By Dan Sheridan - Newcastle United Managing Editor
United defender Steven Taylor will resume full training next week having recovered from a calf injury, and has targeted the derby clash with Sunderland to make his timely comeback.
The Geordie centre-half suffered the slight strain against Reading at the end of last month, and was sidelined for the following visits of Bordeaux and Manchester United.
But after ten days of early starts and plenty of strength and conditioning work, the 26-year-old is on the brink of returning in time for the Tyne-Wear derby a week on Sunday.
"The main thing for me is being 100 per cent fit for the Sunderland game," Taylor told nufc.co.uk, "and I didn't want to prepare for that match carrying any little niggles or anything like that.
"The medical staff have been spot on - like they always are - and hopefully taking that little bit of extra time on the injury will enable me to be fit for the game at the Stadium of Light.
"I'm due back in full training next Tuesday, a full five days before the derby, and until then I'll keep on top of my fitness and conditioning work while a lot of the lads are away on international duty."
After suffering a nightmare Achilles injury last term that saw the former England Under-21 international miss the final five months of the campaign, Taylor is no stranger to United's training ground gym.
But as he explains, this time around the sessions have been more enjoyable with the trip to Wearside on the horizon.
"I've been putting in even more 7.30am starts," added Taylor, "though I'm used to that following my injury last season. But the good thing is that this time around it's only a niggle.
"I'd rather miss one game and be fully fit, because if you play through injuries and carry on you risk missing two, three or four matches.
"I knew there was an international break coming up and that is giving me a bit of extra time to get my body back to normal."