Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Schism Is Healed by a United Front; Steven Taylor Believes Unity Is Firing Newcastle United's Drive into the Premier League Top Four. Mark Douglas Reports

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Schism Is Healed by a United Front; Steven Taylor Believes Unity Is Firing Newcastle United's Drive into the Premier League Top Four. Mark Douglas Reports

Article excerpt

IF the Newcastle United of 2010 sometimes felt like rebels without a cause, the difference between that and the current crop couldn't be more stark.

Led by Kevin Nolan and backed up by the constantly agitating Joey Barton, there was an 'us against the world' feel stamped in the DNA of Chris Hughton's Championship winners.

It served its purpose as they clambered off the canvas and restored their reputations, but a side effect was the schism between squad and boardroom that dressing room lieutenant Steven Taylor now admits was unsustainable in the long term.

A festering bonus row and long, drawn out contract negotiations created unnecessary distractions that have been eased by the more conciliatory tone adopted by the new blood in black-andwhite shirts.

Money issues have been resolved and the more inclusive atmosphere has even extended to managing director Derek Llambais joining the team for a Chinese meal last month.

Such wanton disregard for the previous protocol can only mean one thing - Newcastle are United once more. "When you look back at the start of the season, it was difficult," Taylor admits. "There was a separation between the squad and the chairman (Llambias), but the main focus now is that he's been straight on our side from day one, since before pre-season.

"He keeps everyone together, he sorted out the problem we had with bonuses, he leaves the gaffer to do his job and there's been no hassles.

"We've been for meals when the chairman has come along as well after we went paint-balling. That just shows the togetherness now that we have as a club. We went for a Chinese together and he turned up, which I thought was a nice touch."

The enthusiasm engendered by the club's fine start has been infectious. Llambias and owner Mike Ashley struck up on the idea for the half-price season ticket promotion in the euphoria of the win over Wigan and there is a feeling among the players that the directors are appreciative of their efforts.

Ask Barton or Nolan if they felt the same at times. Evidence of their new-found appreciation, Taylor feels, is the private plane laid on to take the reserves to Swansea last week.

"That wouldn't have happened last year," he admits. "But because we're doing our business on the pitch, the chairman and the owner have looked after the reserves as well.

"So it's good for them to do that.

Beating Wigan, which was a massive result for us, persuaded the chairman to put on an initiative for season tickets - that just sums up how he's trying hard and I think the fans appreciate that."

Those same supporters are crucial to the project Alan Pardew is trying to put together. Some 5,000 turned out to provide phenomenal support at Ewood Park and, while that game ended in unfortunate defeat, the manner of United's recovery soothed some of the wounds inflicted by that defeat.

Taylor, again, has an interesting take on the theme: "We know that when everyone is pulling in the same direction that this club can be a powerful force. You can feel it everywhere. You look at the kit men, they're getting involved in everything, the banter with the lads.

"The manager has played a massive role in what's happened, he's been absolutely fantastic. The fans sang songs about him at the last match - he's loved now and that's how it should be.

"I think we're back to where we should be. The dressing room has always been very strong, but you can't be split in different areas of the club. And at Newcastle in particular, you can't be split," he said.

"The amount of times things have been leaked over the years, but everything feels like how it should be now.

"The staff are getting involved with the players, coming into the dressing room to have a bit of banter with the lads, it hasn't really happened before."

So far, so encouraging. But momentum needs to be recaptured after the disappointment of the Carling Cup elimination and the Britannia Stadium is not the place you'd necessarily want to travel to in those circumstances. …

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