STEVEN TAYLOR has twice endured the anguish of relegation with Newcastle.
And the Geordie admitted that if they suffer the same fate for the third time in the Mike Ashley era, it will sicken him just as much as when he was wearing the black-and-white stripes.
Steven Taylor was devastated when Newcastle were relegated in 2009Credit: Graham Hughes – The Times
The Toon Army were also distraught at dropping out of the top-flight in 2009Credit: AP:Associated Press
Failure to beat Wolves at St James’ Park tonight could see them in the bottom three if Fulham win at Crystal Palace tomorrow.
Taylor, 35, is now captaining Odisha in the Indian Super League, having left Wellington Phoenix last year when coronavirus led to an exodus from New Zealand’s A League.
But living away does not ease the pain for the former England Under-21 defender, who has been watching his former club’s games in his villa in Goa, where ISL teams are based in their bubble.
He told SunSport: “Relegation would still hurt me as a fan. You never lose your love for Newcastle.
“I still get upset when the team loses, even though I’m thousands of miles away rather than out there on the pitch.”
The Toon diehard knows from bitter experience how traumatic relegation can be, though his memories of the 2009 and 2016 campaigns felt very different. In both cases, redemption quickly followed.
He recalled: “When we lost at Aston Villa on the final day of the 2008-09 season, it was the worst feeling in the world.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt as low as I did when the referee blew the whistle and it suddenly hits you that you’re down.
“It was a horrible, horrible afternoon and I was inconsolable for days.
Taylor and Newcastle suffered relegation again in 2016Credit: Getty – Contributor
“But, funnily enough, relegation proved a blessing in disguise because it meant the club could get rid of those players who never really wanted to be at Newcastle.
“You don’t want to say that it benefitted the club but it really did.
“Chris Hughton took over as manager and united a dressing room that was professional and fully committed to bouncing back at the first attempt.
“Promotion was no gimme but we gradually rediscovered the winning habit and came back a stronger, more resilient team.”
Seven years later, Newcastle’s top-flight exile was just as short.
But by the time Rafa Benitez guided them to another Championship title, Taylor’s Toon career had come to an end.
His 268th and final appearance was the most surreal experience of his life.
Taylor said: “How many players can say they went down after a 5-1 win over Tottenham in an atmosphere more akin to a side winning the title? Only at Newcastle!
Taylor is currently captain of Odisha in the Indian Super LeagueCredit: Instagram @odishafcofficial
“That really was a bitter-sweet afternoon. Our fate had already been sealed but Rafa wanted us to go out on a high, and boy did we do that.
“I just wish he’d come in a bit earlier because the fans took to him immediately.
“The lads were receptive to his ideas and it was like the Sir Bobby Robson era all over again.
“But within 24 hours, I was an ex-Newcastle player having decided to seek a fresh start rather than accept a new pay-as-you-play deal.”
TAYLOR’S NEWCASTLE CAREER
His Toon stint
Promotions: 1 (2010)
Relegations: 2 (2009, 2016)
Unlike the Toon Army, Taylor is surprisingly upbeat about the Mapgies’ survival prospects.
He added: “You’d think we were ten points adrift not three points clear of the drop zone the way some people are going on.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a great position but I’m convinced there is enough talent in that squad to stay up.
“Steve Bruce has been getting slaughtered but even his critics would have to agree he’s had no luck.
“That Covid outbreak ravaged the squad. Our best player, Allan Saint-Maximin, was missing for two months and no sooner does he return then Callum Wilson gets injured.
“All four frontline centre-backs have had long periods when they’ve been missing too. There’s been little continuity.
“Wilson’s return is key. If Newcastle get him back for the run-in, they’ll be fine.”
And if they are, nobody will be happier than one former player celebrating on his own in front of the television in a southern India apartment.