• Centre-half in contention for World Cup qualifiers
• International candidacy backed by his manager
Steven Taylor hopes to win his first senior England cap later this month. The Newcastle United centre-half is in strong contention to be selected by Roy Hodgson for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers in San Marino and Montenegro and has acknowledged that a call up would make his season.
"It would be a dream come true," said Taylor. "I've always said it's the greatest honour for a professional footballer and, for me, it would be the icing on the cake. But Mr Hodgson has the final say."
The 27-year-old, understood to be admired by Hodgson, has been in excellent form during the past few weeks since returning from a long-term hamstring injury. Allied to Newcastle's absence from the Premier League during the 2009-10 season, injuries – most notably affecting his shoulder and, more recently, achilles tendon – probably explain why the former England Under-21 captain's sole involvement with the senior side was as a non–playing member of Steve McClaren's squad for a friendly against Germany in 2007.
"When we got relegated a few players went above me in the [England] pecking order, but I've got myself fit and I'm playing regularly for Newcastle," said Taylor, whose international candidacy has been enthusiastically endorsed by his manager, Alan Pardew.
Delighted by the manner in which Taylor subdued Peter Crouch during Newcastle's 2-1 home victory over Stoke on Sunday, Pardew had a message for Hodgson. "Steven Taylor was immense," he said. "He was brilliant. It was an England-standard performance. England need to look at Steven at centre-half. It's a problem position for them."
Securing international recognition apart, Taylor's other goal this season is helping Newcastle to win the Europa League. On Thursday, Pardew's team face Guus Hiddink's Anzhi Makhachkala in a round of 16, second-leg tie on Tyneside with the score at 0-0 following last week's first leg in Russia.
"We move on to Thursday and really go for it," said Taylor, whose side are now nine points clear of the Premier League's relegation zone. "We've had a talk about it and there's no reason why we can't do that now, we're looking upwards."
What had turned into a season of struggle for Newcastle has been transformed following a dramatic upturn in form provoked by five January signings from France's Ligue 1, including Moussa Sissoko, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Mathieu Debuchy.
"Before we had a lot of players filling in and a lot of people out of position," said Taylor. "It was difficult. Things weren't going our way, but now there is a bit of belief about the place. All the lads who came in have done well. They had to – with the position we were in during January we couldn't afford to let them take time to settle in. They had to come good straight away, but they've got in amongst it and we're enjoying ourselves now."