| If the Kids are United
Part 27- Appeared in the Mag, January 2004
time then a quick overview of developments to date, beginning with Brian
Eastick's junior squad. While the recent 2-1 away success at Portsmouth in the
FA Youth Cup was most welcome, that game in many ways encapsulated the season
so far for the u19s.
much of the game at Fratton Park, United were second best to Pompey - a fact
conceded by Eastick afterwards - and won the game without every really playing
well for more than brief patches.
while recent away successes in the league at Derby and Barnsley were deserved,
it's as well to remember that both former Premiership sides are now living in
reduced circumstances and in the case of the Rams, were weakened on the day by
a number of first team call-ups - a situation hardly likely to affect the toon
our frailties have been exposed when facing higher quality opposition, notably
Sheffield United, who beat us home and away after our defence proved incapable
of keeping the razor-sharp Blades at bay for the full ninety minutes.
Nottingham Forest it was a similar story, as we took an early lead but once
again found ourselves overhauled once the opposition redoubled their efforts.
At times it's easy to see the frustration from forward players when their good
work is undone by failings of those behind them.
who can look back with a measure of satisfaction on the season so far include
striker Guy Bates, who has notched 11 goals in 13 games including penalties.
And also weighing in with his share of goals has been South-African born Matty
Pattison, who makes up for what he may lack in stamina with competitive
spirit. So far he’s contributed 6 to our total, making him second only to
Bates in the scoring charts.
central defence, Chris Farman has also impressed with some mature performances
belying his 16 years and alongside him there have been some encouraging
displays from another 16 year-old, David Edgar, who will be once again
available when the season resumes, after his adventures with Canada in the
World u20 championships.
Phil Cave has emerged as our first home-grown contender for the
perennially-problematic left back spot since Robbie Elliott. All three players
have deservedly appeared in reserve matches this season, most notably Cave who
has been involved in both the Pontins and Premiership second- string sides,
impressing coach Tommy Craig. If Cave is lacking in one thing it's physical
presence, but hopefully he’ll continue to develop physically as well as
improving his football education.
Going back to the World u20 championships for a moment, England may have
endured a dispiriting time in their group games before being eliminated
without scoring a goal, but for one of our representatives the trip to Dubai
has been swiftly followed by a further change of scenery, albeit slightly
closer to home.
move came at the request of the recently-installed Wanderers boss Tony Adams,
who was recently named by the young Newcastle and England prospect as a major
role, whose on-field achievements Taylor seeks to emulate.
Stephen made his senior debut at Meadow Lane against the Magpies of Notts
County, playing the full 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw. And despite not being able
to make his league bow with a clean sheet, Taylor certainly impressed the
watching Chairboys internet reporter, who labelled him "a dominating
presence" in central defence.
moving on temporarily to Wycombe, Taylor had appeared for both our reserve
league sides – something by no means unique to him, with a large crossover
of players between both Pontins and Premier Reserve squads, plus a healthy
sprinkling of Academy youngsters.
the benefit of playing competitive fixtures to enhance or maintain fitness
would appear to be at least partially negated by the risk of seeing an
expensive squad member injured by an over-exuberant youth trainee from
Lincoln, Scunthorpe or wherever. The biggest irony is though that we’ve been
facing the stiffs of Darlington and Grimsby etc. on a playing surface at
Whitley Park that’s infinitely superior to that at Kingston Park, where
LuaLua, Cort and Viana have tried to press their claims for a first team
recall on a pudding of a pitch that visiting teams are now regularly
2004 will at last see a rethink of reserve venues and an avoidance of the daft
situation that saw both second strings playing matches in different
competitions at exactly the same time.
In general though it’s difficult at present to muster a massive amount of enthusiasm for what’s been seen below first team level this season – hopefully the second half of the season will alter that, with a run in the FA Youth Cup long overdue.