Steven Taylor

United defender Steven Taylor was as excited as anyone to see the release of the 2012/13 Premier League fixtures on Monday. The centre-back, who is continuing his rehabilitation from a ruptured Achilles, is hopeful of being back in contention when the new season kicks off as he looks forward to another memorable campaign. And, in the latest instalment of his blog for nufc.co.uk, Taylor talks about the season ahead and how he is enjoying the spectacle of Euro 2012...

 

It's always nice to start a new campaign with a home game and it helps to play one of the big boys early doors. We had the same thing last time out against Arsenal on the opening day and we want to go one better against Tottenham in August.

Spurs will be a difficult game to open with, but the fact that it's at our own stadium can only work in our favour and we'll go into the new season full of confidence from the word go.

We've no need to fear anyone after what we've achieved, and though our first two fixtures against Tottenham and Chelsea look very difficult, we know that every game in the Premier League is tough, and that's the challenge.

With the Europa League qualifiers, we'll have five games in a fortnight at the start of the campaign, but we have to be ready for that both mentally and physically and make sure we're fresh.

One of the early games that jumps out is the visit of Norwich City in September, and it will be good to welcome back Chris Hughton. The Newcastle fans will give him a standing ovation after what he did for this Club and it'll be thoroughly deserved.

He's not just a nice guy but he's a top manager as well, and when things were going against us he was there to pick up the pieces and get us back up to the big time. He did a great job here and it's fantastic to see him back in the Premier League.

I'm also pleased that the first Tyne-Wear derby isn't so close to the start this time, because that made the game very difficult for both sides last season. I like to play Sunderland away first if I'm honest and I always look forward to those matches.

We've got a great record against them in recent years but that is in the past, and it'll be an interesting game because they'll have some new players and we might have a few as well.

They'll be looking to get one over us after what happened at the Stadium of Light last time because that could have gone either way, but it's the only league game of the season were form goes out of the window. Anything can happen.

But these are the games that every player wants to be involved in, and if the bus ride down to that match doesn't get you up for it, then you're in the wrong job and you might as well go home.

After that, the Christmas period looks daunting on paper, with the two Manchester clubs and Arsenal to play in the space of a fortnight, but we have to believe we can pick up points from them.

Looking at the new fixture list whets the appetite. It's why I'm a professional footballer - to play in big games and on big occasions, and hopefully we'll have a few of those next term in the Europa League as well as in the Premier League.

As for the tournament that's going on at the moment, I've really enjoyed Euro 2012 so far and there's been a couple of surprises. The likes of Germany and Spain could easily have been knocked out in the group stages, and that was unexpected.

We've also seen big teams like Russia and Holland go out and not may people predicted that, so it's been entertaining. I was surprised to see the Dutch go because when you look at their team-sheet, they've got some world-class players and they should have made the quarter-finals without any problems.

Tim (Krul) will obviously be disappointed because he thought they'd do really well, just as everybody else did, but for me it's Germany who look the strongest and England have done well whilst staying mainly under the radar.

As for individuals, German striker Mario Gomez has been outstanding and I've played against him at under-21 level. He's got better and better since then and at Bayern Munich he's been knocking three or four goals in at a time!

He's a real handful and he's definitely stood out for me. He gets great service with the likes of Mesut Özil in the side. He was good when I played against him and now he's a monster.

As for England, our subtle approach to the tournament has helped us, and everybody is talking about Spain and Germany, which really suits us. Nobody has bigged up our chances and that has worked in our favour.

We're under a bit of pressure ahead of the Ukraine game tonight (Tuesday), but there's no reason why we can't get a result. A draw will take us through, plus Wayne Rooney is back and we need to get the ball to him as much as we can.

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