16:43 16th April 2013
. . . left-back hopes to play part in Swans' run-in after recovery from injury
Swansea City defender Neil Taylor has declared himself available for a sensational first-team return.
The left-back’s season looked to have been over last September when he broke his ankle during the Barclays Premier League draw with Sunderland at the Liberty.
The 24-year-old has since been on the recovery trail, working tirelessly to return ahead of schedule while his team-mates have gone on to lift the Capital One Cup and push themselves into the top half of the Premier League table.
But Taylor is now ready to put his name forward for a spot in Michael Laudrup’s first-team squad after featuring for the club’s Under-21s side during their Development League Two South campaign.
The defender has managed full run-outs in his last two appearances – most recently against Millwall on Monday night at Parc y Scarlets.
And he is now counting down the days to the moment he has been relishing for the last seven months – being included in the first-team squad.
“I am now available for whenever the manager feels he needs me,” Taylor beamed.
“Everything is going very well. I played my second 90 minutes for the U21s on Monday night against Millwall, and I came through that with no problems.
“There’s no date or game I’m particularly looking at, because I’ve been out of the game for the past seven months and the boys have done very well.
“So I’m not expecting to be involved straight away, and nor will I be rushing things. Inside every footballer there is the desire to play, but I’ve been very sensible with this.
“I’ve spoken a lot with the gaffer since my injury and during the recovery process, and he has been happy with how I have come back from it. But it’s up to him whether I’m needed at all before the end of the season.
“There are six games left and I’d love to play a part in any of them if the opportunity arises. But there’s no pressure on that.
“The summer will be massive for me - it will be a chance to put even more hard work in and ensure I am ready for the new campaign. So anything before that will be a huge bonus.”
With the injury sidelining him for the vast majority of what has been the club’s most successful season, Taylor admits he has been able to appreciate matters on and off the pitch.
He added: “I’ve been a fan for the last seven months, which is strange for me because I’m usually out there on the pitch, but it has been a real privilege watching the boys play.
“We have played some terrific football and achieved things that everyone connected to the club can be very proud of.
“I think I have come back a better person and footballer from this. The injury has really made me appreciate things a lot more and put things into perspective.”
Taylor’s injury left an opportunity at left-back not only for the Swans, but Wales too.
That opportunity was grasped by Ben Davies - the Neath product who had not played senior football until he made his debut off the bench against West Ham last August.
And Taylor was full of praise for his team-mate, insisting the healthy competition for the left-back spot is vital for the Swans as they embark on a European adventure next season.
“Ben has been brilliant this season. He has settled into the physicality and pace of the Premier League without any issues and that can never be forgotten,” added Taylor.
“He’s a great lad and we get on very well - I’m so pleased to have seen him do so well.
“He’s a very modest person, and he soaks up every bit of advice that comes his way and he gets on with it.
“I spoke to him soon after my injury and told him this was his chance to show what he can do. It’s safe to say he’s taken his chance.
“Of course, we play in the same position, but next season we will need at least two players vying for each position.
“I’ve watched Newcastle and Liverpool a lot in the Europa League this season, and the European commitments can take a lot out of the squad – the demands are so high.
“So I think having myself and Ben available for the same position is good news for the gaffer.
“It’s a fantastic friendly rivalry to have, and whoever plays you can guarantee they will get the full backing of the other.
“That’s the great thing about this club. We really do have a strong, close unit and that shows on the pitch.”