While the wintry weather closes in
and frozen pitches result in the cancellation of Academy and reserve fixtures,
for some of our youngsters a break in sunnier climes is just around the
While their club colleagues shiver on Tyneside, England duo Ross Gardner and
Lewis Guy jet out with the national U18 squad for the Merdien Cup tournament
in late January, held this year in Egypt.
England kick off their cup campaign in Port Said on January 25th
against Burkina Faso, and then play Mali, Egypt and Nigeria, the winners being
decided on scorelines in those games, rather than on a knockout basis.
Meanwhile, Newcastle’s Republic of Ireland defender Stephen Brennan is also
packing his bags as he links up with his U20 counterparts in the United Arab
Ireland are taking part in a four team friendly tournament along with the
hosts, Korea and France, which gives them the chance to sample conditions in
the location that will host the World Youth Championships from March 25th
to April 16th.
England will join the Irish at those Championships, along with exotic
opponents such as Panama and Uzbekistan, and more familiar foes such as Spain,
USA and the Germans. Who plays who will become clearer after the draw,
scheduled for January 29th.
Both Michael Chopra and
Richard Offiong featured for the England U20 side in recent games, but at the
time of writing it’s not confirmed whether either will be at the finals.
Brennan however looks likely to be on the Irish plane and toon fans should be
able to keep track of events, with Eurosport preparing to cover the event.
Slightly closer to home, a number of our youngsters have a foreign trip of
sorts lined up, when reserve coach Tommy Craig returns to his native Glasgow
on January 18th to face Rangers. The friendly match is being staged
at Ibrox Park between U21 representatives of the two clubs and with the
Scottish Premier League currently on a seasonal break, should attract a
healthy attendance of soccer-starved scots and exiled toon fans.
Included in that Newcastle side should be midfielder Bradley Orr, who has just
put pen to paper on a professional contract that keeps him at United until
2004. The 20-year-old Liverpudlian has come through the ranks to become a
regular performer at reserve level, and made four starts last season.
He’s already exceeded that number this season, and weighed in with goals in
victories away to Blackburn and more recently, over Manchester United at Old
Trafford. That game was picked up
on by Skysports and other media outlets as it marked the return of Roy Keane
in a red shirt, but a 3-2 victory for Newcastle meant that all the goals,
including A Cort double and
Bradley’s blast were televised nationwide.
Turning to the current U17 and U19 sides, and poor weather caused the
postponement of the opening games of 2003 against the mackems, leaving the
lads hopeful of action in an away double-header at Sheffield Wednesday on
In the weeks leading up to the Christmas break, the U17s stretched their
unbeaten run to 9 games. Following a hard-fought draw with the mackems, wins
against Sheffield Wednesday and Derby on Tyneside were recorded along with a
draw at Bolton and victory at Leeds despite some rough treatment from the home
However, they ended up losing a remarkable final match of the year at
Blackburn, where the home side eventually ran out 6-4 winners. Three goals
down in the first quarter, Newcastle rallied but still looked down and out
when Rovers scored again to make it 4-1 after the break. A great effort in the
closing stages pulled the scores back to 5-4 in favour of Blackburn, but the
clinching sixth goal came in the final minutes as the Magpies searched for an
The U19s also had a solitary blemish on their good record in the final
fixtures of 2002, with a 2-0 loss at Leeds. Apart from that though they
continued their scoring habit, registering four against Sheffield Wednesday
and Blackburn and going one better in a 5-1 romp at Barnsley in their final
As ever, former toon trainees keep turning up with other clubs, and in recent
weeks Oliver Cowie has been at Blyth Spartans, while Jonny Mann in the attack
for Unibond side Bishop Auckland and scoring in a recent game at Matlock Town.
Midfielder Stuart Green finally left United
in a deal said to be worth Ł150,000 plus a hefty sell-on clause, as he made
his loan move to Hull City a permanent one, while on-loan Richard Offiong
found himself on the wrong end of an FA Cup upset when part of the Darlington
side who tumbled out at home to Farnborough in the third round.
the 23 year old it's a chance to kick start a career that looked to be on the
up when the Spireites signed him from Whitby last season despite Carlisle
announcing at the time they had reache agreement with the player. Burt
then hit five goals in his first nine games for Chesterfield and by the end of
the season was the subject of unsuccessful bids from Bradford City.
Over at Carlisle meanwhile, the Third Division strugglers have taken striker
Jamie Burt on loan from Chesterfield, and cheered
on by his brother and fellow ex-mag David (plus former toon team mate Jamie
McClen) New Years Day saw Jamie make a scoring debut in a 2-1 loss at
However the former Scarborough player had struggled to find the net this
season, with only a solitary strike against Barnsley to show for his 21
Chesterfield appearances. Burt left Newcastle after failing to win a
professional contract, having appeared in the junior and reserve sides, and
will remain at Brunton Park for the rest of the season. Also on loan at
Carlisle is ex-toon striker Paul Robinson who came from for a three month
spell in late November.
Finally, celebrations in Lanarkshire on Boxing Day for
former toon reserve defender David Cowan, as his return to the Motherwell side
coincided with 1-0 toppling of SPL leaders Glasgow Rangers at Fir Park.
The 20 year old had been missing from the 'Well ranks
since a leg injury sustained away to Hibernian in late November, but returned
to fill a midfield berth and avenge the 3-0 Ibrox reverse that marked his
first team debut back in October.
And there was more good news for Cowan, being
approached by the Scottish FA, with a view to an international callup. It was
quickly confirmed that the English-born player qualifies through having a
Scottish grandfather, and it’s expected that Cowan will be offered the
chance to play in an upcoming Scotland U21 friendly.
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