By Tom Easterby
Having brought pre-season to a close with a home win over Real Sociedad last Sunday, Steven Taylor insists the busy pre-season undertaken by United has stood them in good stead for the challenge that awaits this weekend.
Centre-half Taylor, who is closing in on his 200th league outing for the Magpies, says the intense workouts undertaken by Alan Pardew's side before the visit of Manchester City on Sunday is the best way to prepare for the long campaign ahead.
"It's been tough. We've been playing teams like Malaga, who were a very good side," explained the 28-year-old.
"We've had a lot of games, a lot of travelling, but I think we've needed the games because you cant just pace yourself getting into it - this is Manchester City, we've got to get straight into that game.
"It's not been a pre-season where you only have a couple of games and more training. It's good that we've had a lot of games and the lads are getting their fitness up, which is the most important thing.
"We just hope that at the start of the season, we make a good start and that's all we can ask for really."
Taylor took part in the Club's open training day at St. James' Park on Tuesday and now, as attention turns to Manuel Pellegrini's champions, the powerful defender has cranked up the ante as early-season optimism sweeps through Tyneside.
"It's going to be a big season for us," said the homegrown centre-back.
"Expectations are going to be high - and so they should be at a football club like this - and hopefully the fans are going to be excited about what we're going to bring to the table.
"For us, we'll just get our heads down and work hard before the big game against the champions. We're confident in our own ability and I think we've shown that in some of our performances over pre-season.
"Everybody's itching to get started and we've just got to see what the manager decides to do and who he picks, so we'll have to wait and see there."
Having home advantage on the opening day is something which Taylor hopes can spur his side on to victory, with a 52,000 supporters likely to flock through the turnstiles this weekend to see how the new-look United fare.
The spirit in the camp, he says, has been high.
"Our fans are going to play a big part in it as always," said Taylor.
"I thought we did well against them here last year, we were unlucky not to get a result against them.
"We'll have to take the game to them, work hard and stick together out there. We can't have anyone who doesn't perform, we've all got to be at it. If one man's not doing it, we'll struggle.
"Our team spirit is always good, we have good banter at Newcastle United, it has been for the years I've been here anyway. Everyone's enjoying themselves, and the new lads have come in and bonded pretty well."