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 If the Kids are United
 Part 12 - Appeared in the Mag, Aug 2002

After last season ended on a winning note for United's U17 side the club's junior sides have continued to collect silverware, both on a team and individual basis.

Having ended the Irvine era in style with two-legged playoff success over Manchester United, within a matter of days the lads were at it again, this time under the direction of new supremo Kenny Wharton.

The occasion was the twelve-team Euro Voetbal final held in the Dutch city of Groningen, and appropriately enough the young Magpies defeated domestic opposition in the form of FC Twente Enschede, to take the trophy.

Catching the headlines was striker Michael Chopra, who followed up a two goal semi final salvo against Anderlecht with three memorable final strikes. His first had Wharton applauding wildly as Chops rolled the ball into an empty net from an improbable angle, while his other two were laid on by strike partner Richard Offiong but both finished in style.

Chops then unselfishly returned the compliment to allow Offy to get on the scoresheet and seal a comprehensive 4:0 victory, despite the fact he himself only needed one more goal to claim the tournament top scorer award. As it was he shared that honour with Rafael of Ajax, who also hit seven goals.

To the applause of the 2,000 plus crowd at the Esserberg Stadium (home of the amusingly named GSV Be Quick side), the toon boys picked up the trophy and Beardo gave a little speech expressing the hope that the lads would return to defend their title in 2003.

More success was just around the corner however, with Newcastle's England U17 captain, Steven Taylor leading the young Lions to victory in the Nationwide Tournament Trophy in early July.

In front of healthy crowds at both venues of St.Andrew's (Birmingham) and the Kassam Stadium (Oxford), Taylor captained his charges to a 2:2 draw with Italy and a 2:0 victory over the Czech Republic to set up a final date with Brazil. 

An early goal for the English boded well, but after a strong response from the Brazilans led to an equaliser, Taylor marshalled his defence and held on for the draw that confirmed the hosts as tournament victors. Sky TV viewers were then treated to the comparatively rare sight of seeing a Newcastle captain lift a trophy and lead a lap of honour. 

However, it's not just Taylor who has been representing his country in recent weeks. The European U19 championships in Switzerland also saw toon involvement, with Chopra and Jermaine Jenas appearing for England and midfielder Stephen Brennan wearing the colours of the Republic of Ireland.

Brennan it was who had the more memorable tournament, as Ireland began their campaign with a 2:1 success against Belgium before finding themselves on the wrong end of a 0:3 reverse against Germany.

A fine effort to then turn a 0:2 deficit into a 3:2 victory against England wasn't enough to stake a final place, and Brennan sat this one out as other squad players were given a run.  He was back in for the 3rd/4th place playoff against Slovakia though and made his mark soon after the interval.

A long-range effort gave Ireland the lead on 53 minutes, only for similar strikes from distance to turn the match round in favour of the Slovakians. Ireland poured forward in the closing stages, but couldn't find an equaliser.

Bringing events up to date, United defender Ben Webster is part of the England U17 squad currently in Sweden, where they face games against the host nation as well as Noway and the Faroe Islands.

Finally for now on the International scene, it's been confirmed that youth football will make a return to St.James' Park later this year, when the England U20 side entertain their Italian counterparts on Wednesday November 27th. With both Jenas and Chopra likely to feature, another big crowd is expected.

Although United's first team are now using the new training facilities at Darsley Park, construction continues at the adjacent site of the new Academy and pre-season training for the youngsters has been staged at alternative venues.

A temporary base has been established at Killingworth, while other familiar venues have played host to warm up matches. Once again a young Newcastle side composed largely of schoolboys travelled to Keele University, while the Sage Tournament at Durham's Houghall College also provided some useful opposition for an older United side.

A 2:1 victory in the final of the Sage event against Celtic came courtesy of two Tommy English strikes, coming after wins over Darlington (5:0) and Scunthorpe (2:1)

The Keele event has now become a regular fixture on our pre-season calendar, and consists of a series of 60 minute matches against other top sides, with rolling substitutes allowable and no eventual winning team.

United started poorly this time out against a powerful Bolton side and were deservedly beaten. An improvement followed in their next game against Southampton where they were unfortunate to slip to defeat, but they then took advantage of a weak display by Swedish side Sunsdvall, powering to a 7:1 win.

In their final game Newcastle came up against German side Arminia Bielefeld, and in a typically hard-fought game against the "old enemy" managed to claim a 1:0 win. 

One unfamiliar name from our line up who impressed those watching was central midfielder Daryl Smillie, another member of the increasing Irish contingent at the club. Along with fellow midfielder Matthew Pattison, he was adjudged our best performer, and in the case of Pattison it was enough to earn him a place in the Newcastle party that jetted off to exotic climes a few days later.

While the mooted first team tour to China is still to become a reality, a Newcastle academy is due to meet our new pals from Dalian in early August as part of a gruelling tour of the Far East and Australia.

Newcastle are participating in a new high-profile youth competition out in Adelaide, along with teams from Ajax, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Rangers. The Festival Cup runs from August 4th for a week and takes place at the new 20,000 capacity Hindmarsh Stadium, providing a rare chance for exiled Mags down under to cheer on the black and whites in their own country.

With striker Lewis Guy sidelined through injury, the following 18 man squad jetted off on what promises to be a memorable trip: Adam Collin, Adam Bartlett, Chris Shanks, Kris Gate, Martin Brittain, Steven Taylor, Chris Carr, Peter Ramage, Andrew Ferrell, Ross Gardner, Neale McDermott, Chris Moore, Matthew Pattison, James Beaumont, Alan O'Brien, Guy Bates, Michael Chopra, and Richard Offiong.

After the Festival Cup ends, the squad then play matches in both Hong Kong and China, and are expected to draw big crowds as their games precede domestic league matches.

The lads then return to the UK on August 22nd to prepare for the new season.

Although confirmation is still awaited of where home games will be played until the new Academy pitches are ready, both the U17 and U19 sides begin their league campaigns with home matches against Wolves on Saturday 24th August.

Keep abreast with the progress of our young hopefuls this season on, and try to make to make time to see the next generation of potential local heroes in action.


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Page last updated 24 June, 2009