professional job. We're all footballers and if you can't play football on any pitch then you shouldn't be a footballer.

"They'll obviously be used to it (the weather) but to be honest at the time of night the match will be played it's no different to an average summer's day back home. So I think once the second half kicks off, it'll be completely different from the first half.

"We'd like a few away goals and then get them to come to our place, which is completely different from this ground. I'm sure when they see our stadium they're going to be in awe.

"But we'd like to try and get a few away goals, try to get the tie in our hands and hopefully we can go from there."