worsening political situation in the Middle East has put paid to any hopes
that a couple of Newcastle youngsters had of representing their country, with
news of the postponement of the World U20 Championships.
Originally scheduled for the United Arab Emirates in late March, FIFA took the
decision to call off the event and at the time of writing had ruled out
staging it in an alternative “safer” country.
That means that Newcastle’s Republic of Ireland defender Stephen Brennan is
denied the chance to link up with his international colleagues, while Michael
Chopra would have expected to be included in the England squad, which hadn’t
been named when the postponement was announced.
However for both players this allows them to be available for domestic duty,
and with a raft of rescheduled reserve matches coming up, there’s plenty to
keep them occupied.
Additionally for Chopra there’s the chance that he may just squeeze into the
England U21 squad as international football returns to St.James’ Park when
Turkey are the visitors on Tuesday April 1st for an 8pm kickoff
(tickets on sale from the club now, £10 & £5 concessions.)
Chopra and Brennan have both featured in recent weeks for what is becoming an
increasingly home-grown reserve side, now that the likes of Bassedas,
Marcelino and Gavilan have been removed. And with the side moving from the
miserable and seemingly jinxed Gateshead Stadium back across the Tyne to the
rebuilt Kingston Park, a distinct improvement in performances and results has
Rearranged fixtures meant a run of three consecutive home games in early
March, and after a fine goal from Brennan’s Irish compatriot Joe Kendrick
saw off Everton, West Brom were thumped 5-1 by a team that finished up being
totally composed of Academy players, after second half substitutions saw
Dabizas, Acuna and LuaLua withdrawn.
It was the livewire Congo-born striker who led the way with an opening goal
and a performance to haunt the Baggies, but once substitutions allowed Michael
Chopra to take up his favoured striking position rather than a midfield role,
he started to show flashes of his old self and bagged two goals with typical
After a few quiet months for the lad, this was a welcome return to form and
combined with a late appearance from the bench in Leverkusen, a timely
reminder that he’s ready for his senior chance, when it comes.
Next up at Kingston Park were Liverpool, European callups resulting in both
sides fielded inexperienced lineups, and on a wet and windy night fighting out
a 1-1 draw.
After a recent debut for Ross Gardner, it was the turn of fellow midfielder
James Beaumont to step up in this game, joined in the second half by another
Academy colleague and reserve new boy, defender Martin Brittain.
Andy Ferrell, another graduate this season from the U19s notched a first
reserve goal on his 7th start at this level, to go along with the
impressive 12 he’s notched from midfield this season in Academy games.
However, while that trio and others such as Danny Howe, Kris Gate and Chris
Moore will hope to feature in upcoming reserve league and Northumberland
Senior Cup games, as far as the U19 side goes they’ve missed the boat.
After having tussling in recent weeks for top spot in their league with
Blackburn Rovers, their hopes of playoff qualification are now almost
extinguished following a run of three consecutive losses.
A 3-1 defeat at Manchester City was followed by a demoralising 4-1 reverse at
Whitley Bay’s Hillheads ground, when the only bright spot was a second half
Lewis Guy effort. And it was at the same venue that an improved performance
from Newcastle but a single goal loss to Leeds made hopes of advancement
In a closely-fought game that attracted a crowd of 100 despite being played in
midweek, Newcastle were unable to come back after falling behind in the first
half, finding the visiting goalkeeper Carson in sparkling form.
That result meant that
Leeds became the first side this season to do the double over us at this level
– a pleasant return to Tyneside for the ex-toon pair Pop Robson and Jeff
Clarke, coach and physio respectively for the Yorkshire club.
And although there are six games left for the Magpies and we have a game in
hand on Rovers, they must now rely on the Ewood youngsters tripping up as they
lie nine points ahead of us.
Although the remaining games are now almost academic, the U19s end their
campaign with three interesting away fixtures.
Friday 4th April sees us travel down to Hurworth to face
Middlesbrough before another local encounter on Tuesday 8th (2pm)
when we make our first visit to the new mackem “Academy of Light”. The
curtain on the season then comes down on Saturday 19th when we make
what is expected to be the final visit by a toon team to Derby County’s
Baseball Ground, to be demolished in the close season.
By contrast the U17s are confirmed as being involved in their end of season
playoffs, qualifying despite some indifferent form due to the extra rounds of
playoff games played at this level and the larger number of teams included.
Fresh from a morale-boosting 2-0 victory over their mackem counterparts, a
crazy 6-6 home draw with Everton was then followed by a 0-4 reverse away to Ipswich in deepest Suffolk to end
the scheduled season.
The first set of playoff games were then confirmed as home matches against
Reading (22nd March) and Watford (5th April), then a
daunting trip to Manchester City, who swept us aside 3-0 at home in February
and look unstoppable at present as they chase a league and FA Youth Cup double
and are yet to be beaten this season.
Finally, just time to say congratulations to Stephen Taylor, who captained the
England U17 side to victory in a four team tournament last week and even found
time to get upfield and notch two goals.
2-0 victory over the Czech Republic at Chester was followed by a 5-0 success
over Slovakia at the Rebook Stadium where his double came, and finally a third
successive clean sheet formed the foundation for a 2-0 defeat of Scotland at
Tranmere’s Prenton Park to confirm England’s place in the U17
Championships scheduled to go ahead in Portugal next May. Hopefully Saddam
won’t stop that one.
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