NEWCASTLE defender Steven Taylor is close to agreeing a new contract following the intervention of owner Mike Ashley.
The billionaire businessman stepped in to urge new managing director Derek Llambias, who replaced chairman Chris Mort at the helm last week, to bring an end to the long-running saga over the 22-year-old’s future.
Taylor and his representatives have been in talks with the club for more than a year with a series of potential suitors, including Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, West Ham and Tottenham, watching closely.
However, progress has now been made and a successful conclusion is expected in the next couple of weeks. Taylor said: “Knowing the owner wants me to stay means a lot to me.
“Everyone knows I love this club and want to commit my future here, but the deal has to be right for me and the club. I am happy there has been some progress and I hope everything is sorted out soon.
“It’s all in the hands of my agent, and I can’t really say any more.”
Taylor, who was born in Greenwich but brought up on Tyneside, has never made any secret of his desire to stay with the club he supported as a boy.
However, his existing deal, which is due to expire at the end of next season, made him one of the lowest earners among the first-team regulars.
His agent Leon Angel has been trashing out new terms with vice-president (player recruitment) Tony Jimenez in recent weeks in London, with the latter in close contact with Llambias up at St James’ Park.
It is understood the new deal would put Taylor on a par with fellow youngsters James Milner and Charles N’Zogbia, who signed improved contracts under the previous regime.
The news will delight manager Kevin Keegan, who is also keen for the club to tie up £17m striker Michael Owen and keeper Steve Harper.
Talks with Owen’s representatives are under way with the England international under contract for another year, although they are being held as suggestions continue that Ashley is determined to cut expenditure on wages, and that could prove a key factor.
In the shorter-term, the Magpies continue to work on their summer transfer targets with Keegan now back in harness ahead of his squad’s return to pre-season training on July 7.
He and Llambias met on Monday to discuss the current state of play amid a tide of speculation, but no visible progress to date.
But Taylor’s retention and a decision that midfielder Milner is not for sale represent a positive start to what could prove an eventful month or two for the Magpies.
Newcastle yesterday announced details of their pre-season programme, which includes fixtures against Germany’s Hertha Berlin and Spanish side Valencia.
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