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 If the Kids are United
 Part 5 - Appeared in the Mag, March 2002

With the league season now drawing to a close for the Newcastle u17 side, it’s pleasing to report that a 3-1 victory over their rivals Nottingham Forest in February confirmed their position as Academy Group D group winners.

Goals from Calvin Zola-Makongo, James Beaumont and an OG mean that the Newcastle lads now go forward into the National playoffs.

If all goes well the side then face another six knockout matches in their quest to emulate last season’s u17’s and qualify for the two-legged final. If they can get there, they’ll hope to go one better than their predecessors, who lost 5-2 on aggregate to Ipswich.

For the u19 side though, their season looks destined to fizzle out as a winless run of five games has seen them allow Nottingham Forest to build up a sizeable lead at the top of their group. Although Newcastle remain in second and came back from Nottingham with a hard-earned 3-3 draw recently, only group winners at this level qualify for the playoffs.

While goal scoring hasn’t been a problem, with 61 netted so far (29 for Chopra), our seven defeats compare poorly with the solitary reverse suffered by Forest.

With the end of the season now in sight, it’s decision time across the country, as those Academy players who haven’t made the grade discover their fate. Newcastle is no exception, and while the lucky ones can look forward to a financially secure future, for those discarded, things are rather less certain.

However, it’s not always the end of the road for those with professional aspirations, and for disappointed Newcastle youngsters there’s someone on hand who can give first-hand advice about bouncing back from rejections.

Peter Beardsley of course memorably returned to the club that had discarded him as a bairn (another success for Bill McGarry) also being shown the door at Oxford, Cambridge, Burnley and Gillingham.

Finally Carlisle took a chance on him, and the rest is the stuff of legend, leading to the present day and his coaching role with the Magpie youngsters.

In more recent seasons, United youngsters who didn’t manage to win a contract have gone on to play league football at clubs as diverse as Bristol Rovers (Kevin Gall), Halifax Town (Peter Wright) and Chesterfield (Jamie Burt).

Perhaps the nearest thing to a present-day Beardsley is Alun Armstrong. Now at Ipswich but unwanted at Newcastle under Kevin Keegan, he joined Stockport as a 19 year old in 1994, beginning an eight-year journey that took him via Middlesbrough and Huddersfield to the Premiership.

Although he’s not a regular starter and Town remain in the wrong half of the league, there aren’t many players in England who have netted against Inter Milan both at home and in the San Siro like the one-time “Geordie reject” has this season.

For those players who haven’t earned contracts at Premiership clubs the FA have run “exit trials” in recent seasons, where players get the chance to impress other clubs in a match situation.

Each club with an Academy can send players to these trials, where scratch sides play against each other in front of scouts from other Premiership teams, Nationwide league sides, and some of the more ambitious non-league outfits such as Yeovil and Boston. Scottish and Irish clubs have also been represented.

Inevitably there are now a number of commercial enterprises now in existence that offer a similar service to that of the FA exit trials, and these are gaining in popularity as the numbers of unattached players grow.

One such organization is, who use the internet to recruit players of all ages and match them with clubs via a system of trials. While primarily concerned with younger players, the glut of apprentices now on the market means that it’s not just teenagers with high aspirations (or pushy parents) signing up.

Former Newcastle director Peter Mallinger is the Managing Director of, and along with Barry Fry already has 1,500 hopefuls signed up. Newcastle were represented at the first trials day, and did spot one prospect - 13 year old David Coker. However, living in the Midlands meant that he ultimately decided to attend trials at nearby Leicester City rather than journey to the North East.

Sadly though, for many the call never comes or the trial doesn’t work out. Local non-league watchers will be familiar with the words “former Newcastle youngster” in many match programmes, and the likes of legendary Bedlington goalscorer John Milner began their careers in the toon’s Northern Intermediate team - forerunner to the Academy setups. Of course, in a comedy Newcastle Shearer-trial-in-goal manner, Milner was a defender when at United….

The Professional Footballers Association also now tries to assist it’s members in finding new clubs, and has an online list of available players on it’s own website, with career stats and a brief profile.

Their current listing has a few familiar names, with United Premiership vets Laurent Charvet and Tommy Wright both open to offers. For those Newcastle lads who haven’t been kept on though, it’s sad to see David Rayner, Keith Barr and Oliver Cowie on the list - three of our lads who weren’t retained in 2001.

After highlighting a midfielder in the last issue, this time we take a look at a defender; Chris Carr, centre half for the U17’s:

Name: Chris Carr

D.O.B: 14.12.84

Position: Central defender

Joined Newcastle: age 14

Playing History:

West Denton Boys Club (age 10)
Sunderland FC Centre of Excellence (at u13 and u14 level)
Newcastle United Academy teams - currently captain of u17 side.
England u18 side.

This season: 20 appearances for the u17 side (out of 22 league games played), 1 goal. Unused sub in the FA Youth Cup, away at Norwich.

Aside from his goal in a 3-2 victory over Leeds at Durham in January, it’s the Tyne-Wear derby that takes centre stage in his season. Although the 1-1 home draw is perhaps less memorable, a towering performance from Chris provided the foundation for a 2-0 win against his old side at Whitburn in October.

Prospects: Good -recognized at England youth level, handed captain’s armband by United coach Alan Irvine - a reflection of the maturity he’s shown since making his debut for that side while still a schoolboy.

Role models: Marcel Desailly, Wes Brown and Jaap Stam if haircuts are any indication!

Looking forward to: Rejoining his club colleagues in the England side, continuing to captain at club and country level.

Did you know? Chris has his own web pages, as part of the site.


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Page last updated 24 June, 2009