By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Steven Taylor has compared West Bromwich Albion's brilliant start to the season to the way Newcastle flew out of the blocks at the beginning of the last campaign.
The Baggies, managed by former Magpies assistant manager Steve Clarke, are currently eighth in the Barclays Premier League and have never looked back since beating Liverpool 3-0 on the opening day.
Reigning champions Manchester City are one of only two sides to beat them so far and Taylor believes they've taken on United's 'surprise package' tag from last term.
Clarke, who brings his team to Tyneside on Sunday (kick-off 3pm), was at St. James' Park during Ruud Gullitt's spell in charge but has taken to his first managerial role at the Hawthorns like a duck to water.
And Taylor told nufc.co.uk: "He was just before my time but I've got a lot of respect for the guy.
"I've spoken to him a good few times and he's done a magnificent job there. He's got the players hard to beat.
"They are very hard to beat and I think they've started like we did last year, so it is going to be hard."
On Friday, Newcastle announced a special ticket offer for the match with prices starting from as little as £5 in level 7 of the Sir John Hall stand, and the defender is hoping for a big crowd to give Newcastle the edge.
"They're going to try to get a full house here and hopefully that'll help us," he said.
"West Brom are doing very well this season. They've started very well and they've got some great players so it's going to be a really hard game for us."
Taylor has had mixed fortunes against the Baggies in recent years. On the final day of the 2010/11 capaign, he scored in a 3-3 draw - his third goal in three games - but in 2009/10, as United marched to the Championship title, he suffered a season-ending knee injury in an enthralling encounter at St. James' following a tackle from Roman Bednar.
"It was a bad one but for me that's put behind me now," insisted the 26-year-old, who made his first start since a hamstring injury sustained against Reading last month when United beat Club Brugge in the Europa League on Thursday.
"The good thing is I'm getting my fitness again and I've started the season feeling in good form.
"I'll try and continue that against West Brom if selected but we've got loads of games coming thick and fast, European games as well, so there's going to be a lot of squad rotation.
"We'll just have to see what the manager does but I think Thursday night's performance will give the manager a headache."
Tickets are still on sale for Sunday's match against West Bromwich Albion. For more information, click here.